by Niels Klok
(Continuing from Part 1 – Intro to the Prado…)
Entering the museum through the “Puerta Alta de Goya” (at the top of the stairs outside, so on the first floor), look at your map and head (counter-intuitively) for the basement first (numbers 100-102 on the map) by crossing the entire first floor (24-32) and descending the two flights of stairs. The “Tesoro del Delfín” basement collection is a wonderful amalgamation of pots, vases and other interior decoration that is too easily forgotten among the bombastic paintings above ground.
Move up one flight of stairs and turn left, heading into 72. Numbers 71-74 form a selection of classical sculpture, nice for fans and certainly interesting on account of its not being painting. Turn left after entered 74, and have a brief look at the Italian painters in 75 (remember not to linger!) Cross 47 into 49, disregarding its Italian paintings for a moment; you will come back here later. Turn right (55B) and be surprised by the contrast between Italian and German painting. Straight ahead into 55, turn left (during my last visit, there was no other choice as the “A” rooms on the map were shut off) and pass the mildly interesting Flemish paintings in 56 and 57, turning left again into 57B, and again left into 56B. Don’t go straight ahead, you’ve already been there! Turn right, and you’re back among the Italian paintings of Rafael in 49. Turn right again, cross 50, and: congratulations, you’ve completed 2 out of 4 floors!
Take a hard left, and ascend the stairs: you’re back where you started. Cross the hall into 4; to your left, there is quite a bit of forgettable French painting leading to a dead end. Unfortunately, the paintings by Claude at the far end are gorgeous (now that’s what I call merchandising), so move quickly into number 2 and back again. Straight ahead (5-6) brings you slightly more interesting Italian painting, leading to the only “Dutch room” in the Prado (7). Being the traitor to my country that I am, I couldn’t care less, and move left and immediately right to have a glance at Tiziano (7A-8A). This leads you to the intriguing paintings of El Greco (9A-10A), definitely worth a look. Turning right into 10, this is where Rubens starts. Take another right, crossing 9 and 8, and left again into 8B (not straight ahead, or you’ll be in the Dutch room again). Another left brings you to 9B, and a subsequent right takes you back to the hallway that you have seen before (you can skip 10B, don’t worry).
This is the “heart” of the Prado, littered with Spanish masters. Turn left and have a brief look at 26 and 27, preludes to the big names (forget 25 for the moment). Another left brings you into the realm of Velázquez, impressive if only for the big octagonal room he occupies. There’s more of him when you take a right (14-15), but keep in mind that this part is essentially a dead end: after making a circle, you will have to cross Velázquez again to get back into the grand hallway. When there, go left and start overdosing on Goya: it is more or less the last artist of your Power Tour. Have a quick peek into 16B, and drift through 29 and 32, where you turn right into 35-38. In my opinion, the round Goya paintings here are most worth your attention. Move into the hallway when in 37, and, if you’re up for it, peek into 39 on your right. Then, straight ahead and up the stairs to your right. These lead you to 85, where a happier and more colourful Goya greets you. Take advantage of this joyful spell, move into the hallway and turn right: rooms 90-94 will show you similar Goya paintings. Had you turned left, you would have visited 86-89, a salad bowl of paintings hard to categorize and even harder to recommend. Forget them, and leave with the colours of Goya in your head, moving down the stairs again and along the grand hallway back to where your coat is hanging.
At this point: pat yourself on the back – you have survived the Prado!