Above: Contemporary painting depicting Patio de la Infante (by Jacqueline Treloar?)
On the edge of the former Jewish Quarter in Zaragoza, Micer Gabriel Zaporta (abt 1500-1580) built an 18,000-square-foot house in 1549 in honor of his second wife. Zaporta himself was born into a Jewish family whose members converted to Catholicism in compliance with the Edicts of 1492 and enforced by the Inquisition. The elegant house built around a central courtyard with elaborate Italianate ornamentation reflected Zaporta’s success as a merchant and a banker who served as treasurer to King Charles I of Spain (1500-1558).
Through the ensuing centuries, subsequent owners divided the massive house into smaller sections and leased portions to several different types of tenants, often associated with intellectual or artistic activities, including the San Luis Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Residents of Zaragoza began referring to the former Zaporta House as the House of the Princess with the return of Maria Teresa de Vallabriga y Rozas (1759-1820) to her hometown following the death of her husband, Louis Antonio Jaime, Count of Chinchon (1727-1785). The couple spent their marriage in exile under orders of the count’s brother, King Charles III (1716-1788), who feared the count as a rival to the throne of Spain. Despite her lack of the formal royal title, locals insisted on calling her their princess and the courtyard Patio de l’Infanta.
The house deteriorated over time, and a major fire in 1894 demolished almost all save the courtyard. In 1903, the building owners sold it to a Parisian antique dealer, Ferdinand Schulz. Cut into pieces and shipped to his shop on Rue Voltaire, the patio was reassembled as an impressive showcase for his elegant wares.
Upon the antique dealer’s death in 1957, his heirs decided to put the courtyard back on the market. Hearing the news, the director of the bank Caja de Ahorros de Zaragoza purchased it. Once again, the ornate courtyard was disassembled and shipped, this time back home.
After storage for two decades, the architectural elements of Patio de la Infanta were uncrated and installed at the heart of the what is now Ibercaja’s headquarters in Zargoza, where it is open to the public daily.