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Don Sebastian, King of Portugal
Sánchez Coello, Alonso (After Soleri, Giorgio)
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Sánchez Coello, Alonso (After Soleri, Giorgio)

Don Sebastian, King of Portugal

Ca. 1580. Oil on canvas. On display elsewhere

This three-quarters portrait is especially direct, thanks to the absence of any background elements other than the model´s powerful shadow. It presents don Sebastian (1554-1580) in the final years of his brief life, dressed in the Spanish style, with a black jerkin and matching cape that bring out the sumptuousness of his breeches and doublet, embroidered in gold on a white background. To convey his condition as a Christian soldier, the king holds the pommel of his sword and wears the cross of the Order of Christ—as king of Portugal, he was grand master of that order—on his chest. The gloves in his right hand are a common sign of distinction in portraits of the Habsburgs, especially in those of his mother, the infanta doña Juana.

Sebastian was born in Lisbon in January 1554, just days after the death of his father, Prince John, who was King John III´s only son. His mother, Spanish infanta Juana de Austria, returned to Castile four months after his birth, so he was raised by his paternal grandmother, Reagent Queen Catherine. Reasons of state kept Juana from ever seeing her son again, so the portraits that arrived frequently in Spain were her only way of following her son´s growth. A youth educated in knightly values and eager to become the armed wing of the Catholic cause, he ignored wiser council and traveled to Africa in June 1578, where he perished in battle on the plains of Alcazarquivir on August 5 of that same year. His body was never found, and he thus became a legendary figure. As he had no direct heirs, Portugal became a part of the Spanish crown through dynastic inheritance. This generated a phenomenon known as "sebastianism," which lasted for years, and consisted of individuals who attempted to pass for the monarch, claiming they had finally been freed from their imprisonment.

Esplendores de Espanha de el Greco a Velazquez, Río De Janeiro, Arte Viva, 2000, p.55

Technical data

Inventory number
Sánchez Coello, Alonso (After Soleri, Giorgio)
Don Sebastian, King of Portugal
Ca. 1580
Height: 114 cm.; Width: 91 cm.
Royal Collection (Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, pinturas que quedaron sin colgar en la última pieza de la Furriera, 1747, nº 718; Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, 1794, nº 389)

Bibliography +

Orihuela, Mercedes, El ''Prado disperso''. Cuadros depositados en Fuenterrabía, Boletín del Museo del Prado, 11, 1990, pp. 90.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Jordan, Annemarie, Retrato de Corte Em Portugal. O Legado de Antonio Moro 1552-1572, Quetzal Editores, Lisboa, 1994.

Arias Montano y Su Tiempo, Editora Regional de Extremadura, Mérida, 1998.

Esplendores de Espanha de el Greco a Velazquez, Arte Viva, Río De Janeiro, 2000, pp. 55.

Pérez de Tudela, Almudena, 'Regalos y retratos. Los años de la infanta Catalina Micaela en la Corte de Madrid (1567-1584)' En:, Carocci, Roma, 2013, pp. 97-141 [105-106].

Martínez Leiva, Gloria; Rodríguez Rebollo, Ángel, El inventario del Alcázar de Madrid de 1666. Felipe IV y su colección artística, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, 2015, pp. 390 nº 424.

Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, Palacio Nuevo, 1747. Núm. 718.
PINTURAS EXISTENTES ANTIGUAS [...] P / Pinturas que quedaron sin colgar en esta vltima pieza [de la Furriera] [...] {10712} 718 / Otro Retrato antiguo de vn Baron con vna Benera del Auitto de Xpto de vara y media escasa de alto y mas de vara de ancho original de Alonso Sanchez en 360 reales

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 389.
Otra [pintura] de Pantoja: Retrato de medio cuerpo de un Personage: de vara y tercia de alto y vara de ancho marco biejo...800

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 2177.
Escuela española / 2177. Retrato de caballero con gola, etc. / Alto 4 pies, 1 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 3 pulg.



Exhibitions +

De El Greco a Velázquez. La cultura española durante la Unión Ibérica, 1580-1640
Río de Janeiro
12.07.2000 - 24.09.2000

Arias Montano y su tiempo
20.03.1998 - 17.05.1998

Location +

San Sebastián - Museo de San Telmo (Deposit)

Displayed objects +

Order of Christ (Portuguese Military Order): Sobre el pecho luce la cruz de la orden de Cristo.

Clothing / Dress: Con coleto y tudesco negros que subrayan la riqueza de las calzas y el jubón, bordados en oro sobre fondo blanco.

Update date: 12-12-2020 | Registry created on 24-08-2015

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