The palatial residence
The Palace of the Adelantados Mayores (governors) of Andalusia, better known as the Casa de Pilatos, was chiefly built between the 15th and 16th centuries. Located in the historical part of Seville's city centre, the successive purchases of houses and sites by the Enríquez de Ribera family resulted in the gradual addition of drawing rooms, courtyards and gardens, leading it to became the biggest private residence in Seville and an ideal setting for the new ways of life and social customs of the elites of a city graced with the privilege of being the capital of the greatest overseas empire so far known.
Designated a National Monument in 1931, this palace is a delicate combination of late-medieval Gothic and Mudejar tradition and the innovations of the Renaissance, which were introduced in Seville on account of the privileged relationship with Italy of the members of the Enríquez de Ribera family, from the 1st Marquis of Tarifa to the 3rd Duke of Alcalá.
The main Courtdyart
The unusual stylistic diversity of this space, which successfully brings together complementary Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance and Romantic elements, is the result of successive changes to the rectangular patio (courtyard). Constructed at the end of the 15th century by Pedro Enríquez and Catalina de Rivera, it has the chapel at its centre and gateways only in its short sides. Their son, Fadrique, the pilgrim who travelled to Jerusalem, began its Renaissance transformation: he widened its dimensions making it quadrilateral, opened balconies along its four sides, substituted the brick pillars for Genoian columns and placed in its centre a marble fountain also adquired in Genoa. His nephew, Per Afan, inherited it from Fadrique in 1539, and placed in its corners the four main pieces from his collection of sculptures (see no. 4). Around its edge, he arranged a gallery of busts depicting famous figures from the Antiquity. As a kind of historical mirror, it reinforced the idea of continuity between the foundation of Roma and the new empire of Charles V. In the 19th century, new Roman-style elements were introduced, for example, the opening of an entrance at its centre, the substitution of the brick floor by a marble one, and the creation of new pseudo-Nasrid mullioned windows.
The Chapel of flagellation
A basquet-handle arch, plenty decorated with plasterwork of Plasteresque designs, provides access to the Chapel. Considered the oldest room in the palace, it constitutes a singular example of the two languages, Christian and Islamic, in the Mudejar. It is covered by two tierceron vaults, whose ribs, adorned with vegetable motifs and with the Enríquez and Sotomayor coat of arms, rest on passionary angels. It conserves the only tile skirting board in the palace made using the cuerda seca technique, scarcely seen in Seville. On the altar is found a rounded piece of an early Christian statue from the 4th century A.D., brought from Rome. It shows a representation of the Good Sheperd that comes directly from the pagan models of Hermes that depict the sacrificial sheep (Crioforo). In the centre, a column which tradition identifies with that of the flagellation of Jesus Christ, gives this chapel its name.
The Praetor's Room
The room was built in the 1630’s as a result of the Renaissance-style widening of the courtyard. It conserves all its original elements, including the Mudejar inlaid carpentry in which the remains of the old polychrome paintwork can still be distinguished. This is the work of the same artist who painted the beautiful caisson coffered ceiling which, with a much more “modern” structure than the rest of the palace’s framework, maintains the muqarna decoration. In its centre, Fadrique Enríquez de Ribera placed the coats-of-arms of his family line from his parents to his great-grandparents. The cuenca technique tiles cover its walls like those of the rest of the palace which, with 150 different designs, constitute the largest and best collection of such pieces. This technique, new in the 16th century, attempted to copy the reproduction of designs composed of curved lines typical of tapestries. They are adorned in their centre with the Enríquez or Ribera coat-of-arms surrounded by borders.
