Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain
Submitted by Abigail Thompson on the 2016 winter session program in Spain and Italy sponsored by the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice…
One of the highlights of my first week in Spain was our group’s tour of the Prado Museum in Madrid. This past fall semester I took Baroque art history to fulfill a breadth requirement, but I never expected to be quite so interested in the subject as I am now. While I’ve always felt that I’ve had a healthy respect for art, taking a class that involved analytical discussion of art in the context of history and culture turned it into something beautiful and profound. I’ve also found that the things I know about 16th and 17th century Spanish, Flemish and Dutch art have complemented and enhanced the Spanish history lessons I have received since coming here.
Several famous artists from this period that we discussed include Peter Paul Rubens and Diego Velasquez, both of whom have several works featured in the Prado. Surrounded by several of his royal portraits, Velasquez’s “Las Meninas” of 1656 was displayed facing the entrance to the gallery, inviting me in to take a closer look. Later on, I was surprised to turn a corner and see Rubens’ “The Fall of Man” 1628-29, displayed right beside the very similar “The Fall of Man” by Titian, which had been painted in 1550 and replicated by Rubens eighty years later. I hadn’t remembered learning that they were located in the Prado, but I was delighted nonetheless remembering our discussion of the two works in class. The Prado has no shortage of beautiful, historically significant works that I was fortunate enough to see and recognized from other places, but those few stuck out to me in particular.
When I first moved to the East Coast six years ago, I remember seeing famous landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial and Times Square for the first time and the amazing feeling of being able to tangibly experience things I had only seen through photographs and TV screens. It might just be the huge history nerd in me, but there’s something almost magical about those experiences; they might just be objects or buildings, but their historical legacy connects you to the people around you and those who came before you. More than anything else here in Spain, the art at the Prado that I’ve come to love and appreciate gave me that same feeling. I can hardly wait to see the art that Rome has in store in a few weeks!