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Isabel de Valois holding a Portrait of Philip II
Anguissola, Sofonisba
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Anguissola, Sofonisba

Cremona (Italy), 1535 - Palermo (Italy), 1625

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Isabel de Valois holding a Portrait of Philip II

1561 - 1565. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

This portrait is a full-length likeness of Philip II’s third wife, Queen Isabel de Valois. She wears a black gown with pointed sleeves and a long train that is curled around her body and billows at the back. Poking out from beneath her hanging sleeves, held in place with ruby and diamond buttons and lined in white fabric, are silver and gold undersleeves. The one-piece gown is decorated with applied velvet in different textures and shades of black and is fastened in the front with pearl toggles, which were given to the queen´s chief lady-in-waiting, the 3rd Duchess of Alba, after Isabel died. Her headdress consists of many jewels intertwined with her hair - which, according to reports, was styled this way almost on a daily basis. She also sports a necklace and a belt of diamonds and pearls.

The queen holds a miniature of her husband of the kind she commissioned from Alonso Sánchez Coello (c. 1531-1588) shortly after arriving at the Spanish court, such as one on silver that was sent to France. These miniatures were sometimes decorated with gold and coloured enamel in the manner of precious metal frames, like the one in the French queen’s hand. In it the king wears a black cassock adorned with buttons and the badge of the Golden Fleece hangs from a red silk ribbon around his neck - an image that recalls his portraits of the period as King of England. The inclusion of the miniature of Isabel’s husband in court costume has led some historians to associate the portrait with the role the queen played at the Conference of Bayonne in June 1565, where she held talks with her mother Catherine de´ Medici and her brother Charles IX, King of France, on behalf of Philip II. Sofonisba had previously painted the queen in 1561; that work, which may have been similar to the bust-length likeness executed during her Genoese period, now in Vienna, was held to be the finest of all of Isabel’s portraits.

Beside the young queen is a polychromed jasper column that is characteristic of these state portraits and alludes to her husband´s lineage. There also seems to have been a window -another portraiture device for evoking palace interiors- behind the queen. Still visible at the sides of the painting is the wooden frame with trompe l´oeil moulding that paired it with the portrait of Philip II at the Battle of Saint-Quentin executed by Anthonis Mor (c. 1516-1576) in 1557, which was moved to Valladolid in 1600 and is now lost.

The present portrait was attributed to Sánchez Coello until only recently. However, details such as the lead white ground have inclined scholars to ascribe it to Sofonisba. The X-radiographs also show pentimenti in the position of Philip II´s portrait and at the base of the column. There may originally have been a curtain in the background.

When Philip II died in 1598 it was described as being in the treasury of the Madrid Alcázar, protected by a blue taffeta curtain, as was common practice with many paintings in the royal collection. When Philip III moved the court to Valladolid, it was hung on the north wall of the gallery overlooking the garden in the royal palace in that city. In June 1606 Bartolomé Carducho (1560-1608) attributed it to Sánchez Coello. In 1636 it was chosen to decorate the Buen Retiro palace; its presence is documented there until after Charles III´s death and the number in white in the lower left corner relates to the 1794 inventory. At the time it appears to have still preserved the whole fictive wood frame, which was subsequently cut down at the upper and lower edges, possibly when it was restored in the nineteenth century. It entered the Royal Museum of Paintings in 1857.

Pérez de Tudela, Almudena, 'Atribuido a Sofonisba Anguissola. Isabel de Valois sosteniendo un retrato de Felipe II' En:. Historia de dos pintoras: Sofonisba Anguissola y Lavinia Fontana., Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado,, 2019, p.140-142 nº. 24

Technical data

Inventory number
Anguissola, Sofonisba
Isabel de Valois holding a Portrait of Philip II
1561 - 1565
Height: 206 cm; Width: 123 cm
Royal Collection (ingresa en el Museo en 1845 procedente de El Escorial)

Bibliography +

Lefort, Paul, La Peinture Espagnole, Librairies Imprimeries Reunies, París, 1893, pp. 131/lam. 42.

