West ends: Spanish Monarchy

East ends: The Founding of the Order of the Golden Fleece

The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy

The aim of those who devised the iconographic programme of the ceiling was to present a history of the world, whose principal axis was the Spanish monarchy. At one end we see a scene of the origins of the Order of the Golden Fleece, handed to Philip the Good, Charles II’s ancestor, by Hercules, the mythical founder of the Spanish crown.

From these mythical origins, the history of the world progresses via the history of the Spanish monarchy, passing through the Four Ages of Humanity up to the present time, represented by the Iron Age, with the mighty figure of Spain seated on a terrestrial globe over which she rules. Every element is subjected to her omnipresent authority: the seasons, the gods of Olympus, the arts and sciences, the cosmos (represented by the Sun that illuminates the progress of history), etc.

The inventors of the programme devised a double route around the composition, both geographical and chronological. It moves from east to west, following the path of the Sun whose progress is emphasised by the processional rhythm marked out by some of the groups within the composition.

The iconographic programme is structured into two key groups arranged at the east and west ends and corresponding to a single idea: the exaltation of the Spanish monarchy. They both express this commemorative concept which was to be conveyed to all those arriving in the Salon, either from the gardens or the palace. At the east end is The Founding of the Order of the Golden Fleece. At the west end we see The Majesty of Spain. The Ages of Humanity are in the corners towards the base of the ceiling, while along the balustrade on the level of the lunettes are the Muses and Philosophers. Scenes from The Labours of Hercules (now lost) were depicted on the walls below the ceiling, between the windows.

 
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