1753-1759. Marble, 86 x 130 cm.
Ferdinand VI, accompanied on the left and right by gowned lawyers and military figures and by a court scribe, presides over the Consejo de Guerra (Council of War), the decision-making body responsible for military issues including the administration of military justice. Flanking the scene are the gods Mars, on the left with a shield, and Athena on the right, together symbolising the opposition of war and wisdom.
Within the sculptural programme commissioned by Ferdinand VI to decorate the New Royal Palace in Madrid were thirty-six reliefs or medallions (of an initially proposed forty-six), most of them sculpted in Badajoz marble and intended for the overdoors of the principal gallery. The iconographic programme was devised by the Benedictine scholar and monk Martin Sarmiento (1695-1772). The subjects depicted included religious ones intended as examples of good behavior; scientific ones aimed at promoting knowledge; political institutions, symbolizing good government; and military victories, representing heroism. This ornamental scheme was approved by the monarch in 1748 and begun in 1753 with the participation of the leading court sculptors. In 1760, however, Charles III decided that the reliefs were too elaborate and some of them remained unfinished or barely roughed out. Thirty-one of them entered the Museo del Prado in 1862, of which six were subsequently sent to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid.