Titian’s Christ Carrying the Cross​, c. 1565. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado.

HOUSTON - Museum exhibitions are planned many years in advance and, once these trains get rolling, it’s hard to switch tracks. It takes someone with clout and charm to make a schedule change – and Gary Tinterow is one of the few such conductors who can pull it off.

Tinterow, formerly a longtime curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and now the new director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was in Australia on business earlier in the year when he discovered that there was a major show of Spanish pictures from the Prado at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane. It was a one-stop-only deal, however.

Francisco de Goya’s The Infante Don Francisco de Paula Antonio, 1800. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado.

“I had to go after it,” Tinterow told me earlier this year. “I put the wheels in motion.” He has deep relationships with the Prado from his days at the Met, where he oversaw many Spanish shows, and was able to get the exhibition to make a second stop in Houston. Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado is on view from December 16 until March 31.

The Madrid museum has never lent this number or caliber of pictures before, so visitors will have a rare chance to see major works by Velázquez, Titian, Goya, El Greco, and Tiepolo. “It’s not just a selection of greatest hits – there are themes and fascinating juxtapositions,” Tinterow said.

Francisco de Zurbarán’s Agnus Dei, 1635–1640. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado.

And the savvy director was also able to get loans of two works that didn’t appear in the exhibition’s first version: Francisco de Zurbarán’s “Lamb of God,” 1635-40, an allegorical picture of a trussed lamb that Tinterow called “extraordinarily moving,” and Goya’s 1800 portrait of another kind of kid – who happens to be the Bourbon prince of Spain. The Goya appears to be unfinished, but it has depth and impact nonetheless. As Tinterow put it, “With just a few brushstrokes, it’s the most vivid portrait of a young boy.”