Completed Project

Equestrian Statue of Joseph I

Lisbon, Portugal


In 1770, an international competition was held for the creation of a statue of King Joseph I of Portugal, based on drawings prepared by Eugenio dos Santos. It is widely believed that one of the motivations for the monumental sculpture’s prominent location was to honor the king’s capable response to the devastation caused by the earthquake of 1755. Joaquim Machado de Castro won the competition and cast the equestrian statue to represent the king, the first such statue to be cast in Portugal, which was unveiled on the king’s birthday in 1775. The statue remains today in the Praça do Comércio, a central point in Lisbon. Locals and tourists alike frequent the square, as they have done for centuries. The statue, considered the first work of public art in Portugal, marked a pivotal moment in the artistic career of Joaquim Machado de Castro, who became the official court sculptor of Portugal.

How We Helped

The statue was cast in a copper alloy that was engineered to resist corrosion from exposure to salinity by the inclusion of zinc. However, over the centuries the sculpture has suffered from exposure to salt and modern urban pollution, which has caused damage to the surface of the sculpture. The stability of the statue was threatened and was is at risk of collapsing. WMF began a project to conserve the statue in 2012. WMF Portugal led a team of experts who completed documentation and research to understand fully the current conditions of the statue and develop appropriate conservation solutions. The team discovered that, instead of bronze, the alloy is a composition of zinc, copper, and tin known as latão almirantado. The conservation project was completed in July 2013, and included cleaning and treatment of the statue and the sculpted stone base.

Why It Matters

The Equestrian Statue of King Joseph I is an icon in Lisbon and its location in the busy Praça do Comércio means the statue is always in the public eye. The sculptor, Machado de Castro, is still celebrated today, and the year 2012 was designated to honor this sculptor and his accomplishments. The restoration of the sculpture will be aligned with additional cultural projects and exhibitions that will feature the artist’s work under the title “Fame and Triumph—the Sculptor Machado de Castro.” The restoration of this work will serve as a tribute to the arts and cultural heritage of Portugal’s capital.

Last updated: October 2015.

Join us in safeguarding significant places.