Mythology and Carriages: an ancient journey

By National Coach Museum

King João V (18th century) by Carlos Antonio LeoniNational Coach Museum

D. João V

“The Magnanimous” (1689-1750), King of Portugal and the Algarves, was a noted scholar with a wealth of scientific and literary knowledge, familiar with both the classics and modern texts. His education was greatly marked by his mother and Jesuit priests.

Procession in the Terreiro do Paço, Lisboa (18th century) by Jose CiríacoNational Coach Museum

The opulence and grandiosity of events during his reign became renowned in Portugal and throughout the European courts of the time. The procession of Queen D. Maria Ana de Áustria’s arrival in Lisbon for her royal marriage with D. João V is one such example.

The event, witnessed at the time by Monsenhor Pereira Botto, is documented in his written account «Promptuario analytico dos carros nobres da Casa Real Portuguesa e das carruagens de gala». In it he details the carriages of the Portuguese Royal House carrying “Vulcan, Cyclopes, Venus and Cupid with Commerce Square filling with movement”

‏‏‎ Coach of King João V (18th century) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum

The Cult of King D. João V

King D. Joao V’s understanding of culture was instrumental in ensuring that the Embassy Carriages and that of Pope Clement XI were not only magnificent, but visually represent the absolute power of the Monarch depicting Portugal as a learned kingdom familiar with classical antiquity.

‏‏‎ Coach of Queen Maria Ana of AustriaNational Coach Museum

As a result, the carriages have multiple symbolic sculptures representing an allegory to patriotism created using classical mythology which we will now journey through..

1 Marquis d' Abrantes (18th century) by Vieira Lusitano (attrib.)National Coach Museum

The Ambassador - the 3rd Marquis de Fontes

The reign of D. João V was one of the most significant in Portuguese diplomatic history, the pinnacle of which was the ostentatious carriage procession created to send D. Rodrigo Ames de Sá Almeida e Meneses the 3rd Marquis de Fontes to Rome to receive prerogatives for the Portuguese church.

Fontein op Piazza Colonna te Rome (1675 - 1711) by anoniemRijksmuseum

The Procession of the Marquis de Fontes

The magnificent procession which took the Maquis de Fontes  from his residence in the Piazza Colonna to the Quirinal Palace, was important in contributing to Portugal’s prestige in the Holy See and solidified the power of Portuguese Kingdom and its Monarch on the international stage.

‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ (18th century, 1st half) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum

The Carriage of Pope Clemente XI

Following the birth of a firstborn and heir to the crown, Pope Clement XI sends by sea to Lisbon a Papal Nuncio who took with him the Carriage of the “Faixas Bentas” to be used in the baptism of Prince D. José.

Embassy Cars Embassy Cars (End of 18th century) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum

The Three Triumphal Carriages

In 1716 D. João V organised to send one of the most ostentatious embassies of all time to Rome. The procession consisted of five triumphal carriages and ten supporting ones,  a symbol of the magnificence the royal power of a king and a kingdom who at the time ruled over a vast empire. These allegorical carriages represent the pinnacle of the Baroque style.

Embassy Cars Embassy CarsNational Coach Museum

The Carriage of the Ambassador, the Oceans Carriage, the Carriage of the Heart of Lisbon carriage

The Ambassador’s Carriage, the Ocean’s Carriage the Heart of Lisbon Carriage commissioned in Rome are built to the highest quality. These unique carriages are an allegory to the State D. João V was entitled to as “Master of Conquests, Navigation, Commerce and Ethopia, Arabia, Persia and India.”

Embassy Cars Embassy Cars (End of 18th century) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum

The Ambassador's Carriage

The Ocean's Carriage

The Heart of Lisbon Carriage

‏‏‎ Oceans CoachNational Coach Museum

The Allegories and the Carriages

These carriages, conceived by the Ambassador Marquês de Fontes himself, detail the heroic achievements of Portugal’s maritime history. The decorations also refer to the Classics, which had begun to gain popularity during the renaissance, of which the literary work of the Portuguese poet Luiz de Camões is a clear example.

Embassy Cars Embassy CarsNational Coach Museum

The Ambassador ́s Carriage

Dedicated to Navigation and Conquest on the rear of the carriage on its left hand side are sculptures of Tethys and Navigation supported by an Atlas whos is marking routes across the globe. 

Embassy Cars Embassy CarsNational Coach Museum

A Triton, a mythological figure associated with the west emerging holding a navigational compass, can also be found emerging from the sea holding a navigational compass. 

Embassy Cars Embassy CarsNational Coach Museum

On the right-hand side Bellona, a divinity of roman origin representing conquest holding a shield and yielding a lion itself a symbol of regal power.

Embassy Cars Embassy CarsNational Coach Museum

The Ambassador’s Carriage and its Myths 

In the rear of the carriage Silenus the tutor of Bacchus riding a sea-horse surrounded by the allegories of war: Minerva a divinity representing heroic acts next to her is Hope.

‏‏‎ Oceans CoachNational Coach Museum

The Ocean’s Carriage

The rear of this carriage depicts the navigational meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, achieved when the Portuguese past the Cape of Good Hope in 1487. 

Embassy Cars Embassy CarsNational Coach Museum

Apollo, the god of light with his glorious luminescence presents us the World represented as a globe, the two oceans are represented by two old men sat on dolphins.

‏‏‎ Oceans CoachNational Coach Museum

The Carriage of the Oceans and the 4 Seasons

The seasons of the year, these mythological characters were widely used during the baroque period, but are just as fitting when used to describe the Portuguese maritime expeditions.  

On the left-hand side Ceres holding a wheat bunch.

In the center is Apollo

On the right-hand side Spring can be seen, represented here by Abundance with her cornucopia full of flowers and fruits.

‏‏‎ Oceans CoachNational Coach Museum

Autumn and Winter

In the front of the carriage, on either side of the driver’s seat, are Autumn, depicted with seasonal fruits and Winter. Seasons were also widely depicted  throughout the Baroque period, proving almost a perfect fit as part of the carriage’s decorative narrative.

Winter wears appropriate garments for the season.

Coach of the Coronation of Lisbon Coach of the Coronation of Lisbon (18th century, 1st half) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum

The Heart of Lisbon Carriage

The Carriage of the Heart of Lisbon, is dedicated to the “Capital of the Empire”. 

Coach of the Coronation of Lisbon Coach of the Coronation of LisbonNational Coach Museum

Represented on the rear of the carriage are Fame with her trumpet Abundance with a cornucopia and Lisbon holding a scepter and pointing to the African and Asian continents.

Coach of the Coronation of Lisbon Coach of the Coronation of LisbonNational Coach Museum

Do enjoy this ancient journey around the "Coaches and their Myths"!

Credits: Story

Credits:

Coordination: Silvana Bessone
Curation: Teresa Abreu
Content: Filomena Barata; Rosinda Palma; Teresa Abreu
Photographs: Pedro Beltrão; Nuno Augusto; DGPC-DDF-MNCoches
Technical support: Luís Ramos Pinto
Translation: Luis Ramos Pinto


Bibliography Sample:
BESSONE, Silvana, «De passeio com deuses e heróis» in Actas do Colóquio Internacional, Mytos», pp.103-118, 2008
BOTTO, J. M. Pereira, «Prontuário Analítico dos Carros Nobres da Casa Real Portuguesa e das Carruagens de Gala», Imprensa Nacional, tomo I, Lisboa, 1909
PEREIRA, João Castel-Branco, «Tronos Rolantes da Monarquia Portuguesa», in Oceanos, nº 3, Lisboa, 1990, pp.121-122

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps