Errazu Room in the Museo del Prado, 1905. Archivo Moreno, IPCE, Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte

Room with part of the Bosch Collection before being moved into the Museo del Prado. Archivo Moreno, IPCE, Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte

Fernández-Durán rooms in the Museo del Prado, 1931

Fernández-Durán rooms in the Museo del Prado, 1931

Fernández-Durán rooms in the Museo del Prado, 1931

Haes Room in the Museo de Arte Moderno, 1900

Casón del Buen Retiro. Guernica, 1981

The fact that the origins of the Museo del Prado’s collections lie in the Spanish royal collection is well known. It is less widely known that the Museum’s collections increased with the incorporation of the holdings of other State Museums: the Museo de la Trinidad in 1872 and the Museo de Arte Moderno in 1971. Alongside these three, unchanging collections the Prado has continued to grow over the course of its existence through public acquisitions and the involvement of society at large in the form of bequests, donations and the new judicial formulas that were introduced with the Law of Historic Patrimony of 1985.

At the present time the Museo del Prado’s collection numbers more than 28,000 objects, of which 20% have entered the Museum through the generosity of individuals and entities that have contributed to enriching the Prado, completing its collections and adding works from schools previously underrepresented or not present at all. This has particularly been the case with paintings, above all Spanish works, followed by drawings and prints. In this sense the Goya collection is one of the areas of the collection to have most benefited from donations and bequests, both with regard to paintings and works on paper. In addition, the Museum has received examples of the decorative arts, coins and medals, libraries and archive material. Only donations of sculptures have been relatively limited in terms of number. The absence of a solid tradition of collecting and art patronage in Spain continues to characterise the situation in Spain today despite efforts undertaken in previous centuries to rectify this. There are still calls from different sectors today for both a broadening of the legal basis that encourages the donation of art and for the appropriate protection of historic patrimony.

The earliest donations to the Museo del Prado were either made within the context of the monarchy or lacked quality and a specific connection with the Museum’s contents. However, the final decades of the 19th century saw the emergence of scholars and intellectuals with the artistic sensibility and economic resources to encourage initiatives of this type. Thus, of the twenty-five donations and bequests that the Museum received at that period, the most important were those from the Baron d’Erlanger of Goya’s Black Paintings in 1881 and from the Duchess of Pastrana in 1889, which included fine examples of Spanish painting and Rubens’s oil sketches for the Torre de la Parada. At the start of the 20th century the Museum received the notable bequest of Ramón de Errazu, entirely consisting of 19th-century Spanish painting including works by Fortuny, Madrazo and Rico. In 1906 the bequest of the Duchess of Villahermosa brought Velázquez’s portraits of Don Diego de Corral y Arellano and Doña Antonia de Ipeñarrieta y Galdós and her son Don Luis.

A particularly important landmark in the attempts to correct the insufficient interaction between the Museum, the State and the public at large in Spain was the creation of the Museum’s Board of Trustees in 1912. While their activities did not bring about the desired results, in subsequent years there was an increase in the number and quality of donations, led by the example of the Trustees themselves. Among them was Pablo Bosch, who in 1915 made the Museum the heir to his collection of paintings, coins and a large collection of medals, “[…] Not out of childish vanity but because this will act as an example and stimulus […] for no less than twenty-five years they should all be exhibited together in one gallery or various adjoining ones depending on their size, a room or rooms that will bear my name […].” The Museum’s Board accepted the donation and installed two galleries on the ground floor in the south wing, which were opened on 13 December 1916. Bosch also left the not inconsiderable sum of 25,000 pesetas for the fitting out of these rooms. As the result of his bequest the Prado gained important examples of Spanish Gothic paintings and of works by El Greco, Morales, Cano and Goya in addition to a fine collection of medals.

The Museum did not receive another donation of similar importance until the 1930s with Pedro Fernández Durán’s bequest of the collection he had assembled over a lifetime. Varied and unequal in quality, it consisted of paintings, sculpture, drawings, porcelain and ceramics, glass, tapestries, embroidered textiles, arms and armour, furniture, ivories and miniatures. His collection of around 2,800 drawings is the first and largest of those donated to the Prado and included the first drawings by non-Spanish artists to enter the Museum. Among the paintings, which numbered around 90, the most important were by Goya, Morales and Van der Weyden. On 18 June 1931 this collection was installed in galleries on the second floor of the north wing of the Villanueva Building in a display of a type half-way between a museum and a private house. Three years later, the Dowager Duchess of Tarifa donated various unique works such as The Money Changer and his Wife by Marinus Claeszon van Reymerswaele, portraits of Philip III and Margarita of Austria by Pantoja de la Cruz and a portrait of Maria Luisa of Parma by Mengs.

