In terms of quality and quantity the Prado’s collection of Italian paintings, numbering more than 1,000 works, is second only to its Spanish holdings. Many of these works were formerly in the royal collection.
There were few examples of 14th- and 15th-century Italian painting in the royal collection as this was a less appreciated area until the 19th-century. For this reason it is not as well represented in the Museum, although there are a small number of great 15th-century masterpieces by Fra Angelico, Mantegna, Antonello da Messina and Botticelli, which entered the collection by different routes.
16th-century painting comprises a more coherent and complete group, mainly originating from the royal collection. Venetian art of this date is the best represented among the various Italian schools. As a result of his commissions from Carlos V and Felipe II, Titian became the Habsburg painter par excellence. The Prado possesses more than 40 paintings by Titian alone, as well as exceptional works by Veronese, Tintoretto and the Bassano. The extraordinary group of works by Raphael acquired by Felipe IV initiated a new taste for that artist, who replaced Titian in Bourbon eyes and became the favourite of the new dynasty. Also represented in the Prado are other great masters such as Correggio and Parmigianino of the School of Parma, Sebastiano del Piombo of the Roman School and Andrea del Sarto of the Florentine.
The collection of 17th- and 18th-century Italian paintings is also one of the most extensive in the Museum and once again the royal collection accounts for most of them. Many works arrived through the negotiations undertaken by Spanish ambassadors and viceroys in Rome and Naples who were instructed to secure paintings to decorate the Buen Retiro Palace, built in the 17th-century. Another important group is due to the presence of Italian artists in Italy such as Luca Giordano, Corrado Giaquinto and Giambattista Tiepolo.