Dayot, Armand, Le Prado de Madrid, I, Editions Pierre Lafitte, Paris, 1914, pp. 99.

Beruete y Moret, Aureliano de, Conferencias de arte, Establecimiento Tip. de Blass, Madrid, 1924, pp. 17-71.

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier; Pita Andrade, José Manuel, Los retratos de los Reyes de España, Omega, Barcelona, 1948, pp. 125.

Menéndez Pidal, Ramón, Historia de España, XIX, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1958, pp. 420,550, 677/lám. 447, 528.

Kusche, Maria, Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, Castalia, Madrid, 1964, pp. 193-194.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Breuer, Stephanie, Werke Sánchez Coello, Uni Druck, Munich, 1984, pp. lám. 86.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 614-615.

Barghahn, Barbara Von, Philip IV and the Golden House of the Buen Retiro in the Tradition of Caesar, Garland PublishingInc, Nueva York. Londres, 1986, pp. lám. 1158.

Alonso Sánchez Coello y el retrato en la corte de Felipe II, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1990, pp. 133.

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

Campbell, Lorne, Renaissance Portraits. European Portrait Painting in the 14t, Yale University Press, New Haven.Londres, 1990, pp. 219.

Perlingieri, I.S., Sofonisba Anguissola. The First Great Woman Artist of the Renaissance, Rizzoli, Nueva York, 1992, pp. 125/lám. 74.

Sofonisba Anguissola e le sue sorelle [textos: Mina Gregori., Leonardo Arte, Cremona, 1994, pp. 234.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds Mercator Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 223.

Las tierras y los hombres del rey: Felipe II, un monarca y su época, Sociedad Estatal Commemoracion de Los Centenarios de Felipe II y Carlos V, Madrid, 1998, pp. 197.

Brown, Jonathan, Painting in Spain 1500-1700, Yale University Press, Yale, 1998, pp. 51/lám. 70.

Checa Cremades, Fernando, Carlos V. Retratos de Familia, Madrid, 2000, pp. 193-206 [202].

El linaje del emperador, Sociedad Estatal para la Conmemoración de los Centenarios de Felipe II y Carlos V, Madrid, 2000, pp. 368.

Humfrey, Peter, Giovanni Battista Moroni. Renaissance Portraitist., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 2000, pp. 50/lám. 32.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 174.

Kusche, Maria, Retratos y retratadores: Alonso Sanchez Coello y sus competidores, Fundación de Apoyo a la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2003, pp. 215.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, En nombre del Rey 'El retrato de Juana de Austria' del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Buletina, 6.II, 2007, pp. 85-123 [114].

El retrato del Renacimiento, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, pp. 402-403.

Édouard, Sylvène, Le corps d' une reine : histoire singulière d' Élisabeth de..., Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009.

Torre Fazio, Julia de la, El retrato español en miniatura bajo los reinados de Felipe II y Felipe III, Universidad de Málaga, Servicio de Publicaciones, Málaga, 2010, pp. 69, 107 fg.46.

Bodart, Diane H., Pouvoirs du portrait : sous les Habsbourg d' Espagne, CTHS Editions, 2011.

Sebastián Lozano, Jorge, Sofonisba Anguissola. Una mirada femenina en la corte. En:, Fundación Amigos Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 185-206 [198-200].

Édouard, Sylvène, 'Isabel de Valois, hispanizada en la corte de Felipe II' En: Vestir a la española en las cortes europeas (siglos XVI y XVII), II, CEEH, Madrid, 2014, pp. 237-266 [250 f.9].

Arbeteta, Leticia, 'La joyería en España y Europa en la época de Cervantes' En:, La moda española en el Siglo de Oro., Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha. Fundación Cultura y Deporte, 2015, pp. 133-155 [141].

Gamberini, Cecilia, 'Sofonisba Anguissola at the Court of Philip II' En: Women artists in early modern Italy, Harvey Miller / Brepols,, 2016, pp. 29-38 [31-32 f.2 nt.5].

