Everybody said that you have to see the Prado Museum if you go to Madrid. I am glad we went, but really glad we did not take the tour, which would have required spending much more time.
Let me stipulate that for students of masterpiece paintings, this must be heaven. They can study the evolving techniques and even study how the brush strokes of the masters varied with their experience and age.
Let me further stipulate that I am glad that this art is in the world and that many people treasure it. It makes some people gloriously happy and uplifted. Good.
Let me finally stipulate that I generally love museums, but I guess I am less enamored with fine arts, arts of arts’ sake. I like it to have a relationship to something more.
I enjoyed the portraits of the Hapsburg monarchs – strong family resemblance but not an attractive bunch. I enjoyed seeing the originals of many painting I had long seen in books. I appreciate Brueghel because of the landscapes and insights into climate. Dürer I like, maybe arts for arts sake. And I enjoyed the nearby table of deadly sins attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, but otherwise there were just too many painting of chubby children, emaciated saints and religious symbolism.
I am firmly believe, or at least fervently hope, that the ideas of medieval religion are wrong, else I am surely headed straight to hell. I will have a lot of company there because these guys though pretty much every normal human feeling was a sin. They venerated saints and penitents who went out and abused their bodies and minds.
It was not featured at the Prado, but I recall the story of one Simeon Stylites, who was considered a saint and holy man because he sat on top of a pillar in the Syrian Desert for 37 years, eating and drinking little and exposing himself to the elements. I think that is just plain nuts, certainly not admirable. And the whole incentive system is wrong. Crazy Simeon beats the crap out of himself for 37 years with the goal of going to a better place where he never has to do that again.
Anyway, I am glad I went to the Prado and I do not have to go again. I enjoyed the grounds around the museum. There were some really big cedar trees and a grove of plane trees, and across the street was a remarkable vertical garden, you see in the first picture. Maybe better than the paintings of the chubby babies.