Spain

The Prado in Madrid has one of the great collections in Europe, but don't miss the remarkable MNAC — it's filled with Catalonian art, most remarkably the 1000-year-old Romanesque frescoes removed from churches in remote regions for protection.

Juan Martínez Montañés and Francisco Pacheco, <em>Christ of Clemency</em>
Juan Martínez Montañés and Francisco Pacheco, Christ of Clemency

The sculptor Martínez Montañés was the “God of Wood,” but it’s the painter Pacheco who brought this work to life.

El Escorial, Spain
El Escorial, Spain

The severe exterior of this palace complex belies its highly decorative interior, once filled with art.

“Throne of Wisdom” sculptures
“Throne of Wisdom” sculptures

These statues of the Virgin and Child often held relics. Designed to be mobile, they starred in parades and plays.

<em>Virgin from Ger</em>
Virgin from Ger

Delicate and brightly colored, this statue from Spain combines elegance with solidity, the human with the divine.

El Greco, <em>Adoration of the Shepherds</em>
El Greco, Adoration of the Shepherds

Wild! Everything seems transient in this otherworldly scene, but El Greco’s bold colors stay with us.

Jusepe de Ribera, <em>The Martyrdom of Saint Philip</em>
Jusepe de Ribera, The Martyrdom of Saint Philip

Ribera depicts the moment before St. Philip’s death, yet the martyr’s body distorts and collapses before our eyes.

Fra Angelico, <em>The Annunciation and Life of the Virgin</em> (c. 1426)
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation and Life of the Virgin (c. 1426)

With its sumptuous foliage and gold detail, this painting celebrates the decorative and captures the spiritual.

Andrea Mantegna, <em>Dormition (or Death) of the Virgin</em>
Andrea Mantegna, Dormition (or Death) of the Virgin

Mantegna’s draped figures resurrect classical sculpture, but the landscape was from life—that’s Renaissance Mantua.

Circle of the Master of Pedret, <em>The Wise and Foolish Virgins</em>
Circle of the Master of Pedret, The Wise and Foolish Virgins

These frescoes covered the thick walls of a Romanesque church. Once isolated in the Pyrenees, they adorn a museum.

Historiated capitals, Church of Sant Miquel, Camarasa
Historiated capitals, Church of Sant Miquel, Camarasa

Romanesque sculptors adorned the tops of columns with bible stories. These scenes are bold, emotional, and direct.

Diego Velázquez, <em>Las Meninas</em>
Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas

This puzzling painting about painting is half genre scene, half family portrait. But what’s on the large canvas?

Francisco Goya, <em>The Family of Charles IV</em>
Francisco Goya, The Family of Charles IV

Goya depicts the king’s family in scintillating detail… but the sparkle of the monarchy is beginning to fade.