In Madrid, a new museum exhibits ancient treasures of the monarchy

In a Spanish capital, the Royal Collections Gallery brings together masterpieces by Velázquez, Caravaggio or Goya from the royal collections.

Exited from luxurious palaces to be hung on the refined walls of an exhibition hall, hundreds of works acquired by the Spanish dynasties have been brought together in a new setting with ultramodern architecture: the Gallery of the Royal Collections.

The last public appearance of the Cheval Blanc by the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) dates back to 2015, during a temporary exhibition in Paris. The rest of the time, ” it hung in a room in the Royal Palace of Madrid, adjoining this new museum which will open at the end of June, says Leticia Ruiz Gómez, director of the royal collections. The huge painting is one of the centerpieces of the floor devoted to the House of Habsburg which reigned over Spain in the 16e and XVIIe centuries.

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A few steps away are a Caravaggio, or the Triumph of timea tapestry more than three meters high which would have belonged to Isabella the Catholic (1451-1504), acquired in February by the Ministry of Culture for one million euros.

The Gallina Ciegatapestry by Fransisco de Goya (1789) exhibited at the Royal Collections Gallery. THOMAS COEX / AFP

In a Spanish capital that already has museums of international renown such as the Prado or the Reina Sofia, the Royal Collections Gallery will be “ a display case » and will allow « to show the diversity, richness and quality of what the Spanish kings collected over five centuries “, explains Ana de la Cueva, president of the public body managing the Spanish National Heritage.

The idea of ​​creating a museum to exhibit the royal collections had already been raised a century ago but the project had failed due to the Civil War (1936-1939).

“Mad Painter”

A second floor is dedicated to the Bourbon dynasty, from the current King Felipe VI, with works by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), a coach covered in bronze from the XIXe century or even the back portrait of King Charles IV, of which only the back of his wig can be seen and which earned its author, Juan Bauzil, the nickname of ” mad painter “.

Royal carriage exhibited at the Royal Collections Gallery. THOMAS COEX / AFP

A third level will host temporary exhibitions but also a cube “ immersive » where 360° images of dozens of « royal sights » across Spain, from which the pieces exhibited come.

Most of the 650 works in the permanent exhibition were not accessible until then and were gathering dust in storerooms or wings of palaces and monasteries closed to the public. They will be renewed regularly, the museum being equipped with state-of-the-art reserves to preserve the thousands of works from the royal collections.

Our role is to show them so that citizens are aware that this heritage belongs to everyone, unlike other countries. “, she specifies, pointing to monarchies in which many works belong to the royal family and not to the state.

Details of a royal carriage on display. THOMAS COEX / AFP

A box of concrete

With the appeal of the monarchy eroding over time, the challenge for this new gallery will be to attract as many visitors as the neighboring Royal Palace, which averages around 1.5 million per year, compared to more than 2, 5 for the palaceAlhambra in Granada, the most visited monument in the country.

For this, the establishment relies on its architecture, which has won several international awards. The construction between 2005 and 2016 of the gallery required digging the rock of the cornice overlooking the royal gardens.

Porticoes of light gray concrete, between which are inserted huge bay windows, have replaced the cliff, so that the building is almost invisible from the heights of the palace.

The Archangel Saint Michael vanquishing the Devil (1692), by Spanish sculptor Luisa Roldan. THOMAS COEX / AFP

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