Nostalgia of the Empire: the arrival of
the portrait of Ferdinand VII in Manila in 1825 
VALDERRAMA NEGRÓN, Ninel. Nostalgia of the Empire:
the arrival of the portrait of Ferdinand VII in Manila in 1825. 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. X, n. 2, jul./dez. 2015. https://www.doi.org/10.52913/19e20.X2.02b
territorial figure of the Immaculate Conception, as a renovated Leviathan,
composed its body with all domains of the Hispanic world, whose maritime
connections reached its superior part, the Iberian Peninsula [Figure
1]. It is important to
note that the etching we here observe was the cover of a thesis published in
Manila. By means of this image, a strong idea of an ensemble was produced in
the archipelago. Despite its remoteness, the Philippines was trying to reaffirm
its Hispanic identity.
in mind the notion of a total State, the subject matter of this research is the
watercolours which show the events concerning the arrival of the portrait of
Ferdinand VII in Manila in 1825. The watercolour plates were produced by a
group of military engineers, formed by both Spaniards and local artists,
amongst whom we find Thomas Cortés, Antonio Chacón y Conde, Vicente Castro,
and Celedonio Ocampo. In total, there are 25 plates, currently preserved in the
library of the Royal Palace of Madrid, since they were offered as a gift to the
monarch at the end of the ceremony. In some of them, the name of the author is
known, usually those by the Spanish engineers Thomas Cortés and Antonio Chacón
y Conde. However, there is another group of drawings that could have been done
by their Philippine students, although they are not signed. In these drawings,
the perspective of the pagodas does not correspond to Western standards.
Instead, they follow an oriental standard of composition and have a quite
work aims at studying the similarities and differences between celebrations in
the Captaincy General of the Philippines and in other parts of the Hispanic
world. I would like to emphasize the particularity of the Asian scene, that is,
how some components of Chinese influence (such as the keepers of the door,
dragons, lanterns, candles and inscriptions) operated mostly by their
articulation within a festivity in the form of “triumphal arches” or “pagodas”
that aimed at confirming Western power.
first approach, these watercolours of the arrival of the royal effigy were
intended to endorse the Spanish throne. Nevertheless, with a more judicious
approach, we can see that the oriental symbols in the drawings suggest another
level of analysis, clearly interweaving an imperial and a colonial project, as
we will see in the last part of this work. What is important is that these
inquiries are only happening within the images themselves, and have not
been highlighted in the text that accompanied the plates.
Consequently, it is crucial to pay more attention to the symbolic
significations that occurred within the images and which required the
understanding from both the Western viewers and the Asian inhabitants.
essay examines which remains or traces of the iconographic traditions of the
ancient Hispanic Empire were used in the preparation of these plates.
Presumably, this research will clarify the reasons for the reuse of obsolete
and archaic languages, including that of the Habsburg dynasty, in the choice of
ornaments for the arrival of the image of Ferdinand VII. These graphic records
evoke the pretention to recover the notion of Spanish Empire as the legitimate
heir to the throne of Jerusalem as well as its Universalist mission. As
expressed by Victor Mínguez, it is important to note that political Solomonism
was a device used by the Austrian House in different iconographies of the
sovereign. Following this idea, my belief is that
these images aimed to reframe and transfer the throne of the Hebrew king to
Manila. This symbolic act was an instrument for restoring the political
doctrine of Solomonism in practice under the Habsburg dynasty. It is due to these
pretensions that in pagodas / triumphal arches converged an ambivalence of
elements sharing a western background, re-signified in an oriental setting so
as to be understood by the Philippine public [Figure
2]. As a whole, the
plates generated a representational apparatus assuming part of the vice-royal
power ceremonial, where not only the primary role of the sovereign within the
political structure was endorsed, but also the pretention of maintaining the image
of “World Empire”, where the coexistence of different peoples was possible
under the tutelage of an absolute king. This is the reason for the inclusion,
and the importance, of these two watercolours of pagodas as integral components
of the commemorative remembrance of the portrait’s arrival [Figure
Ferdinand VII, the
rightful heir to the throne of Solomon
old regime, the portrait of the monarch would frequently supplant his physical
presence in certain public events such as the taking of oaths. When a new king
ascended the throne, his image would equal his presence when he was absent, and
this was a mechanism through which the subjects could come to know his face [Figure
4]. In our case, the
remoteness of the Asian archipelago required the replacement of the royal person,
and the first lines of the chronicle accompanying the plates expressed that
in order to reward the Philippine Islands for the constant loyalty they had
always shown him [...] sent a portrait, specially painted by his first chamber
painter Vicente Lopez, as a gift to the city of Manila and asked for the
portrait to be treated as if it were His Majesty.
