See if you can spot all of the animals of the Zodiac in the fresco’s celestial sphere...
Most of the Buen Retiro Palace complex was destroyed between 1808 and 1814 in the First Peninsular War, during which the invading French army made it their headquarters; much was also demolished with the construction of the Jerónimos district in the 19th century. What remains today in Buen Retiro Park bears little resemblance to the original design of the gardens, and comprises only half the space; the two surviving buildings, Casón del Buen Retiro and Salón de Reinos (Hall of the Kingdoms) are now both annexes of the Prado Museum.
The Casón’s ceiling may be what saved it from the demolition that claimed so many of the palace buildings. It comprises The Allegory of the Golden Fleece, a fresco by the Neapolitan artist Luca Giordano, which is considered one of the Prado’s great masterpieces. Completed around 1697, the composition celebrates the Spanish Monarchy in its allegorical depiction of the founding of the Order of the Golden Fleece, which was established by the Duke of Burgundy and brought to Spain by Charles I.
Many other artworks have passed through: the Casón was the Museum of Artistic Reproductions from 1877 to 1960; the Prado’s 19th century paintings were held there from 1971 to 1981; from 1981 to 1992 it held Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica (now in the Reina Sofia), which attracted around one million visitors during its time here. Today the Prado’s library is held on the ground floor: a reading room of around 70,000 books serves the students of the Escuela de Prado, researchers and museum staff.
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