Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Cardinal-Infante Don Fernando of Austria (1609-1641) 1630s

Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo (1612-1667)

Portrait of Cardinal-Infante Don Fernando of Austria (1609-1641), Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo
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Oil on canvas
17th Century
77 x 31 1/4 in., 196 x 79.5 cm.
 
Provenance:
Spanish Royal Collection
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These important pictures of Philip Iv and his younger brother Don Fernando formed part of the Spanish Royal collection until the early nineteenth century. The pictures were unknown until they were sold at auction in December 2007 simply as copies of Velazquez’s larger works now in the Prado. However, recent conservation and research has established them to be works by Velazquez’s principle assistant, Del Mazo, and can be conclusively linked, by description, dimensions and inventory numbers, to entries in the royal inventories dating back to 1686.

Don Fernando was the son of Philip III of Spain, and the younger brother of Philip IV. Like most of Velazquez’s Spanish royal portraits, the sitter is possessed of a fine Habsburg chin, a feature that became emphasised as a physical confirmation of legitimacy and descent from the Emperor Charles V. This fine, freely painted portrait is a studio reproduction of the full-length now in the Museo del Prado in Madrid [Inv. 1186], and in its vigorous brushwork and vivid realism, shows all the signs of a work supervised by the master. The original picture was one of a series of royal hunting portraits commissioned from Velazquez in the early 1630s, the similar portrait of Philip IV also showing the King with a gun and dog [Museo del Prado, Inv.1184]. The present picture differs from the original in placing the dog much closer to Fernando, and without the tree to the right, which suggests that it was always intended to be presented in the narrow format seen here.

Like so many royal and aristocratic younger sons, Fernando was destined for service in the church. In 1619, aged only ten, he was appointed a Cardinal and the Archbishop of Toledo. But he was never ordained as a priest, and rarely, as this portrait attests, affected the costume or demeanour of a man of faith. He had a love of all things cultural, and not only set the fashion for court entertainments, but was a talented artist himself.

Fernando was in fact a soldier by choice, and in 1631 was appointed to succeed his aunt, Infanta Isabella, as Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. He sat to Velazquez shortly before his departure. Though an astute politician, it was Fernando’s ill luck to arrive in the Low Countries at the height of both the Thirty Years war and the final stages of the Dutch Revolt. Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, had recently captured a string of cities such as Maastricht and Venlo, and the Spanish government was weak both financially and militarily. On his march up through the ‘Spanish Way’ from Italy to the Netherlands, Fernando was engaged in battle by a Swedish army (sent by King Gustavus Adolphus to aid the Lutherans in Germany) at the Battle of Nordlingen in September 1634. The Spanish gained a notable victory, and on his triumphal entry into Brussels, Fernando wore the sword worn by Charles V at the battle of Muhlberg in 1547, a symbol of victory over Protestant rebels.

But now Fernando was faced with a wider conflict against France, who, concerned by the sudden rise in Spanish strength on their northern border, and despite being a Catholic monarchy, entered the war in support of the Protestant rebels. After initial successes against the French, Fernando was soon faced with the major loss of Breda in 1637, and Arras in 1640, the latter coming on top of the destruction of a large Spanish armada bound for Flanders in 1639. Fernando fell ill during the further campaigns, and died in 1641 in Brussels at the age of thirty two. The Treaty of Munster, which finally brought an end to the Revolt and established the Dutch Republic, was signed seven years later, in 1648.
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