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Discovering the Collection: Rare books from the Library. By Maria Luisa Cuenca

“Discovering the collection” is a new series of videos launched by the Museo del Prado during the COVID-19 lockdown. Experts from all the Museum’s departments will be highlighting works which, although not the most famous, are essential for understanding key aspects of the Permanent Collection: works of outstanding quality that have largely gone unnoticed until now.

The Museo del Prado’s library houses a magnificent collection of profusely illustrated early books that can be read and studied in the Reading Room, located beneath the splendid ceiling painted by Luca Giordano in the late 17th century.

With this selection of rare, scarce and valuable books our intention has been to bring together all the literature that provided the theoretical basis for the artists represented in the Museo del Prado. This in turn will allow curators and those researching the collection to access the original sources that were read by painters and sculptors.

Notable among these marvellous volumes are the treatises on art which structured the theoretical and practical knowledge of the different artistic disciplines and offered methods for the use of professionals and for training apprentices. Dating from the Renaissance onwards, art treatises were a tool for raising the professional and social status of architects, painters and sculptors who had until that period been relegated to the level of mere craftsmen.


The Master of Paper. Drawing Books from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries

Bibliotheca Artis: Treasures from the Museo del Prado library