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Orient Square

Madrid

Audioguide of the Orient Square

What to see in the Orient Square

Truth is that the views at the Royal Palace, from any of the balconies that surround the Garden of the Orient (Jardin de Oriente), are well worth looking at and probably, the first thing that has caught your attention, in addition to the grandiosity of the space, are the many sculptures, twenty-one in total, that decorate this spectacular square.

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Truth is that the views at the Royal Palace, from any of the balconies that surround the Garden of the Orient (Jardin de Oriente), are well worth looking at and probably, the first thing that has caught your attention, in addition to the grandiosity of the space, are the many sculptures, twenty-one in total, that decorate this spectacular square.

If we start with the minor sculptures, we can tell you that they represent ancient Visigoth Kings and of the first times of the Reconquest, so the first thing we will tell you is how they ended up here.

The official version says that this neoclassic sculptures, carved by different artists around 1750, were made to decorate the cornices of the Palace. This project went ahead until someone realized that maybe, just maybe, they were far too heavy as ornaments for the façade. This someone seemly told the queen Isabel de Farnesio, the wife of Felipe V, who, obsessed with the matter, had a dream or according to her a revelation, that the effigies of her ancestors collapsed destroying everything and everyone that stood in their way…

So finally, the statues were left at ground level and with no fixed destination, being relocated around several places of the capital, some of them were sent to the places where the kings they represented came from; Burgos, Pamplona, Vitoria-Gazteiz, etc. And like this, of the 44 initial sculptures we can only see 20 here today.

Let´s have a look now at the most impressive of the effigies which, as it corresponds for its size and importance, it´s placed in the middle of the magnificent Square: The Equestrian effigy of Felipe IV, nicknamed ¨el Rey Planeta¨ (the Planet King), because of the extension of his empire. It seems that the king wanted to have a bigger and more impressive statue on a horse than the one his father Felipe III had and this is what he told his right-hand man, the Count-Duke of Olivares. This one, eager to fulfil the wishes of his king didn’t take any delays and he ordered a certain man called Velazquez, a couple of sketches of the king to send to Italy, to the workshop of the Florentine sculptor Pietro Tacca the very same sculptor that had carved the king´s father´s statue.

The precise instructions indicated that the figure had to represent the king mounting a rearing horse. The technical difficulty to create a bronze sculpture of a rider and his horse just standing on the two back legs, made the artist require the mathematical calculations of a certain Galileo Galliei.

As a good inventor, Galileo concluded that the only solution for the proper balance of the set, was to make the back part solid and the front part hollow, also to use the tail of the horse as a third point of support. The idea worked so well that, in addition to staying up for more than 350 years, it was copied by numerous artists over the following centuries.


Orient Square

Calle de Bailén, 17
28013 Madrid

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Tags: Baroque art

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