on the evening just before the presentation of the painting, it was placed on a
throne set up in the Wine Administration House. The portrait of Ferdinand VII
was very similar to the one previously painted by Vicente López Valencia.
However, the medals that adorned the sovereign strongly attract our attention.
On the one hand, he carries the dignity of the Order of Carlos III Collar and,
on the other, a Greek cross that could well be the Cross of Jerusalem,
suggesting he was the Hebrew king. Granted this attribute, as suggested by
Jaime Cuadriello, the arrangement of the image in the traditional Spanish
throne flanked by rampant lions could be a simplification of the very throne of
Solomon [Figure 5]. As
studied by Victor Mínguez, the inheritance of the biblical chair was a
recurrent theme in Spanish painting between the 17th and the 18th centuries. By
means of several large canvasses, the Austrian House sought to recreate the
symbolic legacy of the Kingdom, being the similarity of the Hispanic and the
Solomonic thrones its core argument. Because of this, the author suggested
that the Philippine throne’s layout was not casual, but was assisted by a
political program of the Reconquista so as to claim its old domains, reinforced
by the presence of the World’s two globes, as shown in the watercolour.
Ferdinand VII, the
plates retrieved the two “triumphal arches” or pagodas ordered by the
inhabitants of Binondo, district of sangley or Chinese origin: one was
located in the downward slope of the Puente Grande [Figure
2] and the other at the
exit of the Binondo Bridge [Figure 3].
the extension of this work, I will focus on examining the Pagoda Bridge in
Binondo and the allegorical carriage. The first body of the Pagoda is the
central part and it was flanked by feline guardians reminiscent of the Fu
Lions, whose meaning, since the Han Dynasty, was to ward off evil spirits from
the thresholds of Buddhist temples, palaces and imperial tombs. In turn, the
position of these animals might have a confluence with the rampant fierce lions
that generally appear guarding the Hispanic throne. For this reason, we assume
there was a reorganization of Western elements into Eastern ones with multiple
possible meanings. The Book of Kings describes how “the throne of
Solomon had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the
seat there were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them” [Figure
As mentioned above, the title of King of Jerusalem was transferred to the
iconography of the throne, widely used by the Austrians. Moreover, as we can
see, the standing lions and the Hebrew temple’s candlesticks on either side are
identification components that individualize it, and are even today operative
in the Bourbon dynasty.
this organization, the main fraction of the body corresponds to an altar, and
in its centre a curtain unveils the portrait of Ferdinand VII [Figure
6]. Let’s recall its
expression in The Book of Kings: “Solomon also ordered all the
items for the Lord’s temple: the gold altar and the table on which to place the
candlesticks”. Juan Bautista de Villalpando, author of
the recreation of the Escorial as the second Temple of Solomon, expressed the
role given to the tabernacle, which in Hebrew means “immolate, sacrifice, offer
in sacrifice” as a reference to the altar of the holocausts.
Given this connotation, the location of a tabernacle facing the effigy of
Ferdinand VII is interesting because the image had been conceived earlier, in
Guatemala, in the platform for taking oaths. In the Guatemalan frontispiece,
five of the Kingdom’s matrons were painted, offering their hearts to an altar
facing the portrait of the sovereign [Figure 7]. By making use of this device, the authors of the
platform declared that the provinces of Guatemala were daughters of the
monarchy, whose head was His Majesty. By offering their heart, their most
treasured possession, they reiterated their condition of obedience and
sequence of the ritual of taking oath before the royal banner and the unveiled
portrait in display represents, as expressed by Minguez, a gesture of blind
loyalty to the ruling institution, i.e. going beyond the monarch in power.
