press release

Over the course of three and a half months and through a selection of 87 works, the exhibition devoted to the Spanish portrait presents a survey of the development of this genre in Spanish art from the late fifteenth century to the early decades of the twentieth century. The exhibition is an unprecedented one, in that it is the first to cover 500 years of Spanish art from the viewpoint of the portrait. It features an outstanding group of works by all the leading names in this field, including El Greco, Ribera, Murillo, Velázquez, Zurbarán, Goya, Miró and Picasso, the latter represented for the first time inside the Prado. All previous investigations of this subject, whether books or exhibitions, have focused on narrower time scales and have been less ambitious in scope. For this reason The Spanish Portrait. From El Greco to Picasso offers the first opportunity to present the stylistic evolution of the Spanish portrait, the different social implications of the genre in Spain, the self-image formulated by the various sitters, the image they wished to convey to posterity, and the various devices and representational strategies used by artists of each period.

More than half the works in the exhibition are loans from the most important collections of Spanish portraits. Among them are a large number of masterpieces, including Fray Hortensio Félix Paravicino by El Greco (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts), Don Alonso Verdugo de Albornoz, by Francisco Zurbarán (Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie), The Infanta Margarita in Blue and Prince Felipe Próspero, by Velázquez (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), Don Justino de Neve, by Murillo (London, National Gallery), Self-Portrait by Luis Meléndez (Paris, Musée du Louvre), the two full-length portraits of the Duchess of Alba by Goya (Madrid, Fundación Casa de Alba and New York, The Hispanic Society of America), to be exhibited together for the first time, Self-portrait with Doctor Arrieta , by Goya (The Minneapolis Institute of Arts), The Family of the Infante don Luis, by Goya (Parma, Fundazioni Magnani-Rocca), Gertrude Stein, by Picasso (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art), Self-Portrait, by Picasso (Paris, Musée Picasso), and Self-Portrait by Miró) (Paris, Musée Picasso).

Some of the major works traveling to the Prado are being lent for the first time. Amongst these: Portrait of a Girl by Velázquez and the Duchess of Alba by Goya, both from the Hispanic Society of America, and Don Justino de Neve by Murillo from the National Gallery in London.

The collection of the Museo del Prado includes some of the most important examples of sixteenth- to nineteenth-century Spanish portraits to be found in any collection world-wide, and its own contribution to the exhibition thus includes major works such as the A Nobleman with his Hand on His Chest by El Greco, Las Meninas, which has not been included in any temporary exhibition since the Velázquez exhibition in 1990, the Portrait of a Man “The Pope’s Barber”, also by Velázquez, The Countess of Chinchón, and The Family of Charles IV by Goya.