The Meseo del Prado is unarguably one of Madrid’s best-kept treasures, filled with endless masterpieces of 12th century to the early 19th century. Not only does its beauty make each piece of art stand out, its remarkable way of retelling history is what left me in awe as I walked through the gorgeous halls.
Featured in this spectacular museum are three of Seville’s finest artists of all time—Diego Velázquez, Zurbaran, and Alonso Cano.
Diego Velázquez is a native of Seville, born in 1599. From an early age he began studying under various artists, from rebellious to cautious, picking up different techniques to finally make his own unique masterpieces. When I first saw Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas I was blown away. His painting— which is of a Spanish princess posing with her servants, while also incorporating his own self portrait— tells an untold story, and you are only left wondering what’s behind the painting. This painting is still such a distinct icon of Spain, that an ad campaign for fashion in Spain features a recreation of the painting, with chic models dressed to mimic the young Infanta Margarita. Infanta Margarita was daughter of King Philip IV of Spain, who also makes an appearance in the painting. Altogether, I feel as though the painting provides a beautiful snapshot of a moment in this young girl’s life. No matter the occasion, whether it be for a wedding or just dinner, our generation can now see a moment in time over 300 years ago, that we would never have been able to see without this painting.
Zurbaran was born in Madrid in 1598, yet he was mainly active in Seville. He created very spiritual painting, which was common in that era in Spain. His paintings consist of nuns, Virgin Mary, Jesus, and even a beautifully painted tied up lamb, painted to represent Jesus as the Lamb of God.
However, the thing that stuck out most about Zurbaran’s painting is one that I did not see in any else. Zurbaran went back in time through his paintings by painting a collection of mythological creatures. This absolutely fascinated me, since I have to admit, I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology. He features a collection of paintings of Hercules, one of the most popular Greek gods. As some may know, Hercules was son of Zeus, yet raised as a human. He had to prove to not only himself, but the rest of the gods that he was worthy enough to be accepted as a god. Zurbaran’s appeal to Hercules may symbolize his own life—whether he had to prove himself, or maybe he too had a strong fascination with Greek mythology, and just chose that god at random. Whatever the case may be, we are left with a beautifully painted, detail oriented collection of shots featuring Hercules as the heroine, and battling the different creatures. His strong anatomy is beautifully sculpted with Zurbaran’s paint strokes, leaving us with a strong image to put together with the myths.
Lastly, Alanzo Cano was not only a painter, but also an architect and sculptor born in Granada in 1601. When visiting Granada, we learned a lot about Cano during our tour of the Cathedral. He sculpted many artifacts in the Church, including a beautiful cross of Jesus. We also learned that he had a horrible temper, and was later wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife. Although he was sentenced to jail, he kept his art flowing throughout his sentence, and even after he got out. It is obvious that Cano is both an architect and sculptor when you look at his paintings. Some of them, like Coronación de un poeta-soldad, even look like blueprint sketches. My personal favorite, however, is one that features a lot of color and detail. Cristo muerto sostenido por un angel is a picture of an angel holding Jesus, already crucified. The reason why I like this painting so much is for the huge contrast Cano painted between the angel and the dead Jesus. The angel, who has kind warm skin tones, is holding Jesus’ lifeless body—white, pale, and one could even say cold. The background shows beautifully colored clouds and a sunset, while Jesus’ white body stands out right in the middle of the painting. The ability to have two completely contrasting images is what makes this painting so unique to me. The way he painted Jesus’ lifeless body—even his facial expression—leaves one feeling true sorrow. However, the warmness of the angel, and the beautiful background gives us a sense of security in knowing the real reason Jesus died on that cross.