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The Prado Museum

Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 2019

Speech by Javier Solana, President of the Royal Board of Trustees of The Prado Museum

Your Majesties,
Your Highnesses,

I must begin by expressing my gratitude to the Jury for the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities for their decision to confer it on the Prado Museum, considering it a symbol of our shared legacy and, as the Minutes add, in recognition of the work of conservation and dissemination of one of the world’s richest artistic heritages.

I offer these thanks on behalf of the Royal Board of Trustees of the Prado Museum and all those who, each day, contribute their work and knowledge with an aim to increasing its prestige and its status as a standard bearer of our identity, of our shared history. This work that supposes a source of inspiration as well as a demanding stimulus for the country that we are and will continue to be.

The Prado houses an impressive collection of masterpieces that place it among the temples of universal culture in its own right.

Yet it also houses a certain mystery. As the poet said, “...I want to bring out the best you in you” and that magic becomes reality with each visit to the Prado; it transforms us, enlightens us... brings us closer to what lies deepest within us.

The Museum came into existence on 19th November 1819 as a dynastic hallmark, though its nature as a family institution was soon lost, first opening to the public and then later becoming a national museum.

This transformation has meant that Spanish society as a whole has taken on the task of safeguarding the Museum, improving it, enriching it and adapting it to its time, even in the most difficult hours of our history.

The Museum is thus a reflection not only of what we Spaniards have lived through over the centuries, but also of the soul of every single one of us. The Prado is capable of enthusing people from all corners of the world with its countless narratives, ranging from those that evoke the feats of emperors in whose kingdoms the sun never set, through to sad, tender scenes in which loneliness, poverty or hunger loom... but also peace, mercy and forgiveness.

Living in exile, the painter Ramón Gaya said that, seen from a distance, the Prado “never appears to be a museum, but rather a kind of homeland”, understanding this term not as a limitation of borders, but as a place capable of giving shelter to the human soul.

That is why the Prado belongs not only to the city of Madrid, even though it is situated there. That is why it is not just a Spanish museum, even though it is part of each and every Spaniard. It is an institution that is an essential part of humanity’s shared legacy and a compendium of Spain’s finest contribution to universal culture.

With the permission and indulgence of Their Majesties The King and Queen of Spain, on such a special day and on such a solemn occasion, I would like to address Her Royal Highness The Princess of Asturias, in the presence of Her Royal Highness the Infanta Sofía, on behalf of those of us who love the Prado Museum.

Your Highness, please hear the words of a Spaniard who currently has the privilege of being president of the Royal Board of Trustees of the Prado Museum, whose honorary presidency Their Majesties The King and Queen actively and unwaveringly occupy.

I wish to tell you that the Prado is a museum brimming with life and values in which beauty resides. The true and profound beauty that gives meaning to life; a vibrant, intimate beauty that renews us with joy, transcendence and creative genius.

I am sure, Your Highnesses, that you will both have a good and loyal friend in the Prado Museum throughout your lives. A permanent reference point.

The Museum will never disappoint you. It will open up horizons and comfort you, as it will all the men and women of your generation, as it has always done. Our great country, Spain, always becomes more universal, free and tolerant when it contemplates itself in the Prado’s masterpieces.

Your Majesties, I will conclude now.
This distinction we receive today will serve as a stimulus to culminate the extraordinary task we are currently undertaking: the recovery of the Hall of Realms of the former Buen Retiro Palace.

A task that is a challenge for one and all. For those of us who work at the institution and for all of Spain’s citizens, who, through their gaze and contemplation, enable the Prado Museum to realize its full significance, both intimate and universal at one and the same time.

Translated by Paul Barnes.

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