''Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado''

Spain's Prado has been called ''not so much a museum of paintings as it is a museum of painters.'' Along with treasure troves of works by El Greco, Titian, Rubens and Velazquez, it holds 140 paintings by Goya as well as some 1,200 of his drawings and prints. For the exhibit ''Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado,'' we see some of Goya's most famous works, including María Antonia Gonzaga, Marchioness Widow of Villafranca, a formal but unusual portrait of the dowager. (The painting shows her in an intimate, private setting.) The family continued its relationship with Goya over several years, and he painted portraits of other family members. Among the most evocative images by other artists is Francisco de Zurbarán's Agnus Dei, a straightforward painting of a sacrificial lamb lying on a windowsill with its feet tied together. The votive image, its reference to Christ's sacrificial death obvious, was extremely popular in Spain during the 17th century.

''Portrait of Spain'' is the latest traveling exhibit of Spanish masterworks. There was ''The Heart of Spain'' in 2003 in Louisiana and ''The Soul of Spain'' in 2005 in New Mexico.

Admission to the exhibit requires a separate timed-entry ticket. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through March 31. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Dec. 16. Continues through March 31, 2012

 
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