The Hall of Realms
The Hall of Realms, a large rectangular space in the centre of the northern wing of the building (now the Museo del Ejército), was the most representative and significant area of the Buen Retiro Palace. It derives its name from the coats-of-arms of the twenty-four realms of the Spanish monarchy painted on the ceiling. It was originally intended as a throne room, though festive events were also staged there. The monarch presided over the ceremonies from a seat of honour at one of the room short ends.
The room was very sumptuously ornamented. The walls, painted with grotesque decoration, were hung with pictures full of symbolic and political significance designed to glorify the King of Spain. On the north and south walls, between the windows, hung twelve battle scenes commissioned from court artists (such as Velázquez, Maíno and Cajés) celebrating the great victories won by the armies of Philip IV throughout his empire. Only eleven now survive. Above the doors and between the battle paintings were ten scenes from the life of Hercules by Zurbarán. Hercules was an allegorical model of the virtuous and heroic prince and was linked dynastically to the Hapsburgs, who considered themselves his descendents. The equestrian portraits of Philip III and Margaret of Austria were arranged at one end of the room, flanking the throne, and at the other end were the portraits of Philip IV and Isabella of Bourbon, also on horseback. Between them, above the door, hung that of Prince Baltasar Carlos. These portraits, painted by Velázquez, underlined the concepts of hereditary monarchy and dynastic continuity.