Patio from the Castle of Vélez Blanco

Date: 1506–15

Culture: Spanish, Almería

Medium: Marble of Macael (Sierra de Filabres)

Dimensions: H. (to top of cornice) 33 ft.; W. 44 ft.; L. 63 ft.

Classification: Sculpture-Architectural

Credit Line: Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941

Accession Number: 41.190.482


The castle of Don Pedro Fajardo y Chacôn (ca. 1478–1546) stands above the town of Vélez Blanco, near the southeastern coast of Spain. Fajardo, raised in the culture of humanism, was governor of Murcia during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella and assisted in suppressing Moorish rebellions in their lands. By royal act, he was given the town Vélez Blanco, and between 1506 and 1515 he erected a castle with a central courtyard embellished with Italian Renaissance ornament in local Macael marble carved by craftsmen from Lombardy.

Ornament in this style was known in Spain as a lo Romano, reflecting its origins in the monuments of Roman antiquity. Designs composed of tiered candelabra and imaginary hybrid creatures such as those surrounding the doors and windows of the patio were disseminated throughout Europe in the prints of Italian artists, themselves inspired by the ancient monuments rediscovered in Rome in the early Renaissance. The patio carvings are among the earliest of this style in Spain and antedate any of the published designs. The coats of arms carved between the arches of the arcade are those of Don Pedro and his second wife, Doña Mercía de la Cueva Mendoza de la Vega y Toledo, a member of the powerful and cultivated Mendoza family, influential advocates of the culture of Renaissance humanism.

The patio's marble fittings were sold by the castle's owner in 1904. George Blumenthal acquired them in Paris in 1913 and had them incorporated in his New York townhouse. In 1945, after his death and the demolition of his residence, the approximately 2,000 marble blocks were brought to the Museum, where they were reassembled, as faithfully as possible, in 1964.