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The Royal Collections Gallery Opens in Madrid Today

The Museo de Colecciones Reales (Royal Collections Gallery) opened in Madrid today. The new museum showcases a selection of artworks from the rich collection of the Patrimonio Nacional (Spain’s National Heritage) and is one of the most important museum projects in Spain in recent decades.

The 40,000-square-meter building is carved into the rocky landscape next to the Royal Palace of Madrid and extends from the Campo del Moro gardens to the palace’s Plaza de la Armería, where the main entrance to the museum is located. The initial plans for a museum to house the Spanish Crown’s heritage collections date back to the 1930s. The initiative was taken up again in 1998 when the government approved the construction of the gallery, which started in 2006.

Bird’s eye view of Madrid’s Royal Palace complex. The newly built museum can be seen in the bottom right. Photo: Patrimonio Nacional

The museum presents the variety and richness of the Royal Collections through more than 650 objects spanning five centuries: from paintings and sculpture to furniture and decorative objects, including tapestries, books and photographs. Northern art is represented by Juan de Flandes’s Polyptych of Isabella the Catholic, Joachim Patinir’s Landscape with St. Christopher (1521) and Christ carrying the cross by Michiel Coxcie (1530) as well as tapestries made by Wilhelm Pannemaker, Balthazar van Vlierden and Jan Raes II.  These include items that were previously on display at one of the many palaces, convents and monasteries administered by the institution.

The ground floor of the museum is devoted to the Habsburgs and includes the tapestry collection, the Royal Armory as well as works by Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Ribera, Velázquez and Caravaggio. The construction of the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial occupies a prominent place, as does the founding of the Royal Convents, quintessentially feminine spaces and symbols of power and patronage. This floor also offers insight into the origins of Madrid: the 9th-century city wall and gate discovered during the construction of the building.

The second floor is dedicated to the House of Bourbon and starts with the architectural drawings of the new Royal Palace, built on the orders of Philip V after a fire destroyed the Alcázar, and ends with a model of the Royal Collections Gallery as an epilogue to the major monumental and museum complex of the Royal Palace of Madrid. Themes such as music, the royal factories and the construction of the Royal Palace of La Granja are represented through decorative arts, tapestries, musical instruments and furniture.

Jan Raes II and others after a design by Rubens, The meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, after 1625
Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid

The lowest floor (level -3), which is also accessible from the Campo del Moro gardens, is designed as a dynamic exhibition space. In addition to the temporary exhibition room, there is a large immersive cube offering 360º video projections of the architectural and natural spaces of the Spanish royal sites.

In conjunction with the opening of the museum, a new website was launched for the Royal Collections Gallery.  In addition to the sale of tickets, it offers more information about the Gallery and the works on display as well as a virtual tour: