This undervisited museum is in fact one of Madrid's most important and oldest permanent artistic institutions (it was founded in 1794). The eclectic collection is partly made up of works of varying quality donated by aspiring members in order to gain admission to the academy. The museum's greatest possessions, though, are its 13 works by Goya, an important figure in the early years of the Academia. They include two major self-portraits; a portrait of his friend the playwright Moratín; a portrait of Carlos IV's hated minister Godoy; and the 'Burial of the Sardine', a carnival scene that foreshadows his later, darker works. Another of the academy's most prized possessions is the Italian mannerist Giuseppe Arcimboldo's 'Spring', a playful, surrealistic portrait of a man made up entirely of flowers. There are also important portraits by Velázquez and Rubens, and several paintings by Zurbarán. Among the later works, the best known are some Picasso engravings and a Juan Gris; the most surprising are the colourful fantasies of Múñoz Degrain and the De Chirico-esque work of Julio Romero de Torres. Look out too for Leandro Bassano's superb 'La Riva degli Schiavoni'.
The academy also has a valuable collection of plans and drawings, including those of Prado architect Juan de Villanueva, and rare books. In the same building is the Calcografía Nacional, one of the most important collections of engravings in the world with plates by some of Spain's greatest painters, among which are the original plates for Goya's series of engravings, considered to be masterpieces in the history of engraving.