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Portrait of the Archduke Albert
Studio of Peter Paul Rubens
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Against a deep red background, the Archduke Albert of Austria turns towards us with a direct but gentle gaze. His left hand is on the pommel of his sword but his pose is relaxed and unintimidating. His right arm is turned towards us, showing off the delicate pattern of his sleeve and the lace ruffle at his wrist. Albert was part of the Habsburg family, one of the powerful reigning dynasties in Europe at the time, and some of his features are unmistakably Habsburg: long cheeks, an aquiline nose and a high brow.

Philip II of Spain appointed Albert as Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and he took on the task of subduing the rebellious Protestants in the seven Northern Provinces. Shortly afterwards he married Isabella, Philip’s favourite daughter. The couple held joint sovereignty of the Netherlands until Albert’s death in 1621.

Key facts
Artist Studio of Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Full title Portrait of the Archduke Albert
Series The Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella
Date made about 1615
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 122 x 89 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Richard C. Jackson, 1923
Inventory number NG3818
Location in Gallery Not on display
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The Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella

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These two portraits were made as pendants, or companion pieces, and would have hung side by side. They show the Archduke Albert of Austria and the Infanta (or Princess) Isabella, joint sovereigns of the Seventeen Provinces of the Spanish Netherlands. The position was granted to them by Isabella’s father, Philip II of Spain, on their marriage in 1599.

The Southern Provinces (Flanders) were, like Spain, Roman Catholic, but the Northern Provinces were predominantly Protestant and had fought hard for independence. Albert and Isabella were, in effect, rulers of Flanders only, but they had a strong sense of duty to the people as well as to the Spanish crown, and set out to create a sense of national identity. They were patrons of the arts and made Rubens court painter.

The portraits are likely to be studio copies rather than by Rubens himself. They were possibly made after two originals which are now lost but which are known through prints made after them.

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