The Allegory of the Board of Trade by Bonaventura Planella

  • Description

Bonaventura Planella’s Allegory of the Board of Trade occupies the ceiling of the Lucretia Hall. In the centre of the composition, on a cloud, there are two sumptuously-dressed female figures, one standing and the other seated on a throne. They represent royal authority, with a lion, a symbol of the power of monarchy, at their feet. The two ladies are surrounded by cherubs and flanked by two youths scattering them with flowers. Beneath them is the god Mercury, also accompanied by cherubs: he is a handsome young man who addresses himself to the monarchic figures with open arms, indicating that he is at their service.

Beneath the god, in front of a classical temple and at the top of a stairway, there is a seated matron symbolising the Board of Trade and a female figure crowned with flowers, who is an allegory of public happiness. On the steps of the stairway there are two pairs of cherubs, one pair holding the Board’s coat of arms and the other pair the horn of plenty.

The allegories of the arts are represented in the lower right-hand part of the composition, on a cloud. From left to right we find Music, Sculpture, Architecture and Painting. Among them there is also Minerva, the protectress of the sciences and the arts. The last figure of this group is Invention, who, as a source of inspiration of the arts, is addressing herself to Minerva with an open arm. In a secondary position are the allegories of Industry and Agriculture.

The decoration of the ceiling of the Lucretia Hall is completed with four identical groups located in the corners, featuring a face that appears to be that of a satyr, framed by two horns of plenty and crowned by Mercury’s staff. The painting is framed by a vividly-coloured frieze depicting cherubs, eagles and rocks. In the centre of two of the sides of the frieze, and between two female figures, there is the coat of arms of the Board of Trade. The one on the right is protected by Industry and Commerce, and the one on the left by Shipping and a female figure the allegory of which cannot be determined. Finally, in the four corners of the frieze there is a gryphon, an animal with the head and wings of a bird of prey and the body of a lion, a mythological figure that was very common in medieval bestiaries.