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Oil painting - Margherita Gonzaga ?  (1591–1632), Princess of Mantua
  • Margherita Gonzaga ? (1591–1632), Princess of Mantua
    Pourbus, Frans, the younger, born 1569 - died 1622
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Margherita Gonzaga ? (1591–1632), Princess of Mantua

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    early 17th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Pourbus, Frans, the younger, born 1569 - died 1622 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Museum number:

    533-1892

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A portrait of a woman, wearing a crown and a pearl hairpiece, earrings and necklace. She has been variously identified as Margaret, wife of Philip III of Spain or Margaret of Savoy probably in part due to her jewellery as ‘Margaret’ derives from the Greek word for pearl. It is now thought that the sitter may represent Margherita Gonzaga, the sister of Francesco Gonzaga (not to be confused with his wife, Margaret of Savoy). In the early 1600s Frans Pourbus II was working as chief portrait painter of Vincenzo Gonzaga I, 4th Duke of Mantua. The sitter in 533-1892 closely resembles the portraits of Margherita Gonzaga by Rubens ca. 1604-5 (Burchard Collection, Farnham) and Pourbus of ca. 1605 (Palazzo Pitti, Florence, no. 2279; Metropolitan Museum, New York, 25.110.21).

Physical description

A portrait of a woman, possibly Margherita Gonzaga, wearing a crown and pearl hairpiece, pearl earrings, a triple layered lace neck ruff and a rich brocade dress with hanging and false sleeves and an elaborate cut stone and pearl necklace

Date

early 17th century (painted)

Artist/maker

Pourbus, Frans, the younger, born 1569 - died 1622 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Height: 55 cm estimate, Width: 45.7 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Purchased, 1892

Purchased from the sale of ‘Antique Furniture, Oak Cabinets, Curios, China, Pictures, Coins, &c., collected by Edward Peacock, Esq., F.S.A.’ held by Messrs. Spring and Son at Bottesford Manor, near Brigg, Lincolnshire, Wednesday, June 1st, 1892. Lot 17. ‘Oil painting of Margaret, wife of Philip III. Of Spain, and grandmother of Louis XIV’, for £12-0-0. According to Nominal File (E. Peacock) this painting and three others (museum nos. 533, 534, 535, 536-1892) were acquired as ‘Costume Pictures’. Edward Peacock F.S.A (1831-1915) was then owner of Bottesford Manor.

Historical significance: Frans Pourbus II (b Antwerp,1569; d Paris, 1622) was the son of Frans Pourbus I and likely trained in his grandfather’s studio in Bruges. Frans the younger followed the family tradition and executed portraits, portrait groups and, occasionally, religious subjects. From c. 1594 he was in Brussels and from 1600 went to work in Mantua (where Rubens was also working) as chief portrait painter of Vincenzo Gonzaga I, 4th Duke of Mantua. Pourbus is recorded as having executed a number of portraits of the ducal family. Vincenzo Gonzaga’s son Francesco despatched Pourbus to Turin to paint the daughters of Charles-Emanuel I, 11th Duke of Savoy (in 1608 Francesco married Margaret of Savoy). Pourbus' portraits reveal the traditional family attention to detail, which he blended with a more rigorous individualism and an adaptation of the formal portrait style of Antonis Mor, which he injected with a greater naturalism and engergy and elements of Baroque dynamism.

This portrait was described as of Margaret (1584-1611), wife of Philip III of Spain, by Sir George Scharf in 1865. Citing her dissimilarity to the portraits of Margaret by Coello, E. H. L. Jennings later suggested the sitter was more likely Margaret of Savoy. Margaret of Savoy, Duchess of Mantua, was the daughter of the Duke of Savoy and married Francesco IV Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua in 1608. A full length portrait of the Duchess by Pourbus is in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. While comparisons of 533-1892 to portraits of Margaret of Savoy are compelling, her physiognomy, jewellery and clothing more closely resemble those of Margherita Gonzaga (Margaret of Savoy's sister-in-law) by Rubens and Pourbus.

The sitter in 533-1892 looks much like the portraits of Margherita Gonzaga by Rubens ca. 1604-5 (Burchard Collection, Farnham) and Pourbus of ca. 1605 (formerly in the Uffizi, Florence (no. 3428), now in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence (no. 2279) and Metropolitan Museum, 25.110.21). She wears a similar pearl headpiece and ruff as in the Rubens portrait and a very similar necklace and dress to the Metropolitan painting. Further, the princess may be identified by her slightly pointed cleft chin, small rose-bud lips long nose and thick eye-lids. While 533-1892 is executed in the style of Pourbus the technique is less accomplished and less refined.

Historical context note

Portrait painting is a genre in painting, where the intent is to depict the visual appearance of the subject. Portraitists create their work by commission, for public and private persons, or are inspired by admiration or affection for the subject. Portraits are often important state and family records, as well as remembrances. Historically, portrait paintings have primarily memorialised the rich and powerful. Over time, however, it became more common for middle-class patrons to commission portraits of their families and colleagues. During the Baroque periods (17th century), portraits became even more important records of status and position. In a society dominated increasingly by secular leaders in powerful courts, images of opulently attired figures were a means to affirm the authority of important individuals. Flemish painters Sir Anthony van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens excelled at this type of portraiture, while Jan Vermeer produced portraits mostly of the middle class, at work and play indoors.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Margherita Gonzaga (?)', style of Frans Pourbus the younger, early 17th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 225-226, cat. no. 282.

Production Note

This portrait was described as of Margaret (1584-1611), wife of Philip III of Spain, by Sir George Scharf in 1865. Citing her dissimilarity to the portraits of Margaret by Coello, E. H. L. Jennings later suggested the sitter was more likely Margaret of Savoy. While comparisons of 533-1892 to portraits of Margaret of Savoy (Duchess of Mantua) by Pourbus are compelling, her physiognomy, jewellery and clothing more closely resemble those of Margherita Gonzaga (Margaret of Savoy's sister-in-law) by Rubens and Pourbus.

Materials

Oil paint; Canvas

Techniques

Oil painting

Categories

Paintings; Portraits

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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