The Banco de España owns an important collection of paintings, either inherited from its predecessor banks or later acquired or commissioned.
The collection extends from the end of the 15th century to the present day and includes gems of pictorial art and paintings of great historical value. From the second half of the 20th century, the art collection has also been enriched by new disciplines, such as sculpture or photography.
The pre-19th century painting collection
As regards this period, the Banco de San Carlos paintings are probably the most valuable part of the collection as, to decorate the Bank, various artists were commissioned to paint portraits of the King, the Prince and Princess of Asturias and the first directors of the Bank. We can therefore see portraits from the workshop of Mariano Salvador Maella of King Carlos III, King Carlos IV and María Luisa de Parma.
The Bank also has the whole set of portraits it commissioned Francisco de Goya to paint between 1785 and 1788 of King Carlos III, Francisco Javier de Larrumbe, the Marquis of Tolosa, the Count of Altamira, José de Toro y Zambrano and the Count of Cabarrús. The portraits of the Count of Floridablanca and the Count of Gausa were also painted by Goya, but were not inherited from the Banco de San Carlos, instead being acquired by the Banco de España in the 20th century.
There are also portraits of Juan de Piña y Ruiz, of the Count of Floridablanca and of his brother Francisco Moñino y Redondo, painted by the Valencian artist Folch de Cardona.
To conclude the chapter on portraits from the Bank's early days, we should refer to the portrait of the Marquis of Matallana, which was most probably commissioned from Pietro Melchiorre Ferrari.
From the old chapel of the Banco de San Carlos there is a picture painted by Mariano Salvador Maella and dedicated to the patron saint of the King and the Bank, Saint Carlos Borromeo, visiting the sick from the plague in Milan; and a 16th century panel attributed to Cornelis van Cleve, The Virgin of the Lily, a magnificent copy of a work by Andrea del Sarto.
Other pre-19th century paintings by Spanish artists worthy of mention and which the Banco de España has acquired are: two pictures Ceres and Pomona y Vetumno and three still life paintings by the Madrid artist Juan van der Hamen y León. Within this category, a pair of Flower pieces painted by the master Juan de Arellano.
From the 17th century, we should mention the outstanding works of Vicente Giner View of a Port and View of a Port with a Portico and Garden.
The collection of 19th and 20th century paintings
The Banco de España's 19th and 20th century painting collection includes portraits of kings, queens and other personages of the period and other subjects.
The collection includes a magnificent portrait of Fernando VII, painted by Vicente López Portaña.
The Bank also has four portraits of Isabel II, representing different stages of her life: a tender portrait of the Queen at the age of eight, by Antonio Esquivel; two as a young woman, the first by José Gutiérrez de la Vega and the second by Federico de Madrazo; and one by Benito Soriano Murillo, showing the Queen at just over thirty years of age.
Carlos Luis de Ribera was commissioned to paint Amadeo de Saboya and later Alfonso XII when he was proclaimed King at the age of seventeen.
There is a splendid portrait of Alfonso XIII, aged sixteen wearing the robes of the Order of Carlos III, which José Villegas y Cordero painted in 1902.
In more recent times, the artist Carmen Laffón has painted magnificent portraits of extraordinary beauty of King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía which complete the gallery of royal portraits belonging to the Banco de España.
The Bank has many portraits of other personages which merit special consideration. From the 19th century, there is a magnificent portrait of the eleventh Duke of Osuna, painted by Federico de Madrazo, who also painted the portrait of the Finance Minister and subsequent Governor, Pedro Salaverría, which is considered one of the Bank's finest paintings. Also that of Ramón de Santillán, Governor of the new Banco de San Fernando and first Governor of the Banco de España, painted by José Gutiérrez de la Vega.
Equally important is the portrait of the Marquis of San Carlos y Montevirgen, Finance Minister with Isabel II, painted by Vicente López and with incomparable detail which is extraordinary for an artist aged almost seventy.
There is a portrait of the famous legal expert, Pedro Sainz de Andino, author of the articles of association of the Banco de San Fernando, the Stock Exchange Law and the Code of Commerce, painted by Antonio Esquivel.
Another great master, José Moreno Carbonero, painted the portrait of Cayetano Sánchez Bustillo, the Governor who had the honour of presiding over the opening of the new Bank building in 1891.
The portraits of other 20th century figures include that of José Echegaray, by Sorolla, and of the same gentleman by Marceliano Santamaría, a beautiful painting, albeit eclipsed by the former.
José Villegas was also responsible for the portrait of Francisco Belda, one of the few deputy governors of whom the Bank has a portrait.
Zuloaga is responsible for an attractive portrait of his cousin, the violoncellist Juan de Azurmendi, and for a portrait of Alejandro Fernández de Araoz, who governed the Bank for just one month.
The last governors of the 20th century to have had their portraits painted are: José Ramón Álvarez Rendueles, by Isabel Quintanilla, and Mariano Rubio and Luis Ángel Rojo, by Carmen Laffón.
Apart from portraits, the Bank has paintings of other subjects. For example, works by Mariano Fortuny, Pedro Borrell and Caso, such as Fleeing the Critics , and numerous landscape paintings by different artists. Among many worthy of mention, there is a beautiful canvas by Joaquín Sorolla, Voltaire telling a story , painted for a ceiling, or the painting by Enrique Martínez Cubells Fishermen's boat on the beach .
Notable too are the panels José María Sert painted to decorate the ballroom of the Prince Mdivani's Venetian palace or The Farmhouse , by Santiago Rusiñol.
In addition to the works by Picasso Reclining man and seated woman and by Tàpies Signs and Chain and Shape of 8 on blackish grey , is the beautiful Reclining female figure or Woman in blue by Togores, Still life with Ace of Clubs , by Pancho Cossío, and Bar with Glass , by Miquel Barceló.
Notable among the landscapes are Fuenterrabía , by Daniel Vázquez Díaz; People on the beach , by Mompó; The Shipwreck , by Miguel Ángel Campano; o Three pieces of wood , by Perejaume.
Abstract and contemporary paintings are magnificently represented by Sandra , by Antonio Saura; Breach II , by José Guerrero; Mot-sen II , by Pablo Palazuelo; Red Words , by Juan Uslé; or Humboldt on the Orinoco , by Manuel Millares, among others.
Sculpture and photography
Although painting makes up a fundamental part of the Banco de España's art collection, it is not the only discipline represented: sculpture and photography have also gradually found a place in the Bank's collection, particularly in recent decades. The work of Eduardo Chillida in wrought iron is remarkable: Rumour of Límits as is that of Adolfo Schlosser, in wood entitled Palm tree .