The Allegory of the Golden Fleece by Giordano

The Allegory of the Golden Fleece, Luca Giordano. The Casón del Buen Retiro

The ceiling of the Casón was painted by Luca Giordano (1634-1705), a Neapolitan artist known in Spain as Lucas Jordán. In 1692 the artist was summoned by Charles II to decorate the staircase and vaults of the Basilica of El Escorial (1692-1694). He then embarked on the decoration (now lost) of the office and bedroom of the king in the Palace of Aranjuez; the Casón del Buen Retiro (ca.1697); the Sacristy of Toledo Cathedral (1698); the Royal Chapel of the Alcázar (destroyed); and San Antonio de los Portugueses in Madrid (1699). The ascent to the throne of Philip V in 1701 and the start of the War of Spanish Succession resulted in the artist’s return to Naples in 1702. He died there in 1705, leaving behind an extremely large oeuvre and a considerable fortune.

The subject depicted on the ceiling of the Casón is The Allegory of the Golden Fleece in the form of an homage to the Spanish monarchy executed during the reign of the last Spanish Habsburg monarch. The composition commemorates the foundation of the Order of the Golden Fleece, established by the Dukes of Burgundy and brought to Spain by Charles I who belonged to that ducal house. In Giordano’s composition a large number of allegorical figures referring to the political power of the monarchy are grouped around a celestial sphere with the signs of the Zodiac. From it hangs the decoration of the royal Order in the form of a golden chain with a lamb.

The artistic importance of Giordano’s ceiling, which is one of the masterpieces in the Prado’s collection, seems to explain why the Casón survived whereas most of the other building in the Bueno Retiro complex disappeared with the construction of the Jerónimos area. The restoration of the painting, undertaken as part of the re-modelling of the building, involved the consolidation of the fresco’s original paint, of which around 80% survives.

The restoration of this room was undertaken with the aim of placing the greatest possible emphasis on the ceiling, reinstalling the interior balcony which originally ran round the room and equipping it with a new lighting system.

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