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Ages of Splendor: A History of Spain in the Museo del Prado The Largest-Ever Presentation of the Prado’s Collection in China Once and for All at the Museum of Art Pudong
Date 2024-04-23

Ages of Splendor: A History of Spain in the Museo del Prado, co-organized by the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museum of Art Pudong (MAP), opens to the public on April 23, 2024. This exhibition marks the largest presentation of the Museo del Prado's collection in China in terms of scale and offers a unique content selection, as MAP stands to be the only institution worldwide to host this special project. Featuring a fabulous selection of masterpieces from renowned artists, the exhibition will run through September 1, 2024.

Beyond its role as a cultural spectacle, Ages of Splendor offers an immersive visual odyssey. The exhibition features a selection of 70 masterpieces from the Museo del Prado's collection, among which 16 pieces have never been on view outside of Spain, and 9 have never been loaned out from the museum before. Over half of the works are shown for the very first time in Asia. These works serve as powerful testaments to the scientific, economic, and cultural achievements that have adorned Spain's history, enriching the global heritage of humanity.

Organized into distinct sections, the exhibition features one special "In-Focus" section and 10 complementary themed rooms. Spanning from the 16th to the 20th centuries, Ages of Splendor showcases masterpieces by nearly 50 distinguished artists from the history of European art. Featured artists include Titian, Veronese, El Greco, Rubens, Zurbarán, Velázquez, Murillo, Ribera, Goya, Fortuny and Sorolla, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in a glorious art history hall of fame.

Ages of Splendor: A History of Spain in the Museo del Prado is produced by the Shanghai Lujiazui Development (Group) Company Limited, and co-organized by the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museum of Art Pudong. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Pedro J. Martínez Plaza from 19th Century Painting Conservation Area at the Museo del Prado. This exhibition is strongly supported by the Embassy of Spain in China, the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Spain in Shanghai, the Miguel de Cervantes Library in Shanghai, and Turespaña.


In-Focus: the Prado's Mona Lisa

Unveiling the Mysteries behind the World's Best-Known Painting

The specially curated section "In-Focus: the Prado's Mona Lisa" highlights one of the most significant works of the Museo del Prado: the Prado's Mona Lisa. This artwork is believed to have been painted simultaneously with the original Mona Lisa at the Musée du Louvre by a member of Leonardo da Vinci's workshop under his direct supervision. Hence, the Prado's Mona Lisa is considered the most historically significant copy of the original. It's noteworthy that the loan of this work is extraordinary for the Museo del Prado, marking only the second time it has left its confines since 2012, when it was briefly loaned out to the Louvre.

The Prado's Mona Lisa, once part of the Spanish royal collection in the 17th century, was transferred to the Museo del Prado at its establishment in 1819. The painting has been exhibited regularly at the museum since then. In preparation for its 2012 loan to the Louvre, it was moved a year earlier from the Prado's exhibition gallery to its research workshop for restoration and study. During this process, a hidden layer of landscape beneath the painting's dark background was uncovered. Additionally, the use of infrared reflectography identified numerous painting adjustments shared between the Prado's Mona Lisa and the Louvre's version. This discovery has elevated the importance of the Prado's Mona Lisa, suggesting its potential to provide insights into Leonardo da Vinci's creative process, as well as establishing it as a must-see exhibit within the museum's collection.

"In-Focus: the Prado's Mona Lisa" begins on the ground floor concourse with an enlarged image inspired by the painting itself, serving as a prelude that leads viewers into the gallery space. Through a variety of original photographs, reproductions, and animations, this section explores the narrative of the painting's journey before, during, and after its restoration in 2011. Several detailed images further illuminate the subtle and exquisite beauty of this masterpiece. The gallery room is set in sandy brown hues, with retouched images of the painting seamlessly integrated into the wallpaper designs. Drawing inspiration from the original room in Madrid where the Prado's Mona Lisa is displayed, the design team vividly recreates many of its interior elements, including the arch-shaped background panel and ornamental plastering at the top of walls. Such designs aim to immerse viewers in an environment reminiscent of the Museo del Prado's architectural space. Moreover, by revealing the intricate connections between this painting and the original at the Louvre, this section offers viewers a unique opportunity to gain deeper insights into one of the most significant paintings in art history.


