Group of sculptures in the Paseo de Sarasate

In 1734, Felipe V promoted the construction of the Royal Palace in Madrid, with work subsequently starting in 1738. The new building was decorated with a sculpture program by P. Sarmiento, a disciple of Feijoo, and who submitted his proposal in 1747. His idea was to provide an overview of the History of Spain, based on its most important personalities. The sculptural work was directed by Olivieri, under the supervision of Antoine Dumandré and Philippe Boiston, and by Felipe de Castro. The artistic project comprised the creation of 94 statues, a collection of reliefs, portrayals of Roman emperors and sundry items. The sculpture workshop employed French, Italian and Spanish artist and the historical personalities included some monarchs from the Kingdom of Navarre, such as Sancho the Great and Sancho the Strong. A. Carnicero was commissioned to create the image of Sancho the Great, whilst Andrés de los Elgueros was responsible for Sancho the Strong. 1885 marked the start of the work to redevelop the Paseo de Sarasate parade in Pamplona (then called the Paseo de Valencia) with a project by Navarre architect Florencio Ansoleaga. In a letter dated 14th April 1885, Nicasio Landa had already submitted to the city mayor an idea, supported by Iturralde y Suit, to obtain six statues of kings of Navarre, which could perhaps serve to decorate the Paseo. Specifically, he referred to the following personalities: «Iñigo García, the Bearded one (770), Alfonso I, the Warrior (1104) , Sancho VI, the Wise (1150), Sancho VII, the Strong (1194), Teobaldo I of Champagne (1234), Juana II, of Evreux (1329)». In April the city council agreed to send José Soler to Madrid to inspect the condition of these particular sculptures, which were held in the Royal Palace storerooms. Once this had been done, the Council sent a letter dated 18th April to the King to formally request the six sculptures, in addition to two urns, which were all to be used to decorate the Paseo de Valencia. The request was accepted, with the exception of the urns. Although the city council, supported by figures such as Landa and Iturralde y Suit, desired statues of the kings of Navarre, in actual fact the sculptures were taken from the royal storage house «in a pack» and it is not known what was actually sent from Madrid or delivered to Pamplona, except in two cases: the statues of Doña Bárbara de Braganza and Fernando VI. The unveiling of the statues, once located in the Paseo de Sarasate, took place in 1885. After a change in position within the Paseo in 1956, moving them closer together and orienting them to face the Court building, in 1972 the statues were returned to their original positions. The Spanish Employer"s Association requested the Council to exchange the statues of Bárbara de Braganza and Fernando VI for two statues corresponding to kings of Navarre and which were identified as Felipe III of Navarre and García Ramírez the Restorer, although there is some doubt about the coherence of this identification in relation to the iconography of both personalities. In 2008, at the request of the Pamplona City Council, the six sculptures were cleaned and restored. Of the six statues exhibited in the Paseo de Sarasate, only two are identified with a plaque, specifically Felipe III of Navarre and García Ramírez, the Restorer. Of the six figures, three are wearing armour and two have a crown, or rather a tiara. Sarmiento is known to have ordered that the Scandinavian kings Recciario and Theodomiro should not be given crowns «but pearl tiaras, like the Greek Orientals», whilst he indicated that monarchs Ramiro, Jaime de Aragón and the Navarre kings Sancho the Great and Sancho the Strong must be given «royal crowns». In addition, for Sancho the Strong, he stated that «he must have a shield with the chains won in the battle of Las Navas». However, looking at the statues, it is not possible to tell for certain whether the sculptures are wearing a crown or a tiara and it is therefore difficult to definitely state that they actually correspond to the Navarre kings indicated.

Ignacio Urricelqui