The unveiling of the Philippine oil painting signified the presence of royal
authority, an issue that was highlighted with the placing of the image exposed
before a tabernacle. In this event, five vessels organized as a Buddhist
offering and objects such as incense, fruit and water, were typically provided,
appearing drawn below Ferdinand VII. In this sense, the offerings acquired a
double dimension, since in Exodus the need to build the temple altar to
burn thymiama, fragrant incense, is stated.
On the other hand, it is significant that the Spanish monarch is placed on the
altar, where the Buddha should be. This fact expresses the substitution of the
traditional location of the structure of a Buddhist temple. This transposition
was highlighted with Chinese ideograms, placed above the portrait, which gave
account of the honorific place that corresponded to kings.
the Solomonic architecture as reference, the Philippine tabernacle was framed
within the typical structure of a Buddhist temple with four columns; on the
ones farthest of the portrait there were inscriptions in Chinese, and on those
nearest there were two green dragons. Here it is important to note that, even
in formal terms, there is an intimate connection between the undulating serpentine
mythical monsters and the enunciation of Solomonic order. A comparison with the
Eastern tradition is suggested, inasmuch as the green dragons have been
associated with the emperor. Even the characters on either side of the image
refer to four elements, water, fire, earth and heaven. This representation can
be connected with the popular notion of “the reign of the Heaven’s Son”
attributed to the emperors in the Chinese dynasties. However, at this point it
would be worthwhile to ponder on the magnitude of the meaning assigned to the
monarch. On the one hand, the connection of Ferdinand VII with the concept of
“emperor” is important, since by 1825 the so-called Hispanic Empire was frankly
in decay and nothing was further from reality than that term. Because of these
reasons, it seems that this architectural structure sought to be established as
a kind of nostalgia and simultaneously summon the lost imperial power.
last body of the pagoda, a lotus flower situated below the king, iconography
that has been linked to the life of Buddha, calls our attention. Finally, I
would like to emphasize the importance of the pagoda’s finial, apparently very
similar to a dharma wheel acting as “the law of the right order of
things”, validating the whole structure with a Buddhist symbol.
the design was a mixture of western components in the form of an arcade in the
base, above which rose the three superior levels of the pagoda, here described.
Given these characteristics, we can infer that in this construction there is an
overlapping of buildings: triumphal arches and pagodas. The base reminds us of
the Castile Emblem and, therefore, the pagoda resting on the Spanish State
could be an allegory of Spain’s geopolitical domination over the archipelago.
as its symbolical importance is concerned, the placement of the objects is not
fortuitous; it offers a straightforward connection between the teachings of
Buddhism, the representation of Eastern power and its syncretism with the
Spanish king. The equalling of the site stipulated for Buddha with the one
attributed to the Spanish monarch was followed by the reformulation and
transference of the throne to Manila in order to embrace the entire globe, as
suggested by the Chinese cardinal signs on either side of the royal image of
the central body.
The assembly of
power: the affirmation of allegiance
this connection of all territories of the Hispanic world around the royal
figure was the purpose of the arrival of the portrait in Manila in 1825; for in
his absolutist period, Ferdinand VII was called to re-establish his ancestor’s
place of power. The aim was to resume the old inclusion of the East Indies as
part of the so-called “Indies”. For this reason, it is important to analyse the
iconographic circulation between Asia and America concerning this celebration.
this paper, I particularly intend to consider these watercolours depicting the
arrival of the portrait as part of another campaign – a more ideological one –
where the monarchy sought to heighten the loyalty and fidelity of these domains
with visual representations which showed that they belonged to the Empire. Such
campaign was a response to “the attitude” of the American colonies.
