NGV National Gallery of Victoria


Puerta Velazquez - the main entrance to the Museo Nacional del Prado

The holdings of Italian art in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, are unique and unrivalled. Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court, Museo del Prado presents a rich selection of paintings and drawings spanning three hundred years of Italian art, from the early sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Many of these paintings are at the heart of the Prado’s collection and have never before left Spain.

The magnificent art collection of the Spanish Royal Family formed the basis of the Prado. The Royal Family were avid collectors of Italian art from the mid sixteenth century, when Emperor Charles V and his courtiers began a tradition of acquiring Italian paintings. This reflected the fact that Spain’s dominions at this time included the Italian regions of Naples, Sicily and Milan, almost a third of the Italian peninsula.

Over the next three centuries, hundreds of artworks destined for Spain were purchased in Italy or commissioned directly from Italian artists. Many Italian artists were also enticed to travel to Spain to work at the Royal Court. By these means the very best contemporary Italian art entered the collections of the Spanish Royal Family, and subsequently the Prado.

Thanks in part to its unique origin, the Prado’s collection represents all of the major artistic centres in Italy, with paintings and drawings of the highest quality by the key individuals who defined Italy’s rich artistic heritage.