Top 10 Prado Portraits

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

During my visit to Madrid, I paid a visit to the Prado Museum - or the National Museu del Prado to give it its full title. The museum was filled with stunning landscapes, biblical scenes and cleverly positioned classical paintings but I was particularly partial to the many portraits on display.

Here are my 10 favourite portraits from the Prado.

Maria Isabel of Braganza was the Spanish queen whose collection founded the basis of the Prado museum. Queen Maria Isabel had a great affection for art, but something suggests artists didn't have the same affection for her as she's been painted in rather unflattering, miserable pose.

Maria Isabel of Braganza

Maria Amalia of Saxony has a rather fabulous red frock.


This painting of Saint Dominic is lavish, with gold decoration throughout and even extending out of the picture - the frame was topped with gold Gothic cathedral spires.

Bartolomé Bermejo - St Dominic Enthroned in Glory - WGA1961

This portrait of a rich, young boy seems to tell you all you need to know about the man this child will grow up to become.

Angelo Bronzino - Don Garcia de' Medici - WGA3254

This painting is of a small girl, Eugenia Martinex Vallejo who was very over-weight and perhaps even disabled. Aged 6, she was taken to the Spanish court to be put on display, pointed and stared at. The poor girl! Hanging near this painting is a nude portrait of the girl which makes her seem all the more poignant.

Eugenia Martinez Vallejo. Carrena

This portrait cleverly (and a little spookily) shows the artist and his family.

Retrato de familia (Key)

On a list of favourite queens, Maria Luisa must rank high. She looks like a game lass, perched high on her horse, always up for a bit of craic.

La reina María Luisa a caballo

Speaking of horses, here's the Duke of Lerma is a powerful pose and portrait. Although this really is a much better portrait of his horse, a glamorous Beyonce of a beast.

Retrato ecuestre del duque de Lerma (Rubens)

Here's Maria Theresa, formidable Queen of Hungary and Croatia, Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Bohemia and Empress consort of the Holy Roman Empire. But this portrait shows her as a little girl, a very different image of her than we have today.

Anton Raphael Mengs 015

And, finally, Maria Cristina of the Two Sicilies, bearer not only of a fantastic name but also a rather fabulous hat.


There are thousands more paintings and artworks in the Prado Museum, many of which can be explored on their website.

Salamanca Siesta

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On top of slightly wintery weather in Madrid, I picked up a touch of stomach flu, so I was feeling a little wobbly and not super-happy.

By the third day of my trip, my tummy was feeling more robust so I decided - quite on a whim as I passed by - to stop in a little local bar in Salamanca.

Inside, it was decorated very typically Spanish - terracotta tiles, wood-lined walls painted dark red, jamón hanging from the walls.

As I sat with my drink, feeling pleased that the barman had called me 'caballero', I watched the other customers.

  • A slightly swaying drunk guy good-naturedly chatting up a woman who laughed along when he won on the slot machine.
  • A pony-tailed old guy fixing the cigarette machine, whilst warble-whistling along to Christina Aguilera's Beautiful and hum-singing along to Taylor Swift's Trouble.
  • A woman silently drinking her coffee within minutes, who, as she leaves, turns to the staff and says, "no hay mucho blah blah blah" while pointing at her mouth.

Madrid's square life

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Normally, the first thing I do when I arrived in a new city is head upwards.

I climb towers, cathedrals and columns to see the city laid out before me, seeing how the streets interlock and the buildings interconnect (or not).

Madrid doesn't have any obvious buildings to climb, so I stayed down, sitting in Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor watching life unfold all around. I saw:

  • Street entertainers galore in Plaza Mayor:
    • A grown man playing a baby, reacting with childish glee or annoyance every time someone walked past.
    • Three men sat in a bin, only their heads visible.
    • Person dressed as a very unusual creature, with a costume consisting of a wooden bird-beak / goat-like head and a body of long strips of glittery foil.
  • Tourists turning the corner into the square, exclaiming, "well, now, look at all this art!"
  • Glamourous grand dames of a certain age being ferried around in Porsches and Range Rovers whilst wearing huge sunglasses and perfectly coiffured hair.
  • In Puerto del Sol, socialists, communists and anarchists all protesting against capitalism mixed with Mickey Mouse, Goofy, The Simpsons and Hello Kitty characters wandering around.

Madrid Architecture

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Madrid Buildings + Flowers

I've recently come back from a trip to Madrid. The buildings there are a mix and styles and influences, reflecting different cultures and rulers - Moorish, Austrian, French, Spanish - mixing over the centuries.

The weather was not kind to me in Madrid, with cloudy, milky, grey-white skies almost throughout my stay.

I decided, then, to splash in some colour from the city's flowers (many of which were growing in the botanic garden) which contrast nicely with the pale, ice-cream colours of the ornate architecture.

Incidentally, I did something similar with these photos of Rome, taking out the sky and putting in the colours of the Italian flag.