Exploring The Met’s Vélez Blanco Patio

Among The Met Fifth Avenue’s many fabulous spaces is the Vélez Blanco Patio, reconstructed from an early 16th-century castle in Andalusia, Spain, and dedicated to the Spanish decorative arts of 1450–1700.

Patio from the Castle of Vélez Blanco. Spanish, Almería. Marble of Macael (Sierra de Filabres), 1506–15. Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941 41.190.482


As inner courtyards provided privileged private access to light and fresh air, they became important features of regional castles during this period. The patio reflects the Spanish taste of its architect in Gothic gargoyles, flat timbered ceilings, and an asymmetrical layout; while the northern Italian stonecutters who crafted its marble elements were evidently inspired by the ornamental vocabulary of ancient Rome.

A gargoyle watches over the Vélez Blanco Patio


Elaborate carvings around the windows and arches depict classical-style motifs revived during the Renaissance, including masks, vases, birds eating berries, and fantastical creatures such as sphinxes and dragons.

A detail of the stonework in the Vélez Blanco Patio


The original castle, located at Vélez Blanco near the city of Almería, was inhabited by the powerful Mendoza family, whose coat of arms are carved between two arches. 

Castle of Vélez Blanco


In 1913, the patio’s marble fittings were purchased by the collector George Blumenthal and installed in his Park Avenue home. The Met subsequently acquired the nearly 2,000 blocks of marble as part of Blumenthal’s bequest, and in 1964, they were reassembled at the Museum. 

Construction on the Vélez Blanco Patio at The Met, February 1964


Today, the patio houses monumental 16th- and 17th-century Italian sculptures by the likes of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian, 1598–1680) on the ground floor.

Bacchanal: A Faun Teased by Children. Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Pietro Bernini (Italian, 1562–1629). Marble, ca. 1616–17. Purchase, The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, Fletcher, Rogers, and Louis V. Bell Funds, and Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1976 1


Upstairs, a soaring balcony space showcases the artistic diversity of the kingdoms of Spain. Here, you’ll find feats of Spanish decorative art such as wooden devotional sculptures intended to promote Catholicism throughout the Americas, and shimmering lusterware painted with geometric and nature motifs, reflecting the profound influence of the Islamic world.

The balcony of the Vélez Blanco Patio


But it was a spectacular Spanish baldric (first half 17th century)—a type of crossbody belt or chain often worn to support a sword—that caught the eyes of our designers. 

Baldric. Spanish. Champlevé enamel on brass, partially gilded; first half 17th century. Gift of George Blumenthal, 1941 41.100.24


Much of the scholarship around jewelry fashions throughout history is informed by portraits in which the sitters wear a certain style of adornment, and an example very much like the one that inspired our Spanish Baldric Lapis jewelry is worn diagonally across the chest in an early 17th-century portrait of a young man. 

The Spanish Baldric Lapis Braided Necklace, Braided Bracelet, and Elongated Drop Earrings


This timeless collection pays homage to the original with semiprecious lapis beads and eye-catching enamel details. 

A detail of the enameling on The Met's baldric
The clasp of the Spanish Baldric Lapis Braided Necklace adapts the enamel detailing on the original


Shop our Spanish Baldic Lapis jewelry and other recent introductions inspired by The Met collection in-store and online.