Opened to the public for the first time on 19 November 1819 and initially built to house the Cabinet of Natural History, it is today one of the most visited museums in the world and strongly oriented towards innovation, thanks also to the recent implementation of innovative solutions, semantic web and artificial intelligence.
The building that now houses the Prado National Museum was designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 and was initially built to house the Cabinet of Natural History, by order of King Charles III. Thanks to the decision of King Ferdinand VII, encouraged by his wife, Queen Maria Isabel de Braganza, to make it the new Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures, soon renamed the National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures and finally in the National Museum of Prado.
The opening to the public takes place on November 19, 1819, with a catalog of 311 paintings — although at that time his collection already included more than 1,510 works from the various Reales Sitios (Royal Residences).
More than 2.300 paintings were later incorporated into the Prado Museum, as well as a large number of sculptures, prints, drawings and artworks through bequests, donations and purchases, which represent most of the new acquisitions and allow them to be able to host important authors of true masterpieces such as, among others: Bosch, El Greco, Mantegna, Raphael, Tiziano, Tintoretto, Dürer, Velázquez, Rubens and Goya.
A collection that has also grown thanks to the expropriation of the country's monasteries — and the artworks they contained, in 1830, to repay Spain's public debt. Some of these works, in fact, later made their way into the Prado collection after it was declared a national museum in 1870.
Like other similar places, even the Prado has known difficult moments, often threatened by national unrest and riots, especially during the civil war of 1930 in which the paintings were removed from the museum and transferred to a safe place in Switzerland, to then return in more peaceful times. A historical tale that Javier Portús wanted to retrace with the exhibition "Museo del Prado 1819-2019: A Place of Recollection".
But the Prado Museum is also innovation: thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, the museum now also offers an expanded reading tool - as it is called - which adds a historical context to the artworks and artists in its collection, from the 12th century to the 19th century, thus enriching the Museum with other online sources such as Wikidata and Wikipedia. A semantic web path (that is, to ensure that the contents are linked and searchable by meanings and contexts, rather than simply searching for the words contained in a text or "simple" links) started in 2015 with The Prado online project, which earned him various awards and prizes.
The goal is to make the artworks and artists better known by inserting them in the historical, political, philosophical, artistic and scientific context in which they were created. This means, for example, integrating an artist or a painting with other historical facts or additional information that occurred at that particular moment, thanks to the Knowledge Graph, used by the Gnoss-Sherlock engine.
Much of the information required to understand an artwork, in fact, is found today in a description that often requires an unusual level of knowledge on the part of the non-expert reader. The expanded reading of the Prado therefore offers a "background" that facilitates the understanding of the descriptions of the artworks and therefore of the artworks themselves, automatically but with all the necessary supervision and guarantees of accuracy.
For his commemoration Google dedicated a Doodle to him.