Pérez de Tudela, Almudena, 'Atribuido a Sofonisba Anguissola. Isabel de Valois sosteniendo un retrato de Felipe II' En:, Historia de dos pintoras: Sofonisba Anguissola y Lavinia Fontana., Museo Nacional del Prado,, Madrid, 2019, pp. 140-142 nº. 24.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 2936.
2936. Id. de Dª Maria ana de Austria en trage de viuda. Carreño. / Alto 7 pies, 6 pulg; ancho 4 pies, 6 pulg

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 925.
925.-(" -C)-Retrato de la Reina Doña Isabel de Valois, ó de la Paz, en pié, con saya negra de cuello alto y mangas perdidas, jubon interior de raso blanco vareteado de oro, y muchas joyas. Tiene la mano derecha apoyada en la basa de la columna, y en ella un medallon con el retrato de su marido Felipe II.-Figura de cuerpo entero y tamaño natural.-Su autenticidad ofrece dudas. / Decoraba el ant.Alc. y Pal. de Madrid cuando ocurrió el incendio de 1734./ Alto 2,05; ancho 1,23.-L.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 928.
Otra [pintura] de Alonso Sanchez, con el retrato entº. de una Reina en el trage antiguo Español, con marco fingido en el mismo quadro, de tres varas menos tercia de alto y vara y mª. de ancho ... 300

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Scrap of paper. Frame, back

Inscribed with chalk. Back

63 ps 34 3/4
Inscribed in black. Back

92 GG30
Inscribed. Stretcher

Inscribed with chalk. Stretcher

Inscribed. Stretcher

Numº 530 / Retto de Señora cuerpo / entero, con un retrati- / to en la mano
Handwritten label. Stretcher

EDICT / Exposición El linaje del Emperador / Propietario Museo del Prado / Autor Sofonisba Anguissola / Título Isabel de Valois / Nº Orden 19 Nº Caja 19
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

nº 1031 / Pantoja de la Cruz / Procede de la caja 5A
Handwritten label. Stretcher

Handwritten label. Stretcher

M.N.PRADO / 01031
On metallic tablet. Stretcher

Nº 1031 [dos veces]
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

Exhibitions +

[Exposición sin confirmar] A History of Spain. Treasures of the Museo del Prado. From El Greco to Goya.
01.01.2023 - 01.01.2023

Sofonisba - History's forgotten miracle
03.09.2022 - 15.01.2023

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

A Tale of Two Women Painters: Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana
22.10.2019 - 02.02.2020

Meta-painting. A Journey to the Idea of Art
15.11.2016 - 19.02.2017

El retrato del Renacimiento. The Renaissance Portrait
03.06.2008 - 07.09.2008

El linaje del Emperador
24.10.2000 - 08.01.2001

Las tierras y los hombres del rey
22.10.1998 - 10.01.1999

Sofonisba Anguissola e la sue sorelle
Washington DC
07.04.1995 - 25.06.1995

Sofonisba Anguissola e la sue sorelle
15.01.1995 - 26.03.1995

Sofonisba Anguissola e la sue sorelle
17.09.1994 - 11.12.1994

Displayed objects +

Jewels: Luce tradicional cintura en V y botonadura, todo ello elaborado en oro y piedras preciosas. Lleva collar de garganta y diadema, como también sortijas. En su mano derecha porta una miniatura oval del rey Felipe II, engastada en oro y piedras preciosas.

Artistic objects: La referencia más explícita al Rey se presenta al espectador gracias a la miniatura oval, engastada en oro y piedras preciosas, con la efigie de Felipe II -quizá la que pintara Sánchez Coello-, sostenida por la mano derecha que reposa junto a una columna -símbolo de Hércules y de la familia Habsburgo-, y por tanto alusión directa y reiterativa al linaje dinástico.

Clothing / Dress: En negro casi completo, viste saya con mangas en punta donde deja ver las manguillas de color blanco bordadas en oro. La vestimenta está guarnecida exquisitamente con aplicaciones hechas con perlas y botonaduras elaboradas en oro y piedras preciosas. Destaca el elaborado cuello de lechuguilla hecho en encaje y bordados dorados.

Update date: 24-01-2023 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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