the designs that form the narrative, the first plate distinguishes itself by
having an allegorical carriage made specifically to transport the image of His
Majesty [Figure 8]. The carriage contained columns with the motto “Non
Plus Ultra” and two world globes girded by a crown. In the centre, a matron
symbolizing Manila pointed towards the portrait and further ahead there is a
gold lettered sign reading “Loyalty to your king”.
tradition of using these territorial personifications in the ephemeral
architecture of royal celebrations was a usual practice. What surprises is the
very personification of the city of Manila, dressed with all the attributes
that had belonged to America. What is the traditional iconographic
representation of America doing in an Asian allegorical carriage?
remember that the rhetorical figure of the New Continent from Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia
begins with the description of America as a “naked woman, of dark colour, mixed
with yellow” [Figure 9a]. Its most important features are clearly
maintained in Manila’s personification: the plume, the quiver and the feathered
kilt. There is no doubt that Manila is symbolized like America [Figure
solve this iconographic enigma, the following conclusions can be advanced:
Manila was conceived as an extension of the Americas. Let us remember that
during the colonial period the jurisdiction of the captaincy of the Philippines
corresponded to the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Probably, its formulation comes
from the eminent threat posed by Portugal concerning the spice trade, and, by
means of various arguments, amongst which the iconographic one stands out, this
justified Manila’s belonging to America. However, beyond any deductions, it is
interesting to note that the visual connections between Latin America and
Hispano-Asia were present when conceived as the same territorial image.
also essential to emphasize that the image of the city was related to the sign
“Loyalty to your King”, and another one reading “Loyalty Award”, a response to
the events in the New World; Manila was upraised with this title. The Asian
city was hoisted as a faithful city and, at the same time, as an example of a
stronghold for the insurgent viceroyalties. This purpose can be checked with
other decorations recreated in the plates such as, for example, the choice to
appoint the virtues of Love and Loyalty as the companions of the effigy on the
throne in the House of Wine (Casa del Vino). At the same time, the inscriptions
“El Amor” (Love) and “Fidelidad” (Loyalty) can be clearly read on the façade of
the house of the Lieutenant. Furthermore, the poem in the shrine around
the statue of Carlos IV in the Plaza Mayor [Figure
10] summarizes the
celebration’s explicit proposal: “Although
in the Champs-de-Mars / Manila does not give proof of its loyalty / with more
glory and more art / in the fields today flutters / the banner of peace /. On
the other side, it read, “Full
of satisfaction Manila says indeed / that its love and loyalty / is a model for
all Nations [...] Long live Manila, centre / of loyalty and honour”.
“the Champs-de-Mars” referred to the internal wars in the American continent,
hence Manila recognized itself as blazon of peace and model for other nations.
For these reasons, I conclude that the approach behind these ephemeral
architectures was to promote an imperial visual project that endorsed the
construction of a loyal city in the collective imaginary.
this case, the polysemic function of the ephemeral architecture caused an
empowerment of the figure of Ferdinand VII in several spheres; this requirement
was imperatively pursued with this series of watercolours. Hence, we believe it
is possible to speak of a tangible imperial and colonial project in these
plates, materialized by a diverse interpretation of signs of both Eastern and
Western traditions that expressed the symbolic transfer of power within the
entire Hispanic State.
we establish that this iconographic syncretism (America / Asia-Manila) and the
idea of incommensurability of the domains known as the Indies operated as a
statement of the desire of regaining the old Empire. Such nostalgia can be
identified with the recovery of a language such as Solomonism, in disuse at the
time, but whise functionality used to be a guarantee of stability in the past.
