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Things to do in The Prado Museum
How many Mona Lisas are there? Of course, you’ll be familiar with Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece at the Louvre in Paris, but the Prado in Madrid also has a painting of the same woman that looks remarkably like the original. For a long time, people believed this fresh-looking painting was one of many later copies, but the truth is more interesting.
The belief now is that the Prado’s Mona Lisa is indeed a copy . . . but a copy that was made at exactly the same time as Leonardo’s picture and even in the same studio as the master observed. The painter was probably a young apprentice named Francesco Melzi. What he has given us is not only the earliest copy but also probably the best in existence.
Indeed, some might say that Melzi’s copy is better than the original. Leonardo’s Mona Lisa sits under glass in Paris and has not been cleaned or restored. It is dark with the grime of centuries. The Prado’s Mona Lisa, however, has been fully restored and shows the painting as Leonardo himself would have seen (and painted) it.
The lady in Paris will probably never be cleaned because she is too valuable. Her skin is cracked and her complexion is dirty. If you’d like to see her as a young, fresh woman, go to the Prado in Madrid.
- 10.00am-8.00pm – Monday to Sunday
- 10.00am-7.00pm – Sundays and holidays
- CLOSED: 1January, 1 May, 25 December
- FREE: 6.00pm-8.00pm Monday to Saturday, 5.00pm-7.00pm Sundays and holidays
About the Prado
The Museo del Prado’s collections are the legacy of almost 200 years’ collecting by Spain’s sixteenth- and seventeenth-century kings and queens. This explains the quantity and quality of the treasures that include the world’s largest holdings of Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez and Goya.
Importantly, these early collections had a strong influence on the direction of Spanish painting. An early affection for Titian, followed by Venetian painters such as Tintoretto, and Flemish artists like Rubens, set a pattern of richly colored canvasses that would guide Spanish painters such as Velazquez.
With the arrival of the Bourbon monarchy in the eighteenth century, the collections began to absorb French and Italian artworks – a pattern that ended almost a century later with the work of the Spanish painter Goya. By this time, Spain’s power was not what it had been and its own artists were working globally. The Church, too, had lost some power and the Prado received many of its great treasures into the collections.
The museum was first opened to the public in 1819 and became a source of inspiration for a whole new generation of painters, from the classic to the avant garde. It continues to inspire today.
Museo Nacional del Prado, Paseo del Prado, Madrid
- By Metro
- Red Line, L2: Banco de España
- Light Blue, Line 1: Atocha (plus 10min walk)
- By bus
- 10, 14, 27, 34, 37, 45, N9, N10, N11, N12, N13, N14, N15, N17, N25: Prado-Pza Murillo
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