Portrait of Mariana of Austria (Velázquez)

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Portrait of Mariana of Austria, 1652. Oil on canvas, 234 cm x 131.5 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Portrait of Mariana of Austria is a 1652 oil on canvas painting by Diego Velázquez. Daughter of Emperor Ferdinand III and the Infanta Maria, Mariana was, as the second wife of King Philip IV, Queen consort of Spain. She was nineteen at the time of the portrait, which was probably completed by 15 December 1651 when there is a record of a portrait of her sent to Ferdinand in Vienna[1] (likely the Vienna replica, see below).

Mariana is shown full length, wearing a black dress with silver braid. She is adorned with jewellery: she wears gold necklaces, bracelets and a large gold brooch on her close-fitting bodice. Her right hand rests on the back of a chair, and she holds a delicate lace scarf in her left hand. The picture is bathed in harmonious shades of black and red, although the dramatically drawn curtain has been painted over by another hand.

Background[edit]

Mariana's mother Maria was Philip IV's sister. Mariana had been betrothed to Baltasar Carlos, Philip's son and her cousin, but he died in 1646, leaving the Spanish king heirless. Aged over forty, Philip sought to marry Mariana, his niece, then only fourteen.[2] Velázquez accepted the commission during his 1649–50 stay in Italy. Ferdinand had requested a portrait of his daughter, and Philip asked the painter to return to Madrid as soon as possible. Two contemporary copies are known; one is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, while a second was sent to Archduke Leopold William in 1653, but is now lost.[1] A cropped version by members of his workshop is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[3]

The couple had not met by the time of their marriage, and the event was celebrated by proxy. When Philip died in 1665 she became regent for her son Charles II, the last of the Spanish Habsburgs. Yet within this time she had given birth to a number of other children, some who died in childbirth, many of whom were portrayed by Velázquez - most famously the Infanta Margaret Theresa who takes center stage in Las Meninas. Margarita Teresa was later portrayed in a similar pose to her mother, complete with wide haircut and dress, and underneath a similar overhanging red velvet curtain. After Philip died in 1665, Velázquez painted a number of portraits of her that emphasised her loss and widowhood. Although most of his portraits of Mariana are dour or mournful in tone, in life she was vivacious and fun loving.[4]

Description[edit]

It is the only known full length portrait of Mariana (known as Maria Anna). As an official court portrait it adheres to the conventions of the format, and every attempt is made to convey a sense of her majesty. Even so, Mariana holds an unusually rigid and stiff pose and her upper body and head seem to almost suffocate underneath her black dress which is at least given space and supported by a very wide farthingale. She was known throughout her life to be fond of luxurious clothes and adornments,[2] and in this portrait her dress is extensively lined with silver braids and decorated with red ribbon.[1] She wears many pieces of jewellery, including bracelets, a series of gold chains and an elaborate gold brooch pinned at her breast. Her doll-like face pouts while her cheeks are heavily lined with rouge. Mariana's brown hair is also decorated with red ribbons and worn in a series of braids that stretch widely on each side.

She wears a large white and red plume to the right which pictorially serves to frame her face.[1] Her left hand holds an elaborately folded and outsized white cloth, which in its attention to line and abandonment of scale has been described as "worthy of El Greco".[2] She wears a tightly fitted bodice which accentuates her waist but gives her the appearance of being flat chested. The portrait is painted in a mixture of whites, blacks and reds. An overhead scarlet red velvet curtain is dramatically drawn on the top left hand corner, lending the painting a theatrical air, although this may be a later addition;[5] its presence tends to confine the space occupied by the queen and throw out paintings the center of balance.[6] Its material and colour is similar to the long table behind her, on top of which is placed a gilded clock.[2] This table and clock are likely intended to represent her courtly duties as Queen consort.

Mariana's extravagance with clothes and jewellery was much commentated on during her lifetime, but modern historians temper that view with the fact that her married life was pressured by the need to produce a male heir. This more sympathetic view looks past Velázquez's great portrait and at the fact that in real life she was a rather plain looking woman, and perhaps lacking in much of the elegance the master attributes to her.[2]

Canvas[edit]

The painting was noted in a 1700 inventory as a pendant to Philip IV in Armour with a Loin, now also in the Prado, but probably painted by members of his workshop. There may have been an original accompanying portrait of Philip. It is accepted that Velázquez later enlarged Mariana's portrait, adding a portion to the top by enlarging the overhanging canvas. Most art historians agree that this was probably done to match it in size with a pre-existing portrait of Philip.[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Mancini, 226
  2. ^ a b c d e Dominguez, 248
  3. ^ "Mariana of Austria (1634–1696), Queen of Spain". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  4. ^ Dominguez, 131
  5. ^ "Mariana of Austria. Queen of Spain". Museo del Prado. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  6. ^ Dominguez, 251

Sources[edit]