Ten Complementary Themes

Showcasing Spain's Ages of Splendor through the Collections of the Museo del Prado

The exhibition is structured predominantly in chronological order, beginning with the reign of Charles V and concluding at the dawn of the 20th century. It introduces viewers to Spain's social, political, and historical evolutions over nearly 500 years through ten complementary themes covering various aspects in the Spanish society, such as celebrations in the royal court, dynasties and regimes, mythologies, spiritual beliefs, general life of the public, etc. The exhibition unveils the richness and diversity of the Museo del Prado's collection, featuring masterpieces by prominent artists such as El Greco, Titian, Zurbarán, Velázquez, Rubens, Goya, Fortuny, and Sorolla. There is also a particular focus on the evolution of specific genres such as mythology, buffoon, and still life, each highlighted in respective gallery rooms.

The scenography of Ages of Splendor incorporates many ingenious designs to enhance viewer engagement. For instance, an interactive area for photo ops is set up in the concourse on the third floor. Four groups of distinctive characters, each derived from a painting in the exhibition, are displayed along a long wall. Representing various historical periods and social backgrounds of Spain, these life-size figures invite passersby to pose for fun photographs. Opposite to this display, a timeline interweaves the parallel histories of Spain, China and European art throughout the Ages of Splendor. Furthermore, the exhibition draws inspiration from the gallery environment at the Museo del Prado. The red wallpaper in the first five themed rooms, which also symbolizes the Spanish royalty, pays homage to the Prado's characteristic gallery ambiance. Furthermore, hidden elements related to the Spanish Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties are subtly integrated into the wallpaper of each historically relevant gallery room, featuring motifs such as Habsburg tower-spires and the golden fleur-de-lis of the Bourbons. These design elements allow viewers to engage with the visual symbols of the era while appreciating the artworks.

The first section The Nobility, the Bourgeoisie and the Royalty in the Spanish Territories displays a selection of noteworthy portraits from the collection of the Museo del Prado, including Velázquez's Felipe IV as a Hunter, El Greco's Portrait of a Young Gentleman and Ruben' Felipe II on Horseback. During the 16th century, under the reign of the Habsburgs, Spain rose as Europe's foremost power, with dominions spanning multiple continents. The portraits featured in this section showcase fashion trends prevalent in Spain at the time and reflect the social diversity during a hundred years of its heyday. The second section Visions of the Singular: Buffoons focuses on a special group of individuals in the Spanish court who were tasked with the role of entertaining kings and nobility. Often depicted with physical anomalies and in exaggerated postures, the buffoons contrast starkly with the figures shown in the previous section. Velázquez, who served as a court painter during Spain's artistic golden age, often turned to these figures for his portrait creations, with The Buffoon Calabacillas as a standout piece of this room. The third section The Celebrations in the Spanish Court presents paintings that depict various entertainments and festivities, capturing three centuries of social recreation in Spain. Works such as Pieter Brueghel the Younger's Winter Landscape with Ice-skaters and a Bird-trap and Antonio Carnicero Mancio's Ascent in a Montgolfier Balloon in Aranjuez, among others, offer viewers a glimpse into the scientific, cultural, and social evolutions occurring during this period.

The Place of Myth evokes the Sala Reservada (Reserved Room), one of the most unique episodes in the history of the Museo del Prado. In its early years, the museum housed numerous mythological works from the Spanish royal collection, which often included nudes. Originally, access to these pieces was restricted. Upon their transfer to the Museo del Prado in the 19th century, these works were kept in the Sala Reservada, accessible only to a select few. To revive this concept, the exhibition now showcases a selection of iconic masterpieces that once adorned this exclusive space. Works such as Titian's Venus with an Organist and Cupid and Rubens' The Rape of Hippodamia attest to the timeless theme of mythology in art from the Renaissance to the Baroque period. Sacred Paintings as Everyday Images and Thought and Spirituality offer diverse perspectives on the representation of spirituality in painting across Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. Artists of this period skillfully integrated elements from the real world into religious or mythological subjects, rendering them more pertinent to the daily lives and consciousness of the contemporary public.

The Beauty of Everyday Objects: The Still Life shows the evolution of still life painting in Spain and Flanders from the 16th to the late 19th centuries. Featured artists in this section include Clara Peeters, who distinguished herself as one of the few female painters of her era; Juan van der Hamen y León, recognized as a leading figure in the development of Spanish still life painting; and Jan Brueghel the Elder, celebrated as a pioneering and significant Flemish artist in this genre. A highlight of this section, Festoon of Flowers, Fruits and Putti, represents a collaboration among Jan Brueghel the Elder, Rubens and Frans Snyders. Given the individual expertise of each artist, such collaborations were common in Flanders during that time. The opportunity to discover the traces of multiple masters in a single artwork offers viewers an intriguingly fresh experience.

