Madrid: The Prado Museum

Outside the Prado

Outside the Prado

The second day we went to the Prado Museum, we were prepared to search for a few paintings that we really wanted to see. One was the “The Third of May 1808 in Madrid” by Goya. We had already been to the medieval wing of the Prado the day before. And our children can only handle so much time in art museums without being refreshed by more child-pleasing activities. So I wouldn’t say that we rushed through the museum, but we certainly did not spend a lot of time lingering on any one painting.

It is always interesting to see a painting in person that you have learned about. Some are more compelling in person. Some are less compelling. I remember going to an exhibit about five years ago of two of Van Gogh’s paintings, “Starry Night” and “Cypress Trees”. “Cypress Trees” had never really appealed to me, until I saw it in person. The texture of the paint, swirling in thick, textured patterns jumped out and made the scene seem alive in a way that it never had before. I had a similar experience with “The Third of May 1808 in Madrid”. It is hanging by its companion painting “The Second of May 1808 in Madrid: the charge of the Mamelukes”. The subject matter of both paintings is a battle between Napoleon’s soldiers and patriots from Madrid who rose up to fight and protect their homeland, only to be defeated and executed the following day. To stand in Madrid and see its history depicted in dark, sombre colors etched the history in my mind. Both paintings hang in a gallery of paintings by Goya known as the Black Paintings. Included in those 14 sombre works is “Saturn Devouring His Son”. This particular painting I have always found to be disturbing. Seeing it in person it was only more so. In fact, the entire room of the Black Paintings was a little too scary for our children. They asked to leave before we had moved a quarter of the way around the room. So my husband and I took turns in looking at the paintings in that particular area.

Other areas of the museum our children liked much better. Our 5 year old was especially transfixed by a painting depicting Helen of Troy’s abduction. One of the things I love about taking our children to art museums, is that I always learn something more about who they are by which paintings they respond to, and what questions they ask. Many history lessons or discussions about life have emerged from experiencing great works of art. I want them to grow up knowing the value of art, whether it is dance, painting, sculpture, music…….So even though it is sometimes stressful to take them to art museums, I cherish those invaluable moments with them.

Some beautiful memories were made outside the museum, too. Maybe they had to shake off the sombre mood from the Black Paintings. Maybe they just needed to run and play. We lounged in the sunshine as they gathered flowers on the hillside, and brought me piles of them.

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I just love their sweetness! How lucky a mommy am I?

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