Must-see paintings

Picasso's ‘Guernica’, ‘Las Meninas’ by Velázquez... Don't miss your chance to feast your eyes on world-famous paintings you can only see in Madrid's museums

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Museo del Prado

Museo del Prado

Birthplace of great writers, painters and artists, Madrid is home to some of the most important paintings in Spain. Its great museums boast paintings ranging from impressionism and realism to the avant-garde of contemporary art, all adding up to an impressive collection that dazzles locals and visitors.


  • The Garden of Earthly Delights

    El Bosco (1500–1505)

    'The Garden of Earthly Delights' ('El Jardín de las Delicias') is without a doubt one of the most complex and enigmatic pieces by Hieronymus van Aeken Bosch, better known in Spain as El Bosco. There are three scenes depicted in this triptych: the panel on the left is dedicated to paradise, with the creation of Eve and the Fountain of Life; the panel on the right represents Hell, with fire and strange, tortured creatures; the centre panel is where the painting got its name and is the false paradise where humanity has succumbed all kinds of sins, as depicted by the various scenes of people in compromising positions. Bosch wanted to reference the ephemeral nature of life, pleasure and happiness. When the triptych is closed, you see a painting of the creation of earth with two Bible inscriptions from Genesis (1:9-13). Before being hung on the walls of the Museo del Prado, the painting spent over three centuries in the El Escorial Monastery.
    Museo del Prado

    The Garden of Earthly Delights
  • Gentleman with His Hand ...

    El Greco (c. 1580)

    'Gentleman with His Hand on His Chest' ('El caballero de la mano en el pecho') is an oil on canvas that dates back to 1580. It depicts a man in his 30s, in traditional Spanish garments from the end of the 16th century, holding a sword in his left hand while his right hand rests on his chest. It is one of the most well-known works by Domenikos Theotokopoulos, aka El Greco, and it has been said that the painting could be a self-portrait. Others suggest that this austere and simple portrait was inspired by Miguel de Cervantes or the secretary of Felipe II, Antonio Pérez. However, the most commonly accepted hypothesis is that it is the Marquis de Montemayor, Juan de Silvia y de Ribera, after being appointed as chief notary in the kingdom, which could explain the solemn gesture of his hand while being sworn in.
    Museo del Prado

    Gentleman with His Hand ...
  • Guernica

    Pablo Picasso (1937)

    The most celebrated piece of art in the Museo Reina Sofía is an oil on canvas that measures 349.3 x 775.6 cm. ‘Guernica’  was painted by Picasso sometime between May and June 1937 and represents the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica on April 26 by the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. However, the painting did not focus on the bombing itself, but more on the suffering of the people through the use of symbolism. This work can be divided into two pyramidal groups: the first would consist of the bull, the injured horse and the winged bird, while the second would be the dead solider and the women, including the sobbing mother holding her dead son in her arms. The painting was a commission that the Republican government asked the then director of Fine Arts, Josep Renau, to display in the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 International Paris Exposition.
    Museo Reina Sofía

    Guernica
  • Las Meninas

    Diego de Velázquez (1656)

    Not only is this painting one of Velázquez’s masterpieces, but it is also one of his largest works. This portrait of Felipe IV’s family, an oil on canvas made in 1656, measures 318cm by 276cm. The complexity of this piece of art makes it one of the best paintings housed at the Prado Museum. It was painted in the Prince's Quarters of the Royal Alcázar of Madrid and shows the Infanta Margarita accompanied by the young princess's ladies-in-waiting ('meninas'), María Agustina Sarmiento and Isabel de Velasco, as well as some of the monarchs' servants. Also in the painting are dwarves Mari Bárbola and Nicolasito Pertusato; the princess's chaperone, Marcela de Ulloa; and, in the doorway, the queen's chamberlain, José Nieto. Reflected in the mirror are the faces of Felipe IV and Mariana of Austria, the princess's parents. Velázquez added a new level of originality for portraits of the day by portraying himself in the piece working on this very painting.
    Museo del Prado

    Las Meninas
  • 'Les Vessenots' in Auvers

    Vincent van Gogh (1890)

    The landscape in this painting is of 'Les Vessenots', outside of Auvers, a small town located about 35 kilometers north of Paris that was home to artists like Cézanne and Daubigny and the doctor who tended to van Gogh. During the last weeks of his life, van Gogh quickly and hectically painted this piece. With his palette virtually reduced to different shades of green and yellow, the Dutch artist painted a group of houses on an elevated horizon with the French countryside as the focal point, and vast fields of wheat and a few trees. It was in one of these fields of wheat that van Gogh, tormented and in the midst of a deep depression, was shot on July 27, 1890. He died two days later in the arms of his brother, Theo.
    Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

    'Les Vessenots' in Auvers
  • The Three Graces

    Peter Paul Rubens (1630-1635)

