Orestes and Pylades, San Ildefonso Group

The Prado Museum is acknowledged as being the world´s leading picture gallery, but it also has a very valuable sculpture collection, which is derived mainly from the Royal Collections and from Queen Christine of Sweden. The 17th -century queen, whose life was portrayed on film by Greta Garbo, abdicated and retired to Rome, where she became a Catholic. She was very fond of art, and gathered together a magnificent collection of Classical sculptures that was acquired for the Museum at auction. This collection, along with the one belonging to the Spanish Crown, makes up the Prado Museum’s Classical sculpture collection.

The San Ildefonso Group gets its name because it comes from the palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso. It is Hellenic in style and dates from the last period of Greek sculpture, the empire of Alexander and his successors, between the 4th and 1st century BC. At this time, sculpture was going through a period of displaying ever-greater prowess, and it featured foreshortened figures, movement and realism. The Orestes and Pylades group are two male nudes. The anatomy is exquisite and the two figures are beautifully balanced. Orestes was the son of Agamemnon, and with the help of his friend Pylades, he killed his adulterous mother and her lover, Aegisthus.

There are other examples of Classical sculpture in the Prado that you should not miss, such as The Muses, which adorns one of the museum’s entrance halls: the relief carving The Bacchants, seen in an orgy-like dance that conveys an impressive sense of movement; the sculpture of Ariadne Asleep, and two magnificent Roman busts that can be seen beside it: the Empreror Hadrian and his lover Antinous, the two people whose life story was so superbly told by Marguerite Yourcenar, in her novel Memoires of Hadrian.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns