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For the First Time Ever, The Museo del Prado Exhibits Treasures from Its Library
A view of the paining 'Francisco Pacheco', by Velazquez, on display during the opening day of the exhibition 'Bibliotheca Artis Treasures from the Museo del Prado library' at the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain, 05 October 2010. The exhibition offers the public a first-time look at some of the museum's prized possessions from its library, including 40 books and manuscripts dating from between 1500 and 1750, as well as eight paintings by Tiziano, El Greco and Velazquez. The exhibition runs from 05 October 2010 to 30 January 2011. EPA/J.J. GUILLEN.

MADRID.- The exhibition is organized into three sections. The first, Bibliotheca artis (Library of Art), is the most important, featuring major works from the European literature on art, starting with the great treatises of the Italian Renaissance. On display are first editions of the key texts on painting by Leon Battista Alberti (1547) and Leonardo da Vinci (1651), as well as the first systematic treatise on perspective by Daniele Barbaro, who is the subject of a portrait by Titian in the Museum’s collection. The dissemination of Renaissance ideas in northern Europe is best represented by Dürer’s theoretical writings, of which an example here is the first Latin edition of his treatise On Measurement (1532). Also included in this section is a copy of the founding text of art history, Vasari’s Lives, a work that exercised a notable influence in Italy and the rest of Europe.

Art theory during the Spanish Golden Age represents is another important section within the exhibition, with copies of several groundbreaking texts on display. Among 16th-century treatises, for example, is Felipe de Guevara’s Comentario de la pintura, recently rediscovered among the holdings of the Madrazo library and exhibited to the public for the first time. Velázquez’s teacher and father-in-law Francisco Pacheco is represented here by a short section from the first edition of his Arte de la pintura (1649), accompanied by an extremely rare leaflet (the only example in a Spanish library) with manuscript annotations by the author and a reproduction of Velázquez’s portrait of him. Other outstanding items, also on show for the first time, are the manuscript copy of the Discursos by Jusepe Martínez (ca.1673-1675) and one of the copperplates used for the illustrations of Palomino’s El museo pictórico (1715).

The second section, Bibliotheca architecturae (Library of Architecture) brings together a carefully selected group of architectural treatises. Once again the key theme is the Italian Renaissance, with important editions of works by Vitruvius, Vignola, Serlio and Palladio. In addition to emphasising the significance and beauty of some of these texts, such as the edition of Vitruvius published by Cesare Cesariano in 1521 (the oldest book in the exhibition), this section also focuses on the way in which Renaissance painters such as El Greco used their illustrations to create the architectural backgrounds in their own compositions. This section also includes French, German and Spanish books on architecture and concludes with an area devoted to a small selection of books on public celebrations, which are unique witnesses to the spectacular temporary architectural structures designed for royal entries, canonisations, funerals, etc, by artists of the stature of Rubens and Valdés Leal.

The third section, Bibliotheca imaginis (Library of the Image) focuses on the important role that book illustrations played in European art in the early modern age. It includes drawing manuals, which were an essential element in artists’ training as they offered models for learning to draw the human figure step by step. Among them are the Principios by García Hidalgo (ca.1700), the most important and rarest of the Spanish manuals, produced in the final years of the Golden Age.
Books were of fundamental importance to painters as they constituted essential formal and iconographic sources for the creation of their own works. In this regard the exhibition offers a brief reflection on the genre of the portrait through three types of printed repertoires that were fundamental to the dissemination of formal models. Also on display are a number of books that are crucial to an understanding of the meaning of Renaissance and Baroque art, namely illustrated editions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1595), Ripa’s Iconology (1603), and various important emblem books, whose contents inspired the iconography of numerous paintings in the Museo del Prado.

Books lie at the origins of numerous paintings and also function as unique witnesses to their subsequent critical fortunes. The most important cycles of European paintings were reproduced in print form and disseminated through sumptuous albums, while the first collections of paintings (firstly private, aristocratic and royal ones and later public collections) became known throughout Europe through books such as the Prodromus (1735), a copy of which brings the exhibition to a close. Having opened with the first great theoretical text that codified the principles of Renaissance painting – Alberti’s Pittura – the exhibition closes with the birth of the institution that marked the evolution of the visual arts in the modern age: the Museum.

The Museo del Prado | "Bibliotheca artis" | Madrid |

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