Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma1603. Oil on canvas, 290.5 x 207.5 cm.
Felipe III´s favorite, Francisco de Sandoval y Rojas, Marquis of Denia and First Duke of Lerma is shown as chief of the Spanish Armies. Wearing half armor, he rides a white steed and carries a ruler´s staff. The scallop of the Knights of Saint James at his neck is the only decorative element in this portrait, whose decidedly military orientation is reinforced by the cavalry battle in the background. Made in 1603, during Rubens´ first visit to Spain, this work shows the power and vigor of portraits from his first period, and his capacity to capture the model´s personality. Here he reflects the haughtiness and pride of the Duke´s powerful political situation. Basing his composition on Titian´s Portait of Carlos V in Mühlberg (P00410), Rubens depicts the duke facing forward, advancing toward the viewer. This creates a very Baroque effect, which is multiplied by the palm tree that frames the figure. With this painting, Rubens created a model for equestrian portraits that would prove very influential later on, especially in works by Van Dyck and Gaspar de Crayer. After the Duke of Lerma fell from grace, this painting entered the Royal Collection, but was later given to the Admiral of Castile by Felipe IV. It passed through the collections of several noblemen before it was acquired by the Prado Museum in 1969.