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Philippe de Champaigne, Cardinal de Richelieu

Key facts
Full title Cardinal de Richelieu
Artist Philippe de Champaigne
Artist dates 1602 - 1674
Date made 1633-40
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 259.5 × 178.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by Charles Butler, 1895
Inventory number NG1449
Location Room 31
Collection Main Collection
Cardinal de Richelieu
Philippe de Champaigne

In this full-length portrait, Armand-Jean du Plessis, duc de Richelieu (1585–1642) wears the robe and skull cap of a cardinal. This position had been granted to him in 1622. His left hand lifts the robe to reveal a delicate layer of lace, also visible on his sleeves, beneath the great expanse of sumptuous red fabric. Richelieu is painted larger than life-size, although his small head is out of proportion with his body. His tall and imposing appearance is accentuated by the block of colour of his robes and their generous folds. Around his neck hangs the cross of the Order of the Holy Spirit, symbolised by the dove. On the right, a highly ornate chair with a deeply padded cushion indicates his high-ranking office as France’s Chief Minister.

Unusually, Richelieu is shown standing, as was traditional for secular figures, rather than seated, as was usual for the clergy. He holds a biretta, a cardinal’s hat, at arm’s length: this gesture embodies his dual role as a powerful figure of Church and state. The richly embroidered golden curtain has been opened to reveal the terrace and garden, beyond which may be a view of Richelieu’s château at Rueil, near Paris.

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