Spanish art gallery containing the national collection of paintings and sculptures. The building, located in Madrid, was designed as a natural history museum and begun in 1785; it became an art gallery in 1818 under Ferdinand VII. Comprising many great works accumulated over three centuries by the monarchs Charles V, Philip II, and Philip IV and by the religious houses of Spain, it ranks as one of the world's greatest art collections and unquestionably holds the greatest collection of Spanish masters, including Velázquez (over 60 works), El Greco, Zurbarán, Ribera, Murillo, and Goya.
The Spanish connection with the Netherlands helps to account for the richness of the Flemish School. It contains the greatest group of works by Bosch, whose strange genius was favoured by Philip II, some outstanding works by Pieter Brueghel, and over 60 works by Rubens. It also has a fine Adoration of the Magi by Memlinc, and Van der Weyden's Descent from the Cross.
The attachment of the Hapsburgs to Venetian art is evidenced by the wealth of paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese. There are also paintings by Raphael, Rembrandt, Poussin, Claude, Dürer, Holbein and Mor.
A number of bequests and the museum's own plan for filling in gaps have added to the collection during the 19th and 20th centuries, though no pictures painted after 1850 are held to be eligible for inclusion. In 1971 the ballroom of the Philip IV's Buen Retiro Palace was added as an exhibition space for 19th-century paintings.
El Prado Museum