The Duke of Lerma died during the Spanish Civil war, having bequeathed works to the Museum. After the war ended the Museum benefited from the donation made by the politician Francisco Cambó, which was one of the most important received to date. Cambó can be considered a model example of a collector and one who devoted part of his fortune to “assembling for Spain an addition to the remarkable collection of paintings housed in the Museo del Prado.” In 1941 the Museum received works from his collection of Early Renaissance Italian painting, which had not previously been represented in its collections. Cambó also donated one of the Museum’s still lifes by Zurbarán.

Over the following decades the Prado received donations from art historians such as Juan Allende Salazar, Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, Pedro Beroqui, Manuel Gómez Moreno and Tomás Harris, the latter giving more than 100 impressions of prints from the Caprichos, the Tauromaquia, the Follies and the Disasters of War series. There were also donations from the artists who had given works to the now defunct Museo de Arte Moderno. Among this group were important donations from the widow of Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo as well as a significant number of landscapes by Carlos de Haes. The latter were donated on his death by his pupils, led by the Lerida-born painter Jaime Morera. This gift provided the basis for the Prado’s outstanding collection of works by De Haes.

The arrival of democracy in Spain brought with it the return of the Guernica and with it Picasso’s legacy of 1981 that extended beyond the boundaries of the Prado’s remit. Also entering the Museum at this time were works by artists contemporary with Picasso, donated by the collector and art historian Douglas Cooper and by the widow of Joan Miró. These works were moved to the Museo Reina Sofía in 1992 during the re-ordering of the collections between the two museums.

Some donations and bequests were of a purely monetary type, such as those from the Duke of Cartagena (1930), the Duke of Alba (1956) and José María Giner Pantoja (1979). In terms of size the largest of this kind was the exceptional bequest from Manuel Villaescusa in the 1990s, which allowed the Prado to acquire major works including a Self-portrait, the Italian Notebook, Witches’ Flight and The Countess of Chinchón, all by Goya; El Greco’s Fable; a Still Life by Sánchez Cotán; The blind Hurdy-gurdy Player by Georges de la Tour; and drawings by Spanish 17th-century artists such as Carducho, Murillo, Ribera and Carreño. At the start of the 21st century the Prado received a donation from the Marchioness of Balboa of works by José and Federico de Madrazo and two marvellous works by Tiepolo.

An institution that has been notably involved in increasing the Museum’s collections is the Fundación de Amigos. Its donations include The Countess of Santovenia by Rosales (1982), Portrait of a Dwarf by Juan van der Hamen, Portrait of Aureliano de Beruete y Moret by Sorolla, and drawings by Murillo, Herrera the Elder, José del Castillo and Fortuny. Its most recent donation, made in 2011, was The Visit of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony to the Arch of Trajan at Benevento by Antonio Joli. Through the Fundación the Museum has also received donations of works by contemporary artists, a practice that has continued in recent years with the exhibitions that the Fundación organises of the work of living artists, which offer a new viewpoint on the collection, among them Thomas Struth (2008), Richard Hamilton (2010), Francesco Jodice (2012) and Eduardo Arroyo (2012).

Notable donations of sculpture were made by Mario de Zayas in 1944, including Egyptian pieces and Greco-Roman copies, and by the Count of las Infantas in 1962, comprising two sculptures of Epimetheus and Pandora by El Greco. More recently, in 2000, the Museum received twenty Greco-Roman sculptures from the collection of Claudio Bravo.

While most of the donations and bequests received by the Prado have been made with the intention of enriching its collections of art, in recent years there has also been an increase in the number of libraries and archives donated. The result has been to make the Library and documentation centre of the Prado’s Study Centre a key reference point for the study of art history in Madrid. Among the libraries donated are those of José María Cervelló (2003), Correa (2010), Stolz (2012) and Azúa (2012). Donations of archives include important ones on the history of the Museum itself during the Spanish Civil War, given by Blanca Chacel (2003), the Jiménez Quesada family (2003) and Neil McLaren (2011).

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