Title: Portrait of a Spanish Noblewoman
Date: c.1620
Medium: Oil on canvas
105 x 82 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1920
Object Number: NGI.829
DescriptionIn Spain, as in other European countries, the circulation of official portraits of the king and the royal family had many purposes, but their principal intent was propagandist. Both members of the court and the aristocracy were keen to be painted, motivated as they were by the vanity of recording their features or proving their social status. This example here of a young noblewoman, whose identity is regrettably unknown, reflects the conventional mannerist court portrait, the objective of which was to emphasise the wealth and elegance of the sitter while maintaining an air of great dignity.

It was Alonso Sánchez Coello who first established this typology, during the second half of the 16th century, and his stylish handling of clothes and jewellery was later adopted by the king's painters, Pantoja de la Cruz and Bartolomé Gonzalez.

In this example the woman is wearing an elaborately embroidered olive green dress with inset jewels and pearls. Her pose is identical to a portrait of the Princess Isabel de Borbón by an unknown artist, now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, but the treatment of this work is less stiff and her flesh tones have a distinct porcelain-like appearance. A few artists' names have been proposed for this beautiful portrait, but none so far has been convincing.

(National Gallery of Ireland: Essential Guide, 2008)

ProvenanceIn the collection of Valentín Carderera y Solano, Madrid, before 1877; Christie's, London, 1899; Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt; Messrs Harris and Sinclair, Dublin; purchased, Messrs Harris and Sinclair, Dublin, 1920
Exhibition HistoryFour Centuries of Spanish Painting, Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Durham, 1967

El Greco to Goya, The Taste for Spanish Paintings in Britain and Ireland, The National Gallery, London, 16 September - 29 November 1981

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