A Madrid museum is about to debut with an exhibition of five hundred years worth of royal art collections.

The Royal Collections Gallery, due to open in Madrid in June, will be themed all about royal tastes. It will host hundreds of masterwork paintings, tapestries, sculptures, and practical works of art, all having belonged to Spanish monarchs in the Hapsburg and Bourbon dynasties.

“This is the biggest museum project in Spain in decades, and also in Europe”, says Ana de la Cueva, President of the Patrimonio Nacional, a government body that runs the Gallery. The Patrimonio Nacional is a body representing the Spanish public, which owns the immense Royal Collections.

The Patrimonio Nacional manages over 150,000 works of art, locations, pieces of furniture, and garments. The inaugural exhibition of the new Madrid museum will show 650 of them, and approximately 200 will be rotated out each year to keep the gallery fresh.

Highlights of this first exhibition include Caravaggio’s 1607 “Salome with the Head of John the Baptist,” a cedar sculpture of Saint Michael slaying the devil from 1692 by court sculptress Luisa Roldan, and a first edition of “Don Quijote” by Cervantes.

“For many centuries, the Spanish monarchs were the best collectors in history,” said de la Cueva. Being able to buy and order from the best artists in the world “was a way of showing their power.”

The Madrid museum is built into the steep hillside opposite Madrid’s Royal palace and the Almudena Cathedral, a work of art itself in a modern style that integrates Baroque and Islam.

The Royal Collections Gallery has been a long time in coming. It was first proposed during Spain’s Second Republic between 1931 and 1939, when the populist government first seized the Royal Collections. The idea was abandoned until 1998, and has taken 25 years and 172 million euros to bring about.

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