The exhibition focuses on a period in which the character and image of the future Charles III were being shaped. While his military victories had earned him a heroic reputation, his experience as a ruler pointed to a new form of government that incorporated a modern notion of public welfare policies. These aspects were conducive to the warm reception Barcelona gave the new king, who was perceived as marking a new start in relations between Catalonia and the monarchy, closing the wounds of the War of the Spanish Succession.
Charles of Bourbon returned to Spain via Barcelona, where he wished to set foot for the first time as new king. This decision to begin reigning from Barcelona was made personally by Charles III – and even went against the advice of many of his ministers, who recommended Cartagena so as to hasten his arrival in Madrid. The new sovereign thus proved to be sensitive to the need to achieve reconciliation between the Crown and the Principality and to ensure that Catalonia had a place in Spain’s reformist project.
Some of the landmark works relating to this royal visit have been restored to be shown in this exhibition. Prominent among them is the codex of Barcelona cathedral, which contains the king’s oath as canon, the maces the city council commissioned for the occasion and the important portrait painted by Manuel Tramullas depicting Charles III as Count of Barcelona, which has been lent and restored by the regional government of Catalonia, its current owner.
The exhibition brings together 90 works from 30 lenders, notably the Museo del Prado, Patrimonio Nacional, the MNAC, the MUHBA and the Biblioteca Nacional de España, among others. Important pieces have also been lent by private collections, most of them never previously exhibited, such as those from the collection of HRH the Duke of Calabria, the bequest of the former royal household of the Two Sicilies, and the Abelló collection.