We’ve heard dozens of times that Carlos III was called the best Mayor of Madrid, and the truth is that he wasn’t short of initiative and enthusiasm to turn the Spanish capital into a city that could compete with the most significant European towns. After all, he did come from the refined and sophisticated Italy, and he was an enlightened monarch, with a taste for science, art and all those things that raise the spirit.
When Carlos landed in Madrid, back in 1759, to be honest, the city was pretty short of promenades. In the area where we are now, there was already a large tree grove which, once upon a time had been very popular and very busy, but it was now in a state of complete abandonment. So the king decided to make the most of it with a reform that included fountains, gardens and statues to give prestige to the city.
The project was called Salon del Prado and the move to attract the citizens to this place wouldn’t hurt the Monarch in any way, because in 1767 el Retiro Park was open to the public and, as much as the rules to enter demanded neat dress, the king was the king and the populace was the populace. And the distance between one and the other should always be significant.
The elegant Paseo del Prado was conceived by Jose de Hermosilla, who thought it would be a good idea to place some allegorical fountains here and there. Three of them were going to be dedicated to Cybele, Neptune and Apollo, and the fourth one to Triton and Nereida, today known as Fuente de la Alcachofa (Artichoke Fountain).
They were all designed by Ventura Rodriguez and carved by the most famous sculptors of the time, but evidently, none of them ever considered the possibility that the fans of Madrid soccer teams would choose their monuments to celebrate their victories. Today the statue of Cybele is associated with Real Madrid as Neptune is associated with Atletico.
It's funny because the fountain of Neptune, carved by Juan Pascual de Mena and his disciples, was not placed in its current location until 1898, just five years before the foundation of Atletico de Madrid. The work had been completed in 1786 and represented the God holding his trident and piloting his boat even though the nearest coast was several hundred kilometres away. Anyway… those are allegory things.
But there is more than fountains in the Prado. There is also Noble buildings, some dedicated to science, like the Botanical Garden, and others forming one of the most renowned museum complexes in the world, formed by the Reina Sofia, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and, of course, the Prado Museum. You may be surprised to learn that the latter was launched by the grandson of Carlos III, a certain Fernando VII whom history has called him anything but handsome. But look, something positive was done by the man. In any case, we leave you a picture of him, see what you think…