    Rubens was aiming to capture true beauty and sensuality in this piece that dates back to 1635. According to classical mythology, the three voluptuous Graces (also called Charities), Aglaea, Euphrosyne and Thalia, were the daughters of Zeus, the king of the Greek Olympus, and the goddess Aphrodite. The three girls represent values such as joy, love, beauty and fertility. Some hypotheses suggest that one of the girls in the painting looks like Helena Fourment, a young woman the painter from the Flemish school married five years before finishing the painting. The elegance and realism of the piece, with so many intricate details, makes this one of the most incredible paintings in the Museo del Prado. Before hanging on the Prado's walls, ‘Las Tres Gracias’ was the artist’s personal property for years.
    Museo del Prado

    The Three Graces
  • The Third of May 1808

    Francisco de Goya (1814)

    The full name of this painting in Spanish is 'Los fusilamientos del 3 de mayo' and is often called 'El 3 de mayo en Madrid' or simply 'Los fusilamientos' (which translates as 'The executions'). Although for years it was thought that 'Los fusilamientos' was painted on the streets of the capital for a public audience, recent research has shown that in reality it was funded by Fernando VII and hung in the palace until May 1814, when the king returned to Madrid after the Peninsular War. This oil on canvas by Goya shows the violent repression of the French army in response to an uprising, known as ‘La Carga de Mamelucos’ ('The Charge of the Mamelukes') in Madrid on May 2, 1808. The image shows how French soldiers executed several Madrid rebels at the barracks on Princípe Pío Hill for fighting against the occupation of their city. The painting was moved to Valencia in 1937, along with many others that were housed at Museo del Prado, to avoid damage during the Spanish Civil War. Unfortunately, it ended up suffering damaged during the move and restorations were performed in 1938, 1939, 1941 and 2008.
    Museo del Prado

    The Third of May 1808
  • Woman in Bath

    Roy Lichtenstein (1963)

    Pop Art, like every other pictorial trend, assumed a revolution within its time. Lichtenstein was one of Pop Art's driving forces, with works like 'Woman in Bath' ('Mujer en el baño' in Spanish), which was made in 1963 using the Ben-Day dot technique. Named for its creator Benjamin Day, the method involves stamping different coloured dots close together, giving the appearance of a comic book. Other than the thick black lines used to delimit the woman smiling in the bath, the only colours used were blue, yellow and red. According to some hypotheses, the New York artist was inspired by a romance novel of the time to paint this oil on canvas that measures 173.3cm x 173.3cm.
    Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

    Woman in Bath
  • Hotel Room

    Edward Hopper (1931)

    If ever there was a painter who knew perfectly how to capture the loneliness of contemporary life, it was Edward Hopper, and 'Hotel Room' ('Habitación de Hotel' in Spanish) is one of the best examples of this. In the painting, a young sits the bed after having taken off her dress and shoes, inviting the viewer to imagine what happened earlier, why she's tired, what she's doing in this lonely hotel room. The artist's wife, Josephine Nivinson, posed for Hopper in his Washington Square studio for this work. Clean lines, along with a sharp diagonal and flat colours, are the characteristics that define Hopper's work.
    Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

    Hotel Room
  • Walk on the Beach

    Joaquín Sorolla (1909)

    This family portrait is one of the Valencian painter’s most famous pieces, and Sorolla was one of Spain's most prolific painters, with more than 2,000 catalogued works. 'Paseo a Orillas del Mar' ('Walk on the Beach') depicts Sorolla’s wife, Clotilde, with a parasol in her hand, and his eldest daughter, Mary, strolling along the shore as their white dresses blow in the sea breeze. It was painted in the summer of 1909 when Sorolla returned from the United States, where he'd gone to show his work in big cities like New York and Chicago, to great success. Classified as a post-Impressionist or luminist, Sorolla liked to play with light and shadows as evidenced in the different shades of green and blue in the sea and the soft colour of the ladies’ white dresses.
    Museo Sorolla

    Walk on the Beach

The Garden of Earthly Delights

El Bosco (1500–1505)

'The Garden of Earthly Delights' ('El Jardín de las Delicias') is without a doubt one of the most complex and enigmatic pieces by Hieronymus van Aeken Bosch, better known in Spain as El Bosco. There are three scenes depicted in this triptych: the panel on the left is dedicated to paradise, with the creation of Eve and the Fountain of Life; the panel on the right represents Hell, with fire and strange, tortured creatures; the centre panel is where the painting got its name and is the false paradise where humanity has succumbed all kinds of sins, as depicted by the various scenes of people in compromising positions. Bosch wanted to reference the ephemeral nature of life, pleasure and happiness. When the triptych is closed, you see a painting of the creation of earth with two Bible inscriptions from Genesis (1:9-13). Before being hung on the walls of the Museo del Prado, the painting spent over three centuries in the El Escorial Monastery.
Museo del Prado


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