Luca Giordano, Portrait Carlos of II. Museo Nacional del Prado

For the Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano (1634-1705), the commission to decorate the Casón del Buen Retiro was one of the most important of his career with regard to large-scale mural schemes. Giordano’s mission was to decorate the ceiling of the Salón de Embajadores [Ambassadors’ Hall], which had a surface area of 12 metres wide by 20 long. His fresco was to exalt the Spanish monarchy at a moment of political crisis partly arising from the issue of succession, as it was clear that the Habsburg monarch Charles II would not have children. During his time in Spain from 1692 to 1702, Giordano became the most important painter during the final years of the last Spanish Habsburg monarch.

In the words of the historian Ponz: “There is no doubt that there [the Casón] this artist intended to combine the beautiful, the grand and the remarkable which are by far the three finest qualities required by the noble arts and which immortalise the artists who have known how to unite them. It cannot be denied that this work, taken as a whole, is one of the most excellent to have been executed in fresco in which, having rejected any trivial ideas, Giordano focused his attention on a good composition and on nobility, giving his work a certain novelty and harmony that surprised everyone” (1772-94), 1947, vol. VI, p.554.

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