We can say that the Prado Museum holds many secrets in each and every one of its rooms. Each painting is spectacular and intriguing; let your imagination fly just by looking at it.

The question is which the most intriguing paintings in the Prado Museum are. Although each and every one of them is special, both for its artistic and its style, one could say that there are a series of works that are more intriguing than others, either because of their dark shades or because of the legends that have been commented on.

With the help of our guides of Madrid Museum Tours you will enjoy your tour around the museum enjoying the culture and history through the paintings. We assure you’ll want to come back again at any time.

In this post, we are going to talk about some of the Prado Museum paintings:

The Fable of Arachne

Prado MuseumHere we answer you a couple of questions before describing the painting.

  • What’s the meaning of the cello in the background? Nobody knows.
  • There is a cat in the front; where is the cat in the back?

The goddess Minerva (helmet) holds the cat on her left arm. This is why we see only the white tale of the cat emerging from the chest of the goddess.

The painting represents the weaving competition between Arachne and Minerva.

Arachne had the audacity to claim that his knitting skills were better than those of the goddess Minerva. This was followed by a competition. Arachne defeated the Goddess but did not know how to behave with dignity as she began to mock Minerva who, as a punishment, turned her into a spider, condemned to spin webs for the rest of her life.

The background of the painting shows the tapestry woven by Arachne: the rape of Europe as depicted by Titian. Arachne stands in front of her showpiece and Minerva, with helmet and raised arm, looks on.

The Adoration of the Magi by Hieronymus Bosch

This painting shows the three Magi worshipping the new born Christ.

The second king wears a chasuble the collar of which is decorated with a scene showing the Queen of Sheba before Solomon. Balthasar, the Moorish king, in white robes, carries an orb, also decorated with an Old Testament exemplar.

It has been suggested that the figure in the doorway is an Antichrist, or, more likely, the leprosy-stricken Kin Herold.

If you look through the details you will find creatures tucked into the stable loft and the horse-mounted group on the right who shield their eyes from the light of the guiding star.

In addition, the surroundings areas show a typically grisly scene with flying demons and a procession of fantastic figures in grey monochrome.

This painting would have been an altarpiece, closed most of the time and opened to display its enthralling colorful scene, only religious holidays.

Las Meninas

Prado Museum

The canvas depicts Velázquez, the man in the foreground on the left, holding the brushes in front of the canvas, which remains hidden from the viewer, intent on portraying the two sovereigns who occupy the observer’s space in the pictorial fiction. In fact, King Philip IV of Spain and his wife Queen Mariana of Austria are reflected in the mirror in the room, finding themselves ideally in front of the painter.

At the center of the composition two ladies in company, Las Meninas, entertain the infanta Margherita, the daughter of the sovereigns, whose figure is placed at the center of the composition as the only true portrait posing of the canvas. On the right floor, on the right, there is a dog and two dwarfs, behind them, the lady of the queen and an official of the court observe and comment on the scene.

On the background appears Jose Nieto Velazquez, marshal at court and perhaps relative of the painter, immortalized as about to take part in a performance in progress, while moving the curtain that acts as a curtain. This figure thus introduces light from the bottom of the composition, which is at the same time illuminated from the front.

The environment in which the scene takes place seems to be that of the artist’s studio, we can observe some paintings hanging on the walls and the large spaces available for the pose. Velázquez portrays himself with the Red Cross of the Order of Santiago, later added to the painting on the occasion of the award of the honor.

Las Meninas thus becomes a multiple portrait of the royal family and the entire court, including the official painter. The extraordinary play of reflections and the composition of the work itself involve the spectator in the scene and project him inside the painting. Velázquez seems, therefore, to reflect on the very act of representation, understood as a sort of mimesis of a real space contiguous to ours and rendered through a living and realistic atmosphere.

Our guides during the tour will stop in this particular painting and tell you some stories about it and of course about the period when it was painted. After this they will bring a mirror to see the painting backwards where you could appreciate some extraordinary things that might not be seen in the front.

Backwards to the painting you will see Velazquez as a right handed when in real life he was a left handed, or whilst looking at the painting from the front, José Nieto and the other characters on the right seem out of focus but not so much through the mirror.

Queen Isabella the Catholic dictating her Will

This painting shows Queen Isabella dictating her will days before her death.

The work was painted by Rosales during his stay in Rome after a long reflection on the most appropriate historical subject for a painting. It portrays the Catholic Queen as she dictates her will in Medina del Campo on 12 October 1504, days before she died.

The painting is characterized by its remembrance of the realism reflected in Velazquez’s works, which gives it a somewhat tenuous atmosphere.

The white of the bedclothes contrasts with the muted colors of the people present in the room. The only note of color that gives a little color to the painting comes from the red mantle of the grieving King Ferdinand, whose daughter “Juana” is next to him.

It is also worth mentioning that in the painting we can identify Cardinal Cisneros as one of the attendants.

3 Graces, 3 real women

Prado MuseumThe Three Graces is a work by Pedro Pablo Rubens, painted in oil on board in the 17th century. It belongs to the Baroque painting stage of the Flemish school. It can currently be found at the Prado Museum in Madrid.

The painting shows the three daughters of Zeus, Aglaya, Talia and Euphrosine, the three graces of Greek mythology. Two of them are depicted in profile and the one in the middle, with their backs turned with their heads turned, the three of them being naked. They symbolize love, beauty, sexuality and fertility.

The trio is framed by a tree on the left that twists and breaks with chromatic contrast and the color of a gauze on the branch and on the right is a cupid with a golden cornucopia from which waterfalls and above the painting a garland of flowers. In addition to this, there is a great deal of color and light, with a background that represents a landscape in which there is a series of animals.

The three graces are represented with a hairstyle of the time, naked and gathered, but connected to each other through the arms, the transparent veil and the glances, they seem to start a dance by having a delicate attitude and a backward foot. They are characterized by the flaccidity of their flesh and the pomposity of their contours.

The composition is elegant and the light flesh radiates light to the work, followed by the fusion of the three primary colors. The color is very bright and the color predominates over the pattern. There is movement in the foreshortenings and postures of them, in addition to the circle they form.

Rubens is said to have painted the portrait of his second wife Helena Fourment, or variations of his wife Isabella Brant’s face. Others say that the face of both of them appears, with Helena’s the blondest woman on the left side of the painting, and Isabella’s, the one on the right side of the

Saint John the Baptist and the franciscan

Campin’s painting shows a clear influence of Rogier van der Weyden in the San Juan, for his great slenderness, his elegant gesture and his curved figure.

The dependence of the Van Eyck brothers can also be appreciated both in the landscape that opens out of the window and in the use of the convex mirror, in which two Franciscans and the Baptist are reflected.

At this point you may be wondering:

  • Which connection has this painting with Velazquez Meninas­?

On both paintings there is a mirror which reflects other subjects which are not seen in the front.

These are some of the Prado Museum paintings (works of art) that you will see at this museum. Apart from these, there are many others through which you can travel through time and feel how the artists captured their ideas through a canvas…Are you going to miss it?

We recommend the services of Madrid Museum Tour to visit this place. For further information do not hesitate to contact us through our website. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.


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