Only after Boabdil, the last Moorish ruler in Spain, was expelled from Granada did Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to fund Columbus’s proposed westward journey to Asia. The story of Boabdil is charmingly told in Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving (who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, remember?). After describing how Boabdil slunk out of the Alhambra palace and away from Granada, Irving concludes:
I spurred my horse to the summit of a rock, where Boabdil uttered his last sorrowful exclamation, as he turned his eyes from taking their farewell gaze; it is still denominated el ultimo suspiro del Moro (the last sigh of the Moor). Who can wonder at his anguish at being expelled from such a kingdom and such an abode? With the Alhambra he seemed to be yielding up all the honors of his line, and all the glories and delights of life.
It was here, too, that his affliction was embittered by the reproach of his mother, Ayxa, who had so often assisted him in times of peril, and had vainly sought to instil into him her own resolute spirit. “You do well,” said she, “to weep as a woman over what you could not defend as a man”; a speech savoring more of the pride of the princess than the tenderness of the mother. -- Washington Irving, Tales of the Alhambra
The poem inscribed below the relief (without attribution) reads:
He wore the cloak of grandeur. It was bright
With stolen promises and colours thin.
But now and then the wind - the wind of night -
Raised it and showed the broken thing within.
This poem is mostly likely the work of Archer Huntington, Anna’s husband; he was a respected poet as well as a lover of all things Spanish. The Hispanic Society Library (est. 1904) was one of Archer’s projects, and Anna executed all the sculptures that fill its courtyard.
The Hispanic Society of America has the largest collection of Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculptures outside Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina, which she and her husband established in the mid-20th century. Among the courtyard sculptures:
El Cid Campeador, a magnificent over-life-size equestrian statue of the medieval Spanish hero leading his men into battle; sits on a pedestal with 4 warriors at the base
Limestone relief of Don Quixote
Four marble and two bronze groups of animals native to Spain. The bears are particularly charming.
Two bronze groups: a doe with fawn, and a stag.
Two seated marble lions, rather worse for wear than their twins in bronze on display at Brookgreen Gardens.
Unfortunately, the lower courtyard is no longer open to pedestrians, but at least the view from the balcony in front of the Hispanic Society is unhampered.
Anna Hyatt Huntington is also responsible for the Joan of Arc on Riverside Drive at West 93rd St. and for the Jose Marti at Central Park South and Sixth Ave. Many of her works are on view at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.