Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Victor Amadeus Duke of Savoy (1666-1730), c.1690 

Henri Gascars (1634/51701)

Portrait of Victor Amadeus Duke of Savoy (1666-1730), c.1690, Henri Gascars
Oil on canvas
17th Century
27 x 21 inches 68.6 x 54.6 cm
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The courtly charm of the portraiture of Henri Gascar is demonstrated to the full in this portrait of the young Duke of Savoy. As with the paintings that he produced for the courts of England and France, there is an equal concern with flattering likeness, as with the suggestiuon of an ethereal, fantasy world which the noble subject inhabits. An English audience, more used to the earthly dignity of Lely, might find this excessive, as in the portrait of James Duke of York on loan to the Greenwich Hospital (GH7), but in the portrayal of children these qualities do not invite criticism. It was not unusual to portray young children in divine guise, and here the Duke is imagined as Apollo, and interpretation with more concrete resonances then than now, since he might quite often have assumed this role for court pageants and masques.

Gascar studied in Italy from 1659 until 1671. In the following year he travelled to England, where he executed portraits for the court circle until c.1677, when he returned to the continent. He was a frequent visitor to Italy during the remainder of his life, although his work took him as far afield as Poland in 1691. He died in Rome in January 1701.

The inscription on the portrait may well have been applied during the lifetime of Victor Amadeus, although it cannot be contemporary with the execution of the portrait. The sitter was the fifteenth Duke of Savoy, and in 1713 became King of Sicily. He then exchanged this kingdom with that of Sardinia in 1718, at the suggestion of the Holy Roman Emperor.
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