Tragic Recreations of Artistic Masterpieces, Considered Through the Lens of Climate Change

Diego Velázquez, “Felipe IV a Caballo” (1635-1636) altered for WFF and Museo del Prado’s climate change awareness campaign. (courtesy Museo del Prado and the World Wildlife Fund)

Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have jointly launched a climate change awareness campaign with a new and creative take on this pressing issue.

Titled +1,5ºC Lo Cambia Todo (which translates from Spanish to “+1.5ºC changes everything”), the project featured four masterpieces from the Prado’s collection that were altered to warn about the rising sea levels, the extinction of species, extreme droughts, and “the social drama of the climate refugees.”

The campaign was produced by the advertising agency CHINA under the supervision of the museum’s conservation experts. It was displayed on billboards in the center of Madrid during the COP25 World Climate Summit in Madrid between December 2-13.

Diego Velázquez, “Equestrian Portrait of Philip IV” (1635–1636) (courtesy Museo del Prado)
King Philip IV and his horse wading on horseback through high-level floodwaters (courtesy Museo del Prado and WWF)

Diego Velázquez’s “Equestrian Portrait of Philip IV” (1635–1636) was altered to show the king of Spain wading on horseback through high-level floodwaters that reach up to his steed’s neck.

In Joachim Patinir’s “Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx” (1519–1524), the mythological river Styx is dried up, exposing a cracked, barren river bed. Charon, the ferryman who’s tasked with transporting the souls of the dead to the gates of Hades, appears stuck in place with no water to row in.

“The joint initiative is an original way to shake up the climate change debate, engage society in the fight against this global threat, and demand urgent actions and commitment to all political actors present during […] the UN Climate Summit,” the Prado and WWF said in a statement earlier in December.

Joachim Patinir, “Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx” (1519–1524) (courtesy Museo del Prado)
Charon, the ferryman who’s tasked with transporting the souls of the dead to the gates of Hades, appears stuck in place with no water to row in (courtesy Museo del Prado and WWF)

In Francisco de Goya’s “The Parasol” (El quitasol)(1777), a young woman is resting serenely in the sun, a little dog is curled up in her lap, a young man behind her is holding an umbrella (parasol) to shade her face, and all is fair and well. But for this campaign, the two figures were rendered refugees in a tent camp, and their facial expressions were altered from smiley to distressed. The lovely green parasol was turned dark, and it read “climate refugee agency”.

Francisco de Goya, “The Parasol” (El quitasol)(1777) (courtesy Museo del Prado)
The two figures are rendered refugees in a tent camp, and their facial expressions are altered from smiley to distressed (courtesy Museo del Prado and WWF)

In 1909, Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla Niños created the painting “Boys on the Beach”, featuring three nude boys playing in the beach sand and water. This scene takes a dystopian turn as the boys are seen swimming among heaps of dead fish, washed up on the shore because of sea pollution.

Joaquín Sorolla, “Boys on the Beach” (1909) (courtesy Museo del Prado)
The scene takes a dystopian turn as the boys are seen swimming among heaps of dead fish, washed up on the shore because of sea pollution (courtesy Museo del Prado and WWF)

Javier Solana, President of the Royal Board of Trustees of Museo del Prado, said that, “For the Museum, this project represents an opportunity to continue placing art and its values at the service of society; the symbolic value of the masterpieces and the impressive artistic recreation that we present with WWF is an excellent way to transmit to everyone and especially to the young generations what is really at stake in this fight against climate change.”