During the 19th century and as a result of wars, the disentailment of the church assets, the loss of the nobilitys entailed estates and a lack of protective measures, a large quantity of pieces commercialized by auction houses and Spanish art antiquarians reached the art market, especially in France and Italy.

Auction houses like the Hôtel Drouot in Paris were visited quite regularly by the Marquis of Cerralbo in order to purchase paintings and sculptures. His enthusiasm for painting since he was a child combined with his interest in conserving and exhibiting the works of art he went about gathering, led him to design a museum inspired by Italian art galleries which had so very much impressed him while travelling.

Such concerns and his critical sense helped him acquire canvases by the great masters of Spanish, Italian and Flemish painting like Zurbarán, Ribera, Tintoretto and Van Dyck.

Religious themes dominated the palace galleries; still lifes and flower pots decorated the Gala Dining Room and private dining room; whereas the portraits were mainly found in the Billiard Room and Office. Mythological and folkloric themes were the focus of the wall paintings in the Parlour and Ballroom.

Out of the entire painting collection, almost half pertain to the Spanish school with a certain predilection for the 17th and 18th centuries and by renowned artists, generally connected to the court.

Most noteworthy of the 16th century paintings are El Grecos St. Francis in Ecstasy, and important examples of the Italian school such as the portrait of Alejandro de Médicis (Bronzino school) and the Portrait of a sculptor, attributed to Moreni.

From the 17th century, there are works by important painters such as The Immaculate by Zurbarán and Pietà by Alonso Cano, already praised in their time, along with Peredas Santo Domingo in Soriano. There are also works by important court painters like Bartolomé González y Caxés or painters from the School of Madrid like Solís, Escalante and Antolínez. The still lifes in the collection are quite significant including works by El Labrador, Gabriel de la Corte and Arellano.

The 18th century is represented by the most varied of works such as portraits, still lifes, allegories, seascapes and religious paintings by M. S. Maella, Paret, Miguel Jacinto y Luís Meléndez and Antonio González Velázquez.

As a link between the 18th and 19th centuries, the collection features works by the portrait artist Vicente López who would set down the foundations of nineteenth century portrait painting. We shall also highlight paintings by Esteve, Valentín Carderera, Ricardo Balaca and José Soriano Fort, the author of the portrait of the Marquis of Cerralbo that is exhibited in the jewel gallery. And the Romanticism of Madrid's folkloric school is represented by Leonardo Alenza and Eugenio Lucas.Salto de línea