Museo de Artes Decorativas
By Marta Lasota
Photos courtesy of the museums
When visiting Madrid, most will choose to visit museum giants such as the Prado or Reina Sofia. As advertised, these museums do indeed present some of the best art collections not only in Spain, but in the entire world. However, there are five lesser known museums throughout Madrid that should not be overlooked. In a project called “Five Museums, Other Madrid,” the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport is now promoting these museums to present another cultural side to the city. Even though these museums may not be as popular, each one is unique and brings its own perspective to Spanish art and culture.
Good news! If you’re planning to visit the five museums during a ten-day period, you can buy the “Abono” (ten-day ticket) available at any of the museums for just €12!
Also, check out the museums’ web sites for free entrance.
C/ General Martínez Campos, 37
The Sorolla Museum holds an elaborate exhibit of the artwork of Joaquin Sorolla, a Spanish impressionist painter of the late 19th century. What is today the museum’s building was previously Sorolla’s studio and, later, his place of residence until his death. Thus the museum itself, as Sorolla’s studio, is quite intimate, surrounded by a beautiful garden and isolated from the everyday rumble of the city. Housed inside the museum are not only some of Sorolla’s most famous works, but also paintings of his that, though far less renowned, are just as beautiful.
Each room of the museum is filled with furniture, sculptures, and various trinkets that had originally adorned Sorolla’s studio. Because of this, the museum retains a certain feel of authenticity. One can imagine Sorolla sitting in these very rooms, paintbrush in hand, madly at work on his next masterpiece.
After having observed Sorolla’s artwork, one exits the museum and enters once again into the surrounding garden. For most, it is easy to wonder in amazement as to how artists like Sorolla could have devoted their whole lives to just one craft. Was it in this garden that Sorolla sat, contemplating and seeking inspiration?
Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas
C/ Montalbán, 12
The National Museum of Decorative Arts reminds us that the objects we use, create, and surround ourselves with come to reflect not only our (past) history but also our present culture. This museum, focused primarily on decorative objects from the 17th and 18th centuries, presents a wide array of paintings, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, and everyday objects. Some floors of the museum are dedicated to temporary exhibits, some to rooms arranged to exemplify aristocratic living spaces, and others to specific types of decoration.
Walking through a section devoted to glassware, I found myself contemplating what purpose these extravagant vases could have possibly served. I pondered why people of the 17th or 18th century would have obsessed over luxurious objects that simply sat on a shelf for all of their lifetime. Yet somehow these relics have survived to this very day.
Though all material objects will eventually deteriorate over time, the significance of these objects is timeless. Even though our lives today lack the extravagance of the aristocracy, we too live with decorative objects that serve a vital purpose. For maybe a vase is not just a vase, but a momentary snapshot of culture, reflecting the expression of humanity at that exact time and place.
C/ Ventura Rodríguez, 17
The Cerralbo Museum is housed in the 19th century mansion of don Enrique de Aguilera, the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo. This museum is one of the very few presentations of aristocratic 19th century living that still has most of the original décor intact and on display.
Walking through each room of this massive mansion, one can vividly imagine how Cerralbo and his family lived at this time.
The museum’s exhibits offer an understanding of the time period that mere descriptions or photographs in textbooks fail to truly represent. Walking through the exhibits, it is as if one has been transported to 19th century Spain and can authentically experience this time period, not by observing it from the outside but by strolling within it. This mansion, with its grand and imposing decorations, reminds us that during this time there was a noteworthy significance placed on luxury and elegance, down to the very décor of one’s home.
Each room of the mansion clearly serves a specific purpose, whether for an event or activity, and is adorned with the décor to reflect that purpose. Even in the most miniscule details, this museum presents a complete and genuine portrayal of the 19th century aristocracy that is difficult to find anywhere else.
Watch for Part 2 of THE OTHER MADRID: FIVE MUSEUMS
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