Carlos III

Background Information

1976, Federico Coullaut-Valera. 10'H. Olvera Street plaza.
Carlos III (1716 - 1788), the King of Spain from 1759 to 1788, was the most dynamic of the Bourbon monarchs. A product of the Enlightenment, he left his imprint on the architecture and planning of modern Madrid by the construction during his reign of the Paseo del Prado, the Museo del Prado and the Real Jardin Botaneca.1 After losing Florida at the conclusion of the Seven Years War, he regained control by giving valuable financial, military and diplomatic assistance to the American colonies in their struggle for independence from Britain. As part of his policy to extend Spanish control in the Americas, he promulgated the Reglamento in 1772, which laid the foundation for colonizing California by increasing the military presence in the area. Later he encouraged the founding of Los Angeles as a pueblo on the frontier of the empire to resist the territorial claims of Imperial Russia.2

In recognizing Carlos III's connections to the city and the nation, the Spanish government offered this 2-1/2 ton monument on January 23, 1976 to Los Angeles to commemorate our nation's Bicentennial.3 After being approved by the Board of Public Works and the Municipal Arts Commission, the gift was accepted by the City Council, which authorized $9,000 for constructing the pedestal.4 The statue was originally installed in 1977 in MacArthur Park, near the path that the Portola expedition took to Monterey in 1769 when it established a Spanish claim to Alta California. In preparation for the 1987 visit to Los Angeles by Juan Carlos, the present Spanish monarch, Mayor Tom Bradley requested $10,000 from the City Council to move the statue to the plaza. Initially, the Council voted against spending the money because Councilmembers Gloria Molina and Richard Alatorre incorrectly claimed that the statue depicted King Ferdinand, who they also incorrectly believed was king of Spain when Cortez conquered Mexico (Ferdinand died three years before Cortez left Cuba on his conquest). When informed of the statue's true identity, Alatorre said honoring any Spanish monarch who reigned prior to Mexico's independence celebrates tyranny.5 The City Council nevertheless approved the funds to move the monument to its present location on the east side of the Plaza, where it was re-dedicated by the king on September 30, 1987.6

This depiction of Carlos III is similar to his official portrait executed in 1761 by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779). Carlos III is portrayed here as a 45-year-old commander-in-chief, holding a baton to symbolize his authority and wearing a suit of armor with a sash, richly embellished with the insignia of various orders.7


1 The Spanish Bourbons, by John D. Bergamini, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1974, p. 181.

2 The Spanish Frontier in North America, by David J. Weber, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, c. 1992, pp. 215-220, 236-265; Spanish Bluecoats: The Caladonian Volunteers in Northwest New Spain, 1767-1810, by Joseph P. Sanchez, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, c. 1990, pp. 3-6; Spanish City Planning in North America, by Dora P. Crouch, Daniel J. Garr and Axel I. Mundigo, the MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, c. 1982, pp. 189, 196-197, 277.

3 Minutes of the Municipal Arts Commission, April 8, 1976; "Dedication of a Spanish Statue," Los Angeles Times, June 19, 1977.

4 "The City and It's King," summary of history of monument, by J.M. "Kim" Morera, October 18, 1976.

5 "The Right Statue, but the Wrong King," by Scott Harris, Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1987, Metro Section, page 1.

6 "Royals Take Steps Across L.A. History," by Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Time, October 1, 1987, Metro Section, p. 1.

7 Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, Alfonso E. Perez Sanchez and Eleanor A. Sayre, Bulfinch Press, Little, Brown and Company, 1989.

Text provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, November 1998.

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