The Sculpture Collection
This palace houses a unique collection of Renaissance artwork reflecting an extraordinary archaeological knowledge of the Antiquity and a desire for an ordered and accurate exhibition of the pieces integrated with the architecture and the garden. It was collected by the Duke of Alcalá, who was educated in the Sevilleï¿œs humanist circle. The viceroyalty of Naples allowed him to devote himself to his great passion: the classical antiquities. In letters from this period he is mentioned together with great collectors such as Cosimo de Medici and Cardinal Farnese. He gave his patronage to excavations, bought entire collections and received from Pope Pius V selected pieces from the Vatican collection. In 1568, he began to send the collected pieces to Seville, together with an architect and a sculptor/restorer, with the objective of adapting his palace in Seville to exhibit them in a "modern way". (see no. 7)
Vid. Colección escultórica del I Duque de Alcalá
The small garden
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the space, that today constitutes a single garden, was divided into two small gardens separated by several unremarkable constructions. The removing of these allowed the gardens to be widened and joined together. A pond, whose fountain is decorated with a young Baco made of bronze by Mariano Benlliure, reminds us of the palace’s right to access agua de pie. That is to say, access to a direct connection with the Caños de Carmona, the aqueduct which supplied water to the city’s fountains and whose remains can be found still today in the street of Luis Montoto. This source of water, a monopoly of the Crown, was used to water the orchards of the Alcázar (Royal residence in Seville) and, as a rare privilege, concessions were made to convents and individuals. Towards 1480, when the first houses that would become the beginnings of the present palace were acquired, there were only twenty privileged people who enjoyed access to this agua de pie. For this reason, owning a garden was the clearest sign of social distinction.
The Praetor's Study
Located beneath the Tower, this room corresponds to one of the quadras of the traditional palace’ layout: an elongated room with square chambers in each corner. It also inherited some characteristics of the main ceremonial room (Aula Regia or majestic room, qubba in the Islamic world) of Hispano-Islamic architecture. Open to the courtyard and the old orchard through an opened gallery, it is covered by a coffered ceiling whose lintel is decorated with ornamental bows and is composed of wheels of ten bows with a ten-pointed star at their centre. This configuration resembles that used in domes which symbolically represent the vault of heaven.
Large Garden, The Palace of the Duke of Alcala
Originally used as an orchard in the primitive Mudejar palace, it experienced a deep transformation after the arrival in Seville in 1568 of the Neapolitan architect, Benvenuto Tortello. He was given responsibility, by the first Duke of Alcalá, of redesigning the palace to exhibit the collection that he had assembled in Naples since in 1558 when he was named viceroy by Philip II of Spain. The architect chose to alter as little as possible the existing building. Instead he constructed a new palace next to the old one, built around the orchard which transformed it into an archaeological garden. To do this, he followed the model of a late-Roman style palace, which had been made popular in Italy at the beginning of the 16th century. This was characterized by superimposed loggias that look towards the open landscape. Instead of directly copying the design, he inverted it, and opened the balconies towards the closed garden. He projected columns and arches on to the walls of the loggias through pillars and blind arches with the aim of incorporating the whole architectural-sculptural arrangement within it. These frame the niches and the vaulted niches housing the archaeological pieces. A grotto in one of its corners completes the “italianization” of this space.
This is the city’s first and most magnificent staircase. It represents the oldest stage in the development of the “double house”, present for many centuries in the Seville’s domestic architecture, that is the creation of two floors of identical distribution, the upper one used in winter and the lower one in summer. Thus, the staircase became the core in the court ceremony, acting as a divider between the more public space of the patio and the reception rooms of the private floor. This role explains a design which looks to monumentalise the space, polychroming it with plenty of colours and covering it in the most sumptuous way imaginable. This is achieved through a superb magnificent dome, clearly inspired by the one in the Ambassador’s room in the Alcázar (Royal residence in Seville). Given that no one in the city has since created such as an original or monumental scenery, the work could not have been more successful.
The Upper Floor
It was again Fadrique Enríquez de Ribera who ordered the construction of new rooms on the upper floor. He filled them with magnificent coffered ceilings and, in 1539, decorated them with murals. Important sections of these can still be seen, a series of portraits of “famous men” of the Antiquity in the gallery and another, inspired by Petrarca, depicting the Triumph of the Four Seasons. In this meeting place of an academy of golden-age humanists, one of its members, Francisco Pacheco, further enriched these rooms by painting the ceilings for the third Duke of Alcalá. Today this floor recreates the interiors of a house-palace and exhibits pieces from the Medinaceli art collection: period furniture and tapestries, and paintings by Goya, Luca Giordano, Giuseppe Recco, Carreño de Miranda, and Vanvitelli.