Queen Isabella of Braganza and the Prado Museum

Isabel de Braganza was queen of Spain from September 28, 1816, when she married King Ferdinand VII, until December 26, 1818, the day of her death. His was a short and unhappy reign, but it resulted in the origin of the best art gallery in Spain.: the Prado Museum.

Queen Elizabeth of Braganza

María Isabel de Braganza was born in the city of Lisbon, Portugal, in May 1797. She was the daughter of King Juan VI of Portugal and Doña Carlota Joaquina de Borbón. She was an intelligent and educated woman who loved art above all things.

Married by obligation to her uncle, King Ferdinand VII, she was a tireless collector of paintings by the best artists of the time. She soon became pregnant with her first child. However, she this she passed away at a few months old. A subsequent pregnancy looking for the future heir to the crown would cost her life.


Little appreciated by the Spanish people when she arrived, Isabel de Braganza took refuge in art and showed her humanity and affable personality. Thanks to her we have the Prado Museum, one of the best art galleries in the world. And after her death, the people of Madrid honored her for years.

He had a painful and shocking death. It seems that she suffered pre-eclampsia from her pregnancy. Thus, the day before he died, he had a great headache and shortly afterward he fell unconscious. Doctors thought she was dead and the king ordered a caesarean section to try to save the baby she was carrying inside her.

They say that the cries of pain he gave were heartbreaking. Isabel bled to death and the baby died within minutes. His body rests since then in the Pantheon of Infants of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, along with the rest of the queens who did not give successors to the Crown.

The Prado Museum

The Prado National Museum opened its doors to the public on November 19, 1819, almost a year after the death of its great promoter, Queen Isabel of Braganza. That day, The Madrid Gazette published that said museum was due to “the generosity of the king and the participation of the queen”.

This one, very concerned about the huge amount of works of art piled up in the Escorial Monastery, he enlisted the help of several artists, including Francisco de Goya, to catalog and restore the paintings. The accumulation without order or concert came from the time of the invasion of the Napoleonic troops.

The French, in their eagerness to move everything to Paris, had stored thousands of works of art to take them away. But in the course of the War of Independence, many of them had been forgotten in the basements of this monastery, without anyone caring about them until the arrival of Isabel.

A museum for the people

‘Portrait of Queen Isabella of Braganza as founder of the Prado Museum’

A) Yes, the queen proposed their restoration to exhibit them in the Royal Palace of Riofrío and that the people could contemplate works by Italian, Spanish, Flemish artists, etc. However, Goya would convince her to move them to Madrid, where they could be restored and admired by more people.

In this way, they thought of opening a museum in the Palacio de Buenavista and, finally, in the current building. The place would bear the name of the Royal Museum of Paintingalthough over time it adopted the current Prado Museum.

The queen wanted this museum to have the objective of being a space for the conservation of many of the paintings that adorned her royal palaces, for the study of teachers and for recreation of the public. A) Yes, her wish was fulfilled, although she could not enjoy it.

Years later, in 1829, the king ordered the Portrait of Queen Isabella of Braganza as founder of the Prado Museum to Bernardo Lopez Piquer. With it he intended to pay tribute to his work to get the museum opened.

A) Yes, the queen appears touching the plans of the museum that are on a table and pointing from a window at the Prado building that housed the painting collection that she had loved and cared for so much.

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