Probably one of my favourite places in Madrid, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando holds a stunning collection that is really worth the visit. Why?
From minute one it was such a pleasant visit. The staff was really nice and helpful and the collection was even better than expected.
If I had to recommend a route I would start by La Sala de Calcografía Nacional (first entry on the left) where there is currently a small photo exhibition. Once you get through that you’ll find a small library that leads to one of Spain’s national treasures: Los Grabados de Goya.
When we got there, there was a small group of ladies asking some questions to one of the staff members present in the room (not a programmed visit or anything). He was explaining amongst other things the difficulty of producing a coloured copy from one of the etchings in comparison with a black and white copy.
While I was listening what was being said in the background I made a move towards the etchings displayed. Some of them were truly terrifying. Especially after I pass the photos through a negative filter.
After a while, we decided to go to the next floor but before I left I asked a couple of questions and I was given this card by the staff member who kindly informed us that if we were interested in the topic we could find more info on their Facebook page especially.
Then we went to the first floor and in our way (as you can appreciate in the first photo of this post) there was a restaurateur working on a massive painting while she was listening to some music. This was one of the things that in my opinion gave a sense of liveliness to the museum.
From there, plenty of rooms (with very cosy sofas) where you can immerse yourself into.
Spanish (Goya, Zurbarán, Picasso, Sorolla…), Italian (Tintoretto,… ), Flemish (Rubens,…), … art. The collection holds over 1400 paintings, 600 sculptures and 15,000 drawings and many other artistic artefacts such as the last palette of Goya, musical instruments… the list is long.
On the day I was there, I walked through the corridors accompanied by a quite enchanting organ music. It was really relaxing and the big surprise came when I realised it was actually live music being played by someone who was rehearsing in the museum’s organ (another sign of life within the museum).
I can truly say that we lost track of time and we enjoyed every second of it. If I had to choose one room my favourite was Goya’s. I had the pleasure to see Goya: The Portraits exhibition at the National Gallery in London back in 2016 and it was really nice to see this little fellow again.
Moreover, I found this really inspiring quote on teaching by Goya that made me admire him even more.
Report on the teaching of painting.
In 1792, part of the academic body remained committed on agreeing on a curriculum that would unify the artistic teachings at the Academy. It was requested the opinion of the teachers responsible for each specialty (Painting, architecture, sculpture and engraving). Francisco de Goya signed his on the 14 of October of 1792 and in it, it was reflected that he was contrary to this uniformity, since “There are no rules in painting and […] the servile oppression or obligation of making everyone to study or to follow the same path is a major impediment to young people who profess this art so difficult, that touches more on the Divine than any other, for signifying all that God has Created […]. What deep and impenetrable arcane remains in the imitation of the divine nature, which without it there is no good not only in painting (that has no other occupation that its punctual imitation) but in the other sciences! “.
And this was the peak of my visit I think. On the other hand, I would have loved to find a bigger gift shop at the museum with a wider range of souvenirs and… the thing is… I think I found one in a way. Bare with me.
Remember that I mentioned earlier something about coloured copies? Well, I’m not trying to play Sherlock or anything here but while I was checking the rest of the collection I bumped into this piece
And it kind of reminded me (especially because of the colours) of one of the previous works mentioned regarding the etching’s room (see pic.5). They were both indeed from the same collection.
I really liked them so I tried to find a better picture on the internet and… I ended up in a rather interesting shop. An eBay account (here) where you can find replicas of different exhibits in the museum and apparently these are accreditated by the museum.
It was a bit odd since there is an official store at the museum’s original web page (http://www.tiendarabasf.com/) but… Who knows? I’m sure there must be a valid reason for it. The bad news was that the copies were really pricey for me (but if you can afford them you can find them here and here) so I will wait and see if the souvenir offer expands anytime soon with a more affordable range perhaps.
Wait! I found something cheaper just in case you are interested:
Although there is a typo on the page this book is the best alternative to the other expensive items. Hurray!
The photos do not make it any justice so if you happen to be in Madrid at some point grab your ticket (free on Wednesdays btw) and have a blast!
P.S. If you can’t make it to Madrid there is also a virtual tour available at:
- Web page: http://www.realacademiabellasartessanfernando.com
- Leaflet (Spanish and English): http://www.realacademiabellasartessanfernando.com/assets/docs/guia_museo/FolletoMuseoCastellanoIngles_2016.pdf