If you asked a hundred people about their lasting memories of Seville, you’d probably get a hundred different answers.
Outstanding Moorish and Christian architecture, authentic flamenco, world-class food: this city truly has something for everyone. But it’s also one of the best places in the world to discover the best of Spanish art. As a major economic center during Spain’s “Golden Age,” the city and its many churches were a hotbed for art commissioning, attracting artists from around the country. What’s more, two of Spain’s most famous artists, Diego Velazquez and Esteban Murillo, were born here. That’s why Seville’s Fine Arts Museum is a must-visit for any art fiend. Here’s everything you need to know to dive into Seville’s greatest art museum.
Founded back in 1835, the Fine Arts Museum of Seville is one of the oldest in Spain. The building, though, is even older. Housed in a former convent, the location alone is worth the cost of entry. As you explore the museum, look out for the spectacular ceiling of the “imperial staircase,” as well as the excellent tilework (much of which was taken from other former convents and monasteries in the region). Best of all, it costs just €1.50 to enter (free for EU citizens), and only closes on Mondays, so there’s no excuse not to visit!
What to see
As one of the artistic hubs of Spain’s Golden Age, it’s not surprising that many of the highlights of the Fine Arts Museum in Seville are from the 17th century. Diego Velazquez was born here in 1599 and lived in the city until his early 20s, by which time he was already something of a prodigy in Seville. Here, you can find works from his early period, like his portrait of Don Cristóbal Suárez de Ribera, alongside paintings by his master (and father-in-law) Francisco Pacheco.
Even better represented in the collection, though, is Esteban Murillo. Born in Seville, he drew influence from across Europe and combined dramatic use of light and shadow with vibrant color, mixing secular and religious themes, making him one of the most accessible artists in the Spanish tradition. The museum has various works by the master, but perhaps the greatest is his Immaculate Conception. Nicknamed “The Colossal” for its huge scale, it’s a masterpiece of movement and light, and shows Murillo’s fondness for dramatic cloud-filled skies.
Elsewhere, don’t miss works by the Golden Age greats El Greco, and Ribera, and the dramatic and emotional Christ Crucified by Zurbarán.
Exploring the art of Seville
This is a city that lives and breathes art, which means that there’s much more to see beyond the Fine Arts Museum in Seville. If you’ve fallen in love with Murillo, his Vision of St. Anthony in the Cathedral offers a rare chance to see one of his masterpieces in its original setting. The Palacio de las Dueñas is another must-visit collection. Home to the House of Alba, Spain’s most noble family, it houses 1,425 paintings: as many as a lot of museums! Works span from the middle ages to the present day, and from across Europe.
The Hospital de los Venerables includes a magnificent Baroque chapel, with much of its original decoration unchanged. Finally, the Palacio de Lebrija is another aristocratic mansion well worth a visit for art lovers. Only opened to the public in 1999, it’s famous for its outstanding collection of Roman mosaic floors. Head upstairs into the old residence, and you’ll find a fantastic art collection including works by Brueghel, Van Dyck, and Alonso Cano. Wherever you go, you won’t be short of exceptional art in Seville.
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Ewan loves to share his passion for Spain’s food and culture as a tour guide and writer. A perpetual student, when not catching the latest exhibition or showing guests around the city, he can be found brushing up on anything from nineteenth-century Spanish politics to medieval architecture.