The Prado Museum first opened on 19 November 1819, when it had the name of the Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture, in reference to the fact that the works of art came from the collections of the Spanish monarchs.
In 1872 the collection was expanded with the arrival of works of art from the controversial Museo de la Trinidad, set up through Mendizábal's Law of Disentailment (Ley de Desamortización) of 1836, following the seizure of works of art formely owned by the monasteries in Spain.
The new museum would be one of the first to follow the French model of the Musée du Louvre (opened in 1793), whose main feature - other than its public character wich resulted from the nationalisation of the country's artistic heritage, previously in the hands of the rulling classes - was its educational and recreational functions.
Were it to stand alone with no near neighbour to lend it scale, the great snow and ice-crusted dome of Mont Blanc would still lay claim to the title of Monarch of the Alps. At 4807m the summit stands a good 3700m above Chamonix, and is 3km higher than the nearest habitation on the Italian flank.
On blue-sky days it dazzles in the sunshine or floats on a raft of cloud, commanding one's attention with its dominating height, for it has a regal presence equal both to its appearance and its stature.
THE TOUR OF MONT BLANC
Over a period of 10 to 12 days (I´ve done the 11 days tour) the TMB entices walkers on a circuit of this magnificent mountain block (my feelings exactly), making a journey around 170km, with an accumulated height gain and loss of something like 10,000m.
Depending on the precise route taken (for there are variations), there are 10 or 11 passes to cross as the tour progresses from one valley to the next.
Each of these valleys enjoy unforgettable views, and each has its own individual character - the bustling, tourist-centred Vallée de l'Arve (the Chamonix valley), the sparsely inhabited Vallée des Glaciers, the pastoral Swiss Val Ferret, to name but three.
That the TMB is the most popular long walk in Europe is not in doubt. In excess of 10,000 people embark on this circuit each summer.
Being a circular route, the TMB could be walked in either clockwise or an anti-clockwise direction, and started from any one of a number of places.
By tradition it has begun in the Chamonix valley - the Vallée de l'Arve (where I begun also), but not in Chamonix itself, for in order to make the most of the splendid views afforded of Mont Blanc from the slopes of the Aiguilles Rouges chain, the route avoids the bed of the valley except to cross it at either end.
Instead, by tradition the TMB begins about 7 km downvalley from Chamonix, in Les Houches, and tackles the circuit in an anti-clockwise direction.