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Madrid’s streets will often surprise you, too, if you keep an attentive eye on your surroundings and slow your pace. Look up as you pass house number three along Calle de los Milaneses, near the Metro Opera and you will see the figure of a winged man who appears to have crashed headfirst into the cornice, his wings mangled. It has been suggested that the man in question represents either the symbolic fall of Lucifer or the arrogance and folly of Icarus, but the real story behind the sculpture Accidente Aereo by contemporary artist Miguel Ángel Ruiz is that a man, who has been away for 10,000 years, is flying on his back to look at the clouds, unaware that in his absence a vast city has grown in the place of the countryside.

The eternally-damned Lucifer does, in fact, appear in an al fresco sculpture by Ricardo Bellver in El Parque de Buen Retiro. Created in 1877, this was the first statue in the world to be dedicated to the fallen angel alone, his baleful expression and tortured pose inspired by the verses of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book I. Appropriately, the statue stands exactly 666m above sea level.

Finally, one of Madrid’s most unusual sculptures – and one of a non-ecclesiastical nature – is La Abuela Rockera (“the rocker grandmother”), homage to Ángeles Rodríguez Hidalgo, an elderly AC/DC fan who never missed a rock gig or festival in Madrid, earning her local icon status and even her own advice column in Spanish magazine Heavy Rock. She stands  on Avenida  de la Ciudad de Barcelona, by Metro Puente de Vallecas, and is depicted wearing her trademark leather jacket and seems to be raising a clenched fist; some local residents had her index and little fingers cut off because they objected to her allegedly making the sign of the devil.

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© 2012 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Madrid’s art, beyond the ‘Golden Triangle’’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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