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Release Date: August 25, 2009

Family-Friendly Activities Engage Visitors of All Ages with The Art of Power: Royal Armor and Portraits From Imperial Spain

Washington, DC—For the first time in history, families can view Spanish armor from the celebrated Royal Armory in Madrid alongside portraits of rulers wearing the same armor in the National Gallery of Art exhibition The Art of Power: Royal Armor and Portraits from Imperial Spain (through November 1, 2009), which also includes magnificent tapestries of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Gallery offers visitors of all ages the opportunity to learn about the royal and ceremonial uses of this armor in imperial Spain through an exhibition resource table, a treasure map of objects in the permanent collection showing armor as art, family workshops, and more.

Exhibition Resource Table

To allow the young—and young at heart—to expand their understanding of the themes and objects on display, an educational resource table located at the entrance of the exhibition includes books, armor replicas, fabrics, and artists’ materials. Gallery staff is on hand Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Saturday 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and Sunday 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. to answer questions and engage visitors.

With turrets resembling those of a medieval castle, the resource table features a variety of reading materials, including the exhibition catalogue, books about Spanish armor and culture, and children’s books about knights and coats of arms. For a tactile experience, guests can try on gauntlets (metal gloves) and touch different pieces of armor, such as a helmet and chain mail. An illustrated glossary chart of knight and equestrian armor explains the use of each item.

Other resources shed light on the techniques of the skilled craftsmen who created the armor and tapestries. A copper plate with an etched design illustrates etching in armor. Tapestry fragments are also available so visitors can feel the weave and heft, observe how each thread is dyed separately, and see how color sections come together. A diagram shows how weavers used a loom to create these intricate designs in thread.

When Armor Was Art Self-Guided Tour

Available at the resource table and outside the exhibition from August 21 through November 1, a self-guided tour When Armor Was Art highlights 25 works of art in the National Gallery's permanent collection as a complement to The Art of Power: Royal Armor and Portraits from Imperial Spain. With the guide, visitors can find armored saints and sinners, portraits of European rulers, helmets, medals, and tapestries on both floors of the West Building. Ranging in size from miniature to monumental, these objects, like those in the exhibition, also demonstrate both the sheer beauty of armor and tapestries and their significance as symbols of wealth and power.

Family Workshops

Royal Adventure family workshops are a series of weekend hands-on learning activities that help families learn together about emperors and kings in the exhibition and investigate their suits of armor, helmets, and shields. Offered October 3, 10, 17, 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Education Studio on the Concourse, these workshops are for visitors ages six to eight and their families.

Advance registration is required; online registration at begins September 21 at noon. Please note: workshops fill up very quickly, so registration is recommended as early as possible. We regret that walk-ins cannot be accommodated.

Web Feature

An interactive exhibition Web feature for the exhibition at allows visitors to learn about Spanish royal armor and the historical figures who wore it. Find out more about the portraits and intricate tapestries that show the armor in use, and explore the many exhibition-related activities and programs that the Gallery has to offer.

Gallery Shops

The Gallery Shops offer a variety of items specially selected to complement The Art of Power. In the West Building’s Ground Floor shop, many of the books featured on the exhibition resource table are available for sale, including Chivalry and the Perfect Prince: Tournaments, Art, and Armor at the Spanish Habsburg Court by Braden Frieder and Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armor by DK Publishing, as well as notebooks, textiles (tie, scarf, and napkins), a mouse pad, coasters, and other gift items featuring armor motifs.

The Concourse Bookstore contains a special section entitled "The Art and Flavor of Spain," which features more related titles for adults in addition to the exhibition catalogues for The Art of Power and Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life (on view through August 23). Cookbooks featuring traditional Spanish cuisine by chef José Andrés, who developed the special menu in Garden Café España in honor of these exhibitions, are also available.

The Children’s Shop, also on the Concourse, offers an array of children’s books and activities, such as colorful knight figurines, a mini medieval castle with playing mat, coloring books, stickers, stencils, puzzles, and activity books. Books for children include Swords by Ben Boos and Knights at Tournament by Christopher Gravett.

The Art of Power: Royal Armor and Portraits from Imperial Spain
June 28–November 1, 2009

The Royal Armory in Madrid, assembled at a time when the Spanish Crown was at the height of its international power, is the oldest and one of the finest and largest armories in the world. Armor drawn from the unsurpassed holdings of the Spanish Royal Armory is presented in this exhibition alongside portraits of rulers dressed in the same armor, painted by such renowned artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Diego Velázquez, and Alonso Sánchez Coello. Several large and magnificent tapestries from the royal collection also depict the armor in use.

Together, some 75 works illustrate the role of luxurious armor in projecting an image of royal power in Imperial Spain. The exhibition includes full suits of exquisitely wrought armor as well as helmets, shields, and equestrian armor—worn in battle but more often in Renaissance parades, pageants, and jousting tournaments. The works of art on view date from the reigns of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I of Austria (1508–1519) and Emperor Charles V (1519–1558) to those of their successors, King Philip II (1556–1598), King Philip III (1598–1621), and King Philip IV (1621–1665). For the first time the armor will be exhibited together with the portraits in which it is depicted.

The exhibition has been organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the State Corporation for Spanish Cultural Action Abroad (SEACEX), and the Patrimonio Nacional of Spain.

The exhibition has been organized in association with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and the Ministry of Culture, with the assistance of the Embassy of Spain in Washington, DC.

It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

In-kind promotional support for these exhibitions has been provided by Chef José Andrés of Jaleo and THINKfoodGROUP.

General Information

The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden are at all times free to the public. They are located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, and are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Gallery is closed on December 25 and January 1. For information call (202) 737-4215 or visit the Gallery's Web site at Follow the Gallery on Facebook at, Twitter at, and Instagram at

Visitors will be asked to present all carried items for inspection upon entering. Checkrooms are free of charge and located at each entrance. Luggage and other oversized bags must be presented at the 4th Street entrances to the East or West Building to permit x-ray screening and must be deposited in the checkrooms at those entrances. For the safety of visitors and the works of art, nothing may be carried into the Gallery on a visitor's back. Any bag or other items that cannot be carried reasonably and safely in some other manner must be left in the checkrooms. Items larger than 17 by 26 inches cannot be accepted by the Gallery or its checkrooms.
For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000B South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications – Converged Media
(202) 842-6804

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