After the Spanish School, the Flemish School is almost comparable to the Italian in terms of quality and quantity. It comprises more than 1,000 paintings and, again like the Spanish paintings, most have a provenance from the royal collection. 15th- and 16th-century painting is a particularly well-represented area within the Museum. While the Low Countries formed part of the Spanish Crown from the 16th-century, Felipe’s II’s interest in earlier Flemish Primitive paintings meant that the monarch acquired various masterpieces by its most important artists, from Rogier van der Weyden to Bosch, as well as works by later artists such as Patinir. In addition, mention should be made of Flemish artists who worked for the king, such as the great portrait painter Anthonis Mor. It is thus not surprising that the Prado has paintings by the most important artists of this school (apart from Jan van Eyck and Hugo van der Goes), including Van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Dirck Bouts, Hans Memling, Hieronymous Bosch, Joachim Patinir, Pieter Bruegel and Anthonis Mor. Most were formerly in royal residences but some have been acquired through bequests, such as Virgin and Child by Van der Weyden which entered the Museum in 1930 as part of the Pedro Fernández Durán Bequest.
The southern provinces of the Low Countries remained under Spanish rule after the separation of the northern provinces (modern-day Holland) in 1581. It is therefore to be expected that the Prado would possess works by the leading 17th-century Flemish painters, who were subjects of the Spanish Crown. The group of paintings by Rubens is of outstanding importance, numbering more than 90, many of them true masterpieces and some executed in Spain during the two visits that the artist made in 1603 and 1628.
Paintings by Rubens’ followers Van Dyck and Jordaens complete the holdings of the leading names of 17th-century Flemish painting, which also include paintings by Jan “Velvet” Brughel, Paul de Vos and David Teniers, all of whom are exceptionally well represented in the Museum.