MADRID (Reuters Life!) - Luxury armor paired with portraits by masters such as Rubens, Titian or Velazquez depicting emperors and kings wearing the very same armor are on show in "The Art of Power" at Madrid's Prado Museum.
The exhibition contains 35 paintings and 27 suits of armor, helmets, shields and tapestries dating from the reign of Emperor Charles V (1519-1556) and his successors Philip II (1556-1598), Philip III (1598-1621) and Philip IV (1621-1665).
Recalling a time when the Spanish crown was at the height of its power, the works on display show some of the members of the Habsburg dynasty that ruled much of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
"The aim of the exhibition is to focus on the relationship between the collection of the Royal Armoury and its presence in the court portrait," exhibition curator Alvaro Soler del Campo said in a statement on the Prado Web site.
"The connections between the two collections are much closer than had been previously appreciated."
The exhibition consists of five different sections located in two rooms in the new wing of the museum, which opened in October 2007.
It includes some masterpieces such as "Emperor Charles V, on horseback, at Mhlberg" by Titian along with the armor made by Desiderius Helmschmid that the monarch wore at that battle.
The Royal Armoury of Madrid is the oldest and has one of the finest and largest collections of armor in the world, rivalling the imperial collection in Vienna.
Created by King Philip II who acquired the armor belonging to his father Charles V, it contains not only the personal armor of the Spanish monarchs, but also military trophies and diplomatic and family gifts.
Armories were created to house royal and aristocratic collections and reflected the rich and complex courtly world.
The Hapsburg line in Spain ended with the death of Charles II in 1700. As the French House of Bourbon assumed the Spanish throne, the exhibition concludes with an entire section dedicated to this dynasty.
The painting of Charles III as commander-in-chief closes the exhibition and is the last to portray a king of Spain in armor.
"The Art of Power" was also exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington last year where it was visited by 250,000 people.
In Madrid, it was opened in March by King Juan Carlos I to mark the Spanish presidency of the European Union.
The exhibition will remain open from Tuesdays to Sundays until May 23. There is an admission fee of 10 euros ($12.70).
Editing by Paul Casciato