The Count-Duke, furies and buffoons
The main driving force behind the project to build and decorate the Buen Retiro Palace was the Count-Duke of Olivares (1587-1645), Philip IV's favourite and First Minister until 1643. His post of palace governor involved him directly in the design and execution of the architectural complex and its pictorial decoration. Velázquez's impressive equestrian portrait of Olivares presides this section, reminding us of his central role in the undertaking.
Also shown are Tityus and Ixion -known as the Furies or the Condemned- executed by Ribera. Of unquestionable political significance, these pictures came before the History of Rome paintings in the sequence of decoration in the Palace.
The section is completed with four of the six portraits of buffoons Velázquez painted for the Buen Retiro, which were hung in one of the rooms in the Queen's quarters. Some of the models were court actors, such as Pablo de Valladolid. Their presence in the Palace was linked to the Buen Retiro's conception as a place of recreation where the theatre was considered one of the most important leisure activities. The two paintings that do not survived showed Francisco de Ochoa and Cárdenas the Toreador Jester.