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The Museo del Prado opens its “Invited Work” programme with a painting from the Musée du Louvre, The penitent Magdalen by Georges de La Tour Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The State visit to Spain of the President of the French Republic and his visit to the Museo del Prado in the company of Their Majesties the King and Queen, happily coincided with the inauguration at the Prado of the new “Invited Work” programme. This programme opens with the loan of Georges de La Tour’s The penitent Magdalen from France’s leading art museum and with opening of a new gallery on Bourbon portraits in French painting. In addition, these two initiatives are sponsored by one of the Prado’s most long-standing benefactors, Fundación AXA, which has close links to France. The first “invited work” will remain on display at the Prado until 28 June in Room 5, alongside the two paintings by La Tour in the Prado’s own collection: Old Man playing the Hurdy-gurdy and the recently rediscovered Saint Jerome reading.

The Museo del Prado opens its “Invited Work” programme with a painting from the Musée du Louvre, The penitent Magdalen by Georges de La Tour

With its “Invited Work” programme, the Museo del Prado is inaugurating a new type of exhibition whose aim is to bring visitors closer to some of the most important works in other museums, with the dual objective of enriching a visit to the Prado and of establishing terms of comparison that will allow for a reflection on the Prado’s own paintings.

The painting chosen to launch the programme, The penitent Magdalen by Georges de La Tour, depicts Mary Magdalen, symbol of redemption through repentance, in a nocturnal setting illuminated by the light of a candle that creates pronounced contrasts on her instruments of meditation: sacred texts, the cross and the skull, an emblem of death. Together these objects create one of Georges de La Tour’s most beautiful still lifes. The artist depicts the Magdalen as delicate and thus quite different to the rough, everyday nature of his rustic peasants, soldiers or street musicians who are far removed from the meditative, spiritual mood of this work.

In association with the temporary display of this painting in the Prado, on 28 May at 7pm a special lecture will by given in the Museum’s Auditorium by José Milicua, Emeritus Professor at the University of Barcelona and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Museo del Prado.

Collaboration between the Museo del Prado and the Musée du Louvre

Henri Loyette, Director of the Musée du Louvre, and Miguel Zugaza, Director of the Museo del Prado, accompanied by Gabriele Finaldi, Associate Director of Curatorship at the Prado, this morning set out some of the details of the new and fruitful relationship between the two museums. This collaboration not only involves the presentation of the first painting in the “Invited Work” programme, loaned from the Louvre and of particular importance within the context of the Prado’s collection, but also future research and exhibition projects that will focus on the joint organisation of three temporary exhibitions over the next few years.

In 2010 Turner and the Great Masters, to be held at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Museo del Prado, will present an outstanding selection of paintings by the great British Romantic painter together with works by artists who inspired him. The next jointly organised exhibition will be The Classicising Landscape in Rome, to be held in 2011, again in Paris and Madrid, and focusing on the development of landscape painting in Rome from the late 16th century to the mid-17th century through paintings by artists such as Paul Brill, Annibale Carracci, Claude Lorraine and Poussin. Finally, Late Raphael, to be shown at the Prado and the Louvre in 2012, will concentrate on Raphael’s activity in the service of Popes Julius II and Leo X.

New thematic gallery: The Early Bourbons - Room 39 – Villanueva Building

A new display at the Museum that forms part of its Collection Re-hang Project as established in the Prado’s Action Plan for 2009-2012, was presented today in the form of a gallery devoted to The Early Bourbons. This is a thematic gallery devoted to 18th-century French portraits of the early Bourbons and focuses around the great portrait of The Family of Philip V by Louis Michel van Loo. This is one of the most ambitious and grandiloquent compositions of the century in its depiction of a royal dynasty and is shown to the public for the first time in six years.

The ascent of a French prince to the Spanish throne at the start of the 18th century resulted in a change of aesthetic. The new trend in painting moved away from the earlier intimate, plain and precise style that emphasised psychological insight and a sensation of reality. Instead, it opted for a display of courtly splendour in which symbols of power, dress and pose were the principal elements. The great portraitists of the day created spectacular and splendid images that make full use of silks and brocades and are set against artificial backdrops of palace architecture and heavy swathes of curtains.

The new monarchy required a portraitist capable of depicting the majesty and power of the new sovereign, Philip V (1700-1746), and the symbolic, official nature of his family, of which three sons would be future kings of Spain, namely Louis I, Ferdinand VI, and Charles III. As a result, French artists arrived in Spain, including Michel-Ange Houasse, Jean Ranc and Louis Michel van Loo, employed by the Madrid court in the service of the artistic and political interests of the Spanish Bourbons.

Matrimonial alliances, dynastic relations and an interest in collecting paintings also account for the presence of many works by French artists in the Spanish royal collections. Notable among them are portraits of historical figures depicted by Rigaud, Gobert, Santerre, Largillière and Silvestre, while a particularly striking example is the magnificent Portrait of Louis XVI by Callet.

Works on display in this gallery:

Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet; María Ana Victoria de Borbón by Nicolás de Largillière; The Family of Philip V by Louis Michel van Loo; Philip V on Horseback by Jean Ranc; Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud; María Amalia de Sajonia, Queen of Spain by Louis Silvestre; and Louis I, Prince of Asturias by Michel-Ange Houasse.

Coincidiendo con la visita del Presidente de la República francesa