Mars, Diego Velázquez, Oil on canvas, 179 x 95 cm. c. 1641. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

The exhibition opens with an introductory room that aims to explain the importance of royal collections of armour and painting at the Renaissance and Baroque courts as well as ideological and thematic connections. Notable exhibits in this room include the Parade Helm of Charles V with the symbol of the Golden Fleece, an object that emphasises the monarch’s position as Grand Master of that prestigious chivalrous Order, and the Burgonet of Charles V, symbolising the victory of Christianity over Islam. These objects are seen alongside paintings by Velázquez, Rubens and Teniers. Also on display, and indicative of the close link between armour and paintings as symbols of royal power, are documents with the orders given to the Royal Armoury to allow Velázquez and Rubens access in order to copy details of arms and armour.

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