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Margaret of Austria
Probably by Pieter van Coninxloo
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This elegantly dressed young lady is Margaret of Austria, one of the most important female rulers of the Renaissance. The only daughter of Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, she was regent of the Netherlands from 1507 till her death in 1530. The half-blank coat of arms at the top of the arch indicates that she is unmarried, so the painting was evidently done before her first marriage to Juan, Prince of Asturias, in 1495.

After the death of her second husband in 1501, Margaret, still only 21, refused to marry again and eventually became the grande dame of European politics. She was also an avid collector, owning van Eyck’s Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and his Wife (now also in the National Gallery) among many other paintings. She was a patron of art, literature and music, and her palace at Malines was packed with books, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries and even curiosities from the Americas, only recently explored by Europeans.

Key facts
Artist Probably by Pieter van Coninxloo
Artist dates active 1479; died 1513
Full title Margaret of Austria
Group Diptych: Philip the Handsome and Margaret of Austria
Date made about 1493-5
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 23.2 x 15.2 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2613.2
Location in Gallery Gallery A: Paintings 1250-1600
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Diptych: Philip the Handsome and Margaret of Austria

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This teenage brother and sister were the heirs of royalty and future rulers themselves. Philip the Handsome and Margaret of Austria were the children of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, and Mary of Burgundy. Each is identified by an inscription in gold above their head and by the coats of arms at the top of the arch. Around them are further coats of arms representing the states and towns their parents governed.

Philip (1478–1506), who was later King of Castile, wears the livery collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece – a prestigious chivalric order – which he received in 1481. Margaret (1480–1530) was to become one of the effective rulers of her day as regent of the Netherlands. This small diptych (a painting made up of two parts) was easily portable, and must have been done in the early 1490s, when various projects for Philip’s and Margaret’s marriages were matters of intense concern.

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