The Metropolis is the postcard picture of Madrid—you can’t leave town without it. Funnily enough, just like the Palacio de Cibeles, this Beaux-Arts construction is a bit of a baby. It was inaugurated in A.D. 1911, when the Gran Via was still being formed.
The lady on the top is an interloper. The Metropolis was built for the La Unión y el Fénix insurance company, so the original statue was the company’s symbol—Ganymede resting on the wings of a Phoenix.
- The Phoenix is a bird that rises from the ashes every 500 years—an apt metaphor for fire insurance.
- Ganymede, the most beautiful of mortals, drew the notice of king of the Gods. Disguised as an eagle, Zeus took the boy away to become the cup-bearer in Olympus.
- How the eagle became the phoenix in the Neoclassical imagination is anybody’s guess…
But when Metrópolis Seguros took over the building in A.D. 1972, it decided it wanted to have the cup-bearer at its headquarters. The company swapped Ganymede for a figure of Winged Victory. She’s surrounded by columnar figures representing Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, and Mining.
The bling, by the way, is real—30,000 leaves of 24 carat gold.