This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery. Please follow the links below for related online resources or visit our current exhibitions schedule.
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, imbued with great historical, artistic, and symbolic significance. Armor drawn from the unsurpassed holdings of the Spanish Royal Armory is shown in this exhibition alongside portraits of rulers dressed in the same armor, painted by such masters 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 use of luxurious armor in projecting an image of royal power in Imperial Spain. The exhibition includes several full suits of armor, 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 Emperors Maximilian I of Austria (1508–1519) and Emperor Charles V (1519–1558), to those of his successors, King Philip II (1556–1598), King Philip III (1598–1621), and King Philip IV (1621–1665). This is the first time that the armor has been exhibited together with the portraits in which it is depicted.
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.
When Armor Was Art Self-Guided Tour
Available at the resource table and outside the exhibition, 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.
Self-Guided Tour Flyer (PDF 1.61MB) (Download Acrobat Reader)
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
Sponsor: The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
In-kind promotional support for this exhibition has been provided by Chef José Andrés of Jaleo and THINKfoodGROUP.