The Nineteenth Century
The Museum’s nineteenth-century sculpture collection was initiated in 1826 when José Álvarez Cubero, the first court sculptor, selected various Classical and Neo-classical pieces for the Royal Museum of Paintings. These would gradually be joined by the Neo-classical works now on display by sculptors such as José Ginés, Antonio Solá, Ramón Barba and Álvarez Cubero himself. In 1838 the Museum became the Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture and the sculpture galleries were opened.
Over the following years works in the form of plaster casts that were subsequently finalised in permanent materials were sent back from Rome by State-funded Spanish students (including José Piquer, Sabino de Medina and José Pagniucci). Above all, the Museum acquired sculptures that had won prizes at the National Fine Arts Exhibitions, again based on the original casts (Agapito Vallmitjana’s Recumbent Christ, Agustín Querol’s Tradition, and Ricardo Bellver’s The Fallen Angel, now in the Retiro Park). Also joining the collection were nineteenth-century works, the majority by Italian sculptors, acquired from the collections of the Marquis of Salamanca and the Duchess of Osuna. As a result, living sculptors enjoyed an ever growing presence in the Museum.
Due to problems of space, in 1896 the nineteenth-century sculptures were sent to the recently founded Museum of Modern Art. This museum continued to accept nineteenth-century works and to organise long-term loans of them, primarily to Spanish museums, until 1971 when the sculptures were sent back to the Prado and installed in the Casón del Buen Retiro. Finally, in 2009 they returned to the Museum’s Villanueva Building for permanent display.