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Studio of Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of the Infanta Isabella

Key facts
Full title Portrait of the Infanta Isabella
Artist Studio of Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Series The Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella
Date made about 1615
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 120.5 × 88.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Richard C. Jackson, 1923
Inventory number NG3819
Location Room 20
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of the Infanta Isabella
Studio of Peter Paul Rubens

Isabella Clara Eugenia, Archduchess of Austria, was the daughter of King Philip II of Spain. She is shown sumptuously dressed in black and gold, with a spectacularly large ruff and spiky lace cuffs. She looks out at us with a hint of a smile in her eyes and around her mouth.

In 1599 Isabella married her cousin Albert, Archduke of Austria, and they were made joint Sovereign of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands by her father. When Albert died in 1621, Isabella was confirmed as sovereign in her own right. She tried untiringly to bring an end to the fighting in the Netherlands that broke out after the failure of a 12-year truce between the Protestant Northern Provinces, which were struggling for independence from Spain, and the Southern Provinces (Flanders), which were predominantly Roman Catholic.

Rubens was both court painter and a trusted adviser of Isabella throughout her reign. When she died in 1633, she was described by her chaplain as ‘the wisest and most accomplished princess'.

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The Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella


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.