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4 Life Lessons Learned at The Prado Museum

On my last post I talked about taking a private tour of the Prado Museum in Madrid. The tour was great way to learn a little bit about the art at The Prado, but I’ll be honest visual art will probably never excite me the same way music or live theater does. That’s okay. I still loved the tour I took, and I learned a lot. While I was on the tour, and after wandering through the museum on my own, I began to think about the different life lessons one could learn from the art and the artists at The Prado. So here are Life Lessons Learned at The Prado Museum.

Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain

This is photo I took outside The Prado which includes a statue of the Spanish painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Unfortunately taking photos inside the museum is prohibited, but I’ve included links to the paintings on The Prado websites in this post, so you will be able to see each work of art for yourself.


The Life Lesson: Be a Better Version of Yourself

At The Prado there is a self portrait by German Painter Albrecht Dürer. To me it didn’t seem like anything special, but on my tour I learned that Dürer did something different with his self portrait. Instead of painting himself as he was (a poor struggling artist) he put on some fancy robes and painted himself in the same way one would paint a king or queen.

The lesson I learned – be a better version of yourself. Sure maybe pretending you’re a King isn’t the most realistic thing to do, but I believe there is merit in thinking ahead to who you want to be and what you want to do and acting that way now. For example if you want to travel, but haven’t you need to stop thinking “I can’t travel. I’m not a traveler” and change your mindset and behaviour to “I can travel. I am a traveler.”

The Life Lesson: There’s Nothing Wrong With Studying The Greats

I’m sure we’ve all heard of a little photo called The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, which is currently in The Louvre in Paris. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is not at The Prado in Madrid, but do you know what is? Another Mona Lisa. Yes there is another Mona Lisa at The Prado, which scholars believe was painted by a pupil of Da Vinci’s around the same time as the one in Paris. Years ago I was in Paris at The Louvre and I got to see The Mona Lisa, but it was so busy and crowded I didn’t have the time to appreciate this famous work of art. The Mona Lisa at The Prado had no one around it so I could take the time to really look at it, and that was pretty cool.

The Lesson I Learned – there’s nothing wrong with studying the greats and emanating them. I don’t want people to misconstrue this advice as “just copy someone else’s work and claim it as your own.” That’s not cool, but if you want to do something, whether it’s painting or traveling or starting a business then studying someone who’s had success in that field and emanating them until you find your own way.

The Life Lesson: Try a Different Perspective

There is a painting at The Prado called El Lavatorio (The Washing) by Italian painter Tintoretto. Like a lot of paintings from back in the day it depicts a religious scene from The Gospel of John, and once hung at the church of San Marcuola in Venice, Italy. What is interesting about El Lavatorio is that when you look at it straight on, it seems a little weird. The perspective of the scene is off just a bit, and Jesus (who is usually centrally placed in most religious paintings) is on the side. This painting hung at the ride side of the altar in the church, so Tintoretto painted this work to be viewed from the side, not from straight on like most paintings are. If you move to the left and look at this work at an angle it makes more sense.

The Lesson I Learned – it is important to change your perspective. If you are doing something that isn’t working then try doing something different. Try changing how you approach different situations, if the previous ways haven’t worked. Try changing your attitude. Even a slight shift can make a big difference.

The Life Lesson: No One Has To Get It

One of the most famous, and most interesting paintings (at least to me) at The Prado is painting by Hieronymus Bosch (El Basco in Spanish) called The Garden of Earthly Delights. It’s painted on oak in three panels. The left panel shows a garden scene, and the right panel shows a dark weird scene, and the middle one is like the garden scene, but with some weird, abstract stuff in it.

See, it’s a weird painting. It has a bit of a surrealist kind of feel to it, but it was painted sometime between 1490 and 1510, which is well before the surrealist art movement. There is debate about what each panel means, and what all the surrealist images mean in the painting. Some people believe the left panel represents heaven, the right hell, and the middle is how earth could be if it was paradise. Some people believe the surrealist images within the painting represent different Flemish proverbs, but these are just some theories.

The Lesson I Learned – you don’t have to get everything. This is something that’s taken me a while to figure because I want to know it all, but that’s just not possible. I know there are people, like me, that want guarantees and all the knowledge for whatever they are about to see or do. The more I’ve lived and traveled the more I’ve been able to let go of needing all the answers for everything.

Have you learned any life lessons at a museum? Share them below in the comments.

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