A new museum packed with hundreds of treasures collected by Spain’s monarchs over the past 500 years is set to open in Madrid this month.
Located just across from the Royal Palace, the Royal Collections Gallery, which opens on 29 June, will showcase paintings, tapestries, furniture and elaborately decorated carriages.
Most of the 650 works that will go on display have not previously been accessible to the public or were sitting in quiet corners of historic sites across Spain.
‘There are works that come from palaces or monasteries and here we promote another way of looking at them,’ the museum’s director Leticia Ruiz Gómez said.
Among the highlights is a painting by one of Spain’s most emblematic historical masters, Diego Velázquez, depicting a horse rearing up without a rider.
‘White Horse’ was last shown to the public in 2015 during a temporary exhibition in Paris. The rest of the time ‘it sat in a corner of a room in the Royal Palace’, said Ruiz Gómez.
Nearby is a massive 16th-century tapestry once owned by Spain’s Queen Isabella which the culture ministry bought in February for one million euros.
Another standout item is the very first edition of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, one of history’s greatest literary works.
The collection also includes paintings by Italian masters Caravaggio and Jacopo Tintoretto, as well as Spain’s Francisco de Goya, whose works reflect the country’s historical upheavals.
In addition, visitors will be able to see a multicolour wood sculpture by Spain’s first female court sculptor, Luisa Roldan, which depicts Saint Michael slaying the Devil.
The goal is to ‘show the diversity, richness and quality of what Spanish monarchs have collected over five centuries’, said Ana de la Cueva, head of Spain’s state heritage agency, Patrimonio Nacional.
The idea to set up a museum to display Spain’s royal collections first emerged nearly a century ago but it was interrupted by the 1936-39 Civil War.
The new museum joins a prestigious line-up of other world-famous galleries in Madrid such as the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia, home to Pablo Picasso’s historic Guernica painting.
To maintain the public’s interest, the Royal Collections Gallery plans to replace a third of its works with new items roughly every 18 months.
‘The idea is to show all the national heritage we have, so we can bring restored works to be exhibited. Then they can go back to their original places,’ said De la Cueva.
The modern building which houses the collection has won several architectural awards and is likely to add to the museum’s appeal.
Built down the side of a steep hillside, the scale of the seven-storey museum is not immediately evident from street level, with the main entrance located on the top floor.
As visitors descend to the lower galleries, there are impressive views onto the parklands of western Madrid. At the entrance to one of its main rooms are four gigantic columns with gilded vines, the huge windows flooding the room with natural light.
De la Cueva said the combination of seeing historical art in a modernist setting ‘is spectacular’.
‘I think the opportunity of having the most modern building with the most ancient collections is a privilege,’ she added.
The Royal Collections Gallery is at the Plaza de la Armería, Calle Bailén 8, 28013, Madrid (main entrance). From 29 June, it will be open Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 8pm. Sundays and public holidays, from 10am to 7pm.