The Central Gallery and adjacent exhibition rooms
Inauguration of the Central Gallery
19 July 2011 saw the reopening to the public of the Museo del Prado's Central Gallery following its redesign and with a new display of the collection. The Central Gallery is the Museum's most emblematic space and now houses what might be considered the most remarkable display of European painting to be seen in any museum worldwide, from Titian to Velázquez and from Rubens to Goya. This redesign project, which began in late 2010, has involved the reinstatement of elements from the original architectural structure that had been concealed in previous restorations. The result has been a notable improvement of the appearance of these spaces, which now display large-format paintings that represent the distinguished pictorial tradition originating with the Venetian masters – Titian, Tintoretto and Velázquez – and which had such an important influence on the development of European art, in particular on the work of Annibale Carracci, Diego Velázquez, Rubens and Van Dyck. This story of connections, influences, admiration and rivalry between artists, spanning more than a century, is now recounted in the elegant, light-filled spaces of the Central Gallery designed by Juan de Villanueva. With the reopening of this gallery the re-hang of the collections on the ground and first floors is now largely complete.
First Floor. A new global vision
The culmination of this key phase brings to an end a lengthy process that has encompassed almost all of the Museum's first floor. A chronological route now begins with the sixteenth-century collections led by Titian and culminates in the late eighteenth century with Goya. The new order of hanging makes it possible to establish a link between the two great traditions of post-medieval European painting represented in the Prado – the Italian and Flemish schools – and Spanish painting, centring on Diego Velázquez. For the first time, a double longitudinal and transversal route around this floor allows the visitor to appreciate the influence of the greater masters such as Titian and Rubens, now displayed in the Central Gallery, on the Spanish painters from El Greco to Goya.
In addition, in the galleries that flank the Central Gallery on the north side, Ribera and the distinctive Spanish version of naturalism (Maíno, Zurbarán and early Velázquez) now connect up with the Museum's Italian Baroque paintings. To the south, following Velázquez and running parallel to the greatest works by Rubens and the other seventeenth-century Flemish painters, there is a display of the Spanish masters of the second half of the seventeenth century, notably the work of Murillo, Cano and Carreño de Miranda.
Furthermore, and again related to this dual Spanish/European context, Goya is shown alongside the painters employed by the new Spanish Bourbon dynasty in the eighteenth century, including Mengs and the Tiepolos.
Finally, the large galleries devoted to the court portrait function as a linking element with this new presentation of the collections on the first floor of the Villanueva Building. Opposite the room displaying Las Meninas and Velázquez's most celebrated portraits, visitors can now see Titian's three great portraits of the early Habsburg monarchs, Charles V and Philip II, presided over by one of the most famous works in the Museum's collection, Charles V on Horseback at Mühlberg. In addition, in the south wing, the room devoted to early Bourbon court portrait, which is dominated by Van Loo's monumental portrait of The Family of Philip V, has its counterpart in the rotunda where Goya's court portraits are to be seen, including the great Family of Charles IV.
Under the direction of Gabriele Finaldi, Associate Director of Curatorship and Research at the Museum, the curators responsible for the new display of the collection are (in chronological order of their area of the collection on display here):
- Miguel Falomir, Head of the Department of Italian Painting up to 1700
- Leticia Ruiz, Head of the Department of Spanish Painting of the sixteenth century and first third of the seventeenth century
- Javier Portús, Chief Curator of Spanish Painting up to 1700
- Alejandro Vergara, Chief Curator of Flemish and Northern Schools Painting