In turn, this intersection also showed another aspect: a clear disruption of
the form of representation of the royal figure in which the resumption of previous
models was essential.
this construction of the Empire, however, by means of these images, a local
formulation, or the archipelago’s vernacular discourse emerged, placing the
emphasis on these “peripheral areas” identified as the only one that were really
loyal to the monarchy. Consequently, the rearrangement of the so-called
peripheral states of the Hispanic world also assumed rhetorical functions in
shaping a political discourse: the idealization of other loyal regions
belonging to the Monarchy.
these reasons, this study approaches the relations between Latin America and
Hispano-Asia as a way to turn our gaze to the Pacific in order to better
understand the circulation of models between different parts of the Hispanic
world. In the political context of the American independence movements, this
essay attempts to explore what was going on in other corners of the Hispanic
world with the aspiration of endorsing the construction of a loyal city in the
collective imaginary. Within this proposal, we should note an important piece
of news published in El Sol, on March 7th, 1825, reporting a conspiracy
in Manila with the purpose of joining Mexico, that read: “The revolution will
take place sooner or later, since Spain’s needed unwillingness [sic] to recognize our independence
with no chance of reconquering us, puts her in the place of losing dominion
over all her remaining possessions in America and Asia”.
overall, the plates depicting the entrance of Ferdinand’s VII portrait had the
intention to indicate loyalty in the captaincies; however, they accomplished a
more transcendental meaning, the arrival of the images in Madrid envisioned a
mirror exempla effect, disqualifying the rest of the
newly independent American continent with the intention of positioning the
Philippines before the eyes of the sovereign.
AUTISTA, Juan de Villalpando, El Templo De Salomón. Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 1991.
MÍNGUEZ, Víctor. El rey de España sentado en el trono de Salomón, In: Visión
de la monarquía hispánica. Valencia: Universitat Jaume I, 2007.
MÍNGUEZ, Víctor. La ceremonia
de jura en la Nueva España. Proclamaciones fernardinas en 1747 y 1808, In: Varia
Historia, Belo Horizonte, vol.23, n.38, Jul-Dez. 2007.
la entrada de Fernando Séptimo a la ciudad de Manila en 1825.
Archivo del Palacio Real, Madrid, España.
RIPA, Cesare. Iconología. Madrid: Akal, 2007.
El Sol, March 7th,1825.
 Translation by Elena
 I would like to thank
Deborah Dorotinsky and Roberto Conduru, the coordinators of the Non-Western
Traditions Seminar of the Getty Foundation Unfolding Art History
project. I would also like to thank all the participants, whose contributions
enriched my work, especially Maria José Esparza. Also, I must mention the importance
of Jaime Cuadriello’s suggestions, contributions and support, which were the
real arguments for this article.
 In graphic memories of
the royal portrait’s arrival, engineers were particularly devoted to reviewing
the ornaments and decorations of the main buildings. Tomas Cortés is the best
known of the group, since he participated in various construction projects in
the archipelago, such as the Royal Customs and a project for the Royal Palace.
He was also involved in installing an Academy in the archipelago, which began
to operate as a School of Drawing in 1823. From that institution emerged
important exponents such as Damian Domingo and Jose Honorato Lozano.
Víctor Mínguez, El rey de España sentado en el trono de
Salomón. In: Visión de la monarquía hispánica, Valencia, Universitat
Jaume I, 2007, p. 19-56.
Relación de la entrada de Fernando Séptimo a la ciudad de
Manila en 1825,
Archives of the Palacio Real, Madrid, España, p.3
 This suggestion was
the result of a personal conversation with the author.
Libro de los reyes, 1:20.
Juan Bautista de Villalpando, El Templo De Salomón,
Madrid, Ediciones Siruela, 1991, p. 267
Víctor Mínguez, La ceremonia de jura en la Nueva España.
Proclamaciones fernandinas en 1747 y 1808, In: Varia Historia,
Belo Horizonte, vol.23, n.38, July-December 2007, p.282.
El Exodo, 3:35-40.
Cesare Ripa, Iconología, Madrid, Akal, 2007, p.29.
Sol, March 7th, 1825
The term “mirror exempla” or mirror example was taken from the
tradition of the “mirrors of princes” genre, which depicts the need for
training the Prince in different artistic media, including the arts. The moral
characteristics contained in such works of political instruction were
transferred to the institutional body of the State in which the Kingdom’s
subjects were included. Thus, a contrast was shown between the faithful and
loyal colonies, as the Philippines and Cuba, and the “rebel” independent