The other two sections, The Bourbon Dynasty and The New Regime and Goya and The Beginning of Modernity overlap chronologically. The former casts light on a plethora of stylistic and iconographic innovations introduced to portrait painting of the Spanish royal families during the Bourbon Dynasty. The latter centers on Goya, who is regarded as the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, showcasing his remarkable contributions to modern Spanish painting. His works, numbering up to eight in this exhibition—the most by any single artist— highlight his pivotal role. In Tobias and the Angel, his profound appreciation for classicism could be perceived, while in The Parasol, a cartoon that Goya created for the design of tapestries in the royal residencies, a distinctively personal style becomes markedly visible. It is noteworthy that tapestry designs were among the most important commissions of Goya's career, spanning 20 years. The Painter Francisco Bayeu illustrates Goya's profound understanding of and exceptional ability to capture the objective and expressive dimensions of his subjects. Goya's art signifies the advent of modernity, and his extensive oeuvre serves as perpetual inspirations for subsequent generations of painters, both in Spain and abroad. The interior characteristics of this room are particularly distinctive. The yellow color of the wallpaper derived from a tone commonly featured in Goya's paintings; its texture, reminiscent of the brushworks in oil painting, not only forms a harmonious backdrop for Goya's masterpieces, but also imbues the room with a unique sense of poetry, inviting viewers into the fantastic world delineated by the artist.

Developing New Ways of Looking, the finale of the exhibition, highlights the remarkable growth in the diversity of subjects and styles in Spanish painting during the 19th century, largely driven by the emerging bourgeoisie. The Impressionistic Nude Boy on the Beach at Portici by Mariano Fortuny y Marsal exemplifies this development. As a leading figure in genre painting, his influence is evident on many of his contemporaries to certain extent, including Vicente Palmaroli, Martín Rico and Raimundo de Madrazo, whose works are also on view. Serving as an epilogue to the exhibition, The Actress María Guerrero as "La Dama Boba" by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, one of the greatest Spanish painters of the 19th century, pays homage to the enduring traditions of Spanish painting from the Spanish Golden Age to the Impressionism era.


Masterpieces from the Museo del Prado on View at the Museum of Art Pudong

A Grand Feast of Art Spanning Nearly Five Hundred Years

Hailed as one of the finest museums in the world, the Museo del Prado houses the best collection of Spanish art. In collaboration with the Museum of Art Pudong, Ages of Splendor presents a grand feast of art spanning nearly five centuries to audiences in Shanghai. It also provides a unique opportunity to experience and engage with masterpieces from the Prado's collection up close.

Mrs. Li Minkun, Deputy General Manager of the Lujiazui Group and Chairman of the Museum of Art Pudong, stated, "Ages of Splendor: A History of Spain in the Museo del Prado is not merely a feast of art but also a wonderful testament to the cultural exchanges between China and Spain. With this exhibition, we look forward to introducing more artistic treasures from Spain to China, to Shanghai, sharing with a global audience the brilliant glories of thought and culture that transcend national boundaries."

About Museum of Art Pudong

Located at the heart of Xiao Lujiazui, the Museum of Art Pudong (MAP) broke ground on September 26, 2017 and opened to the public in July, 2021.

Invested, built, and managed by the Lujiazui Group and designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel (AJN), MAP is primarily set out to present world-class exhibitions to its audience as well as showcasing domestic artists. The four major functions of MAP include: to hold exhibitions, to promote art education, to develop cultural merchandises, and to advocate for international exchange. MAP aims to become a new cultural landmark of Shanghai and an important platform for international cultural exchange.


About Museo Nacional del Prado

Located in central Madrid, the Museo Nacional del Prado is Spain's national art museum and one of the finest art institutions in the world. Founded upon the former Spanish royal collection and expanded throughout time by means such as donations and acquisitions, the museum's current collection includes treasures of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century.

The building of the museum was built at the behest of King Carlos III and designed by the famous Spanish architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785. It was initially constructed to house the Natural History Cabinet. Years later, the monarch's grandson King Fernando VII, along with his wife Queen Isabel de Braganza, turned the building into the Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures, aiming to present the rich artistic and cultural heritage of the country to visitors from both Spain and abroad. The museum opened its door to the public for the first time in November 1819. In 1868, it was nationalized and officially renamed as Museo Nacional del Prado.

Today, the Museo del Prado stands as one of the world's most significant museums, housing prestigious European art collections. It boasts approximately 1,500 paintings, over 300 sculptures, and a diverse array of decorative arts, all displayed permanently. Annually, the museum orchestrates numerous temporary exhibitions, both within Madrid and in other cities around the globe, extending the reach of its collections to a broader audience.


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