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Lady with a Fan
Sánchez Coello, Alonso
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Sánchez Coello, Alonso

Benifairó del Valls, Valencia (Spain), 1531 - Madrid (Spain), 1588

Sánchez Coello, Alonso See author's file

Lady with a Fan

1570 - 1573. Oil on panel.
Not on display

In this half-length portrait, the lady is wearing a dark brown velvet overdress luxuriously ornamented with gold chain-stitched embroidery, slit sleeves, and a high collar open in front in the Flemish style. This is a notable example of Spanish portraiture during the reign of Philip II. To begin with, it is painted on a finegrained reddish tropical wood, mahogany perhaps, a support that was quite unusual in sixteenth-century painting. Another element that bears remarking is the folding Japanese-type fan the lady is carrying, a nod to the customs and portrayals of women from Portugal, where the first Oriental fans arrived in the late fifteenth century. The links by marriage between the courts of Madrid and Lisbon brought this accessory to Spain and other European capitals. Fans soon became a part of every noble woman’s vestments, as well as an instrument of courtship and flirtation and an indicator of social standing; they joined the traditional handkerchiefs and missals held by elite sitters for portraits. In this case, the lady is holding the fan in a somewhat strange and original way: she holds the base in her right hand and seems to caress it with her left, whose fingers, the two middle ones oddly crossed, are extended rather stiffly. One might ask whether this portrayal corresponds to some court formula of flirtation or courtship, some specific meaning, but for the moment this is no more than a hypothesis impossible to prove.

The arrangement of the lady’s arms, the fact that the right hand has been partly cut off, and the irregularities in the perimeter of the painting indicate that the work was originally larger, and possibly conceived as a seated portrait, similar to some images of ladies of the upper nobility painted by Titian (Empress Isabel of Portugal, 1548, Prado), Antonio Moro (Mary Tudor, Queen of England, 1554, Prado), and Sánchez Coello himself (Princess Juana, Descalzas Reales). It may, in fact, be the portrait described in 1686 in the inventory of the small pieces in the vaults -a lady holding a fan painted on wood panel- whose dimensions were similar to those of the portrait of Mary Tudor painted by Moro (Prado, P2108) and the portrait by Titian’s studio of Philip II with an ermine collar (Prado, P452). In the inventory of assets included in the testamentary documents of Ferdinand VII, the work is attributed to Sánchez Coello, at a value of 800 reales, quite high in comparison to other portraits (El Greco’s Nobleman with His Hand on His Chest, for example, valued at 540 reales). Somewhat later, in the Prado’s general inventory of 1849, the subject of the portrait was identified as a Spanish infanta. She is probably one of the sisters of Philip II.

This suggestion was ignored later, despite the fact that the lady’s features are quite reminiscent of the characteristic features of the Spanish Austrians: the light eyes with circles under them, the bridge of the nose, the somewhat triangular chin, and the abundant, curly, reddish hair.

In the view of Stephanie Breuer, neither the technique nor the composition of the work reflects the usual characteristics of Sánchez Coello, and María Kusche has attributed it to Flemish painter Rolan de Mois. On the other hand, Carmen Garrido, who studied the painting for the catalogue of the exhibition that the Prado dedicated to Sánchez Coello (in which, however, the painting was not included), has praised the quality of the work and notes its technical parallelism with other portraits by this artist. Finally, a recent cleaning of the painting has cleared up many of the doubts as to its attribution, and the name of Sánchez Coello seems most appropriate to explain the pictorial resolution of the head, which is quite descriptive and delicate in its handling, although this hypothesis cannot, of course, be considered conclusive (Ruiz, L.: El Greco to Goya. Masterpieces from the Prado Museum, Museo de Arte de Ponce, 2012, pp. 121-122).

Technical data

Inventory number
Sánchez Coello, Alonso
Lady with a Fan
1570 - 1573
Height: 62.6 cm; Width: 55 cm
Royal Collection (Quinta del duque del Arco, El Pardo-Madrid, pieza sexta del gabinete, 1794, nº 133).

Bibliography +

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.132.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 613.

Barghahn, Barbara Von, Philip IV and the Golden House of the Buen Retiro in the Tradition of Caesar, Garland PublishingInc., Nueva York, 1986, pp. 293.

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

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. 337.

Sánchez-Ramon, Mar, Oriente en Palacio: Tesoros Asiaticos en las Colecciones Rey, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 2003.

Kusche, Maria, Retratos y retratadores: Alonso Sanchez Coello y sus competidores, Fundación de Apoyo a la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2003, pp. 120.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, La dama del abanico (h. 1570-1573)., En El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2006, pp. 60, n. 9.

Del Greco a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado, Museo de Arte de Ponce. MNP. AC/E, 2012, pp. 54-55.

Rodríguez Bernis, Sofía, 'Vestir el 'cuerpo social'. Graves, gallardos y honestas en la Edad de Oro' En:, La moda española en el Siglo de Oro., Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha. Fundación Cultura y Deporte, 2015, pp. 103-111 [110-111].

Prado 12 Raksturi = 12 Characters from Prado Museum, Latvian National Museum of Art, 2017, pp. n.4.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1038.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1142.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1142.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Quinta duque del Arco, 1794. Núm. 133.
Pieza 6ª del Gavinete [...] {4835} 133 / Otro de tres quartas de alto y dos tercias de ancho, con el retrato de una Señora con un Abanico en la mano en ... 100

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 538.
Sánchez Coello. / 538. Retrato de una infanta de España. / Será probablemente algunas de las hermanas de Felipe 2º (busto con manos: en la izquierda tiene un abanico.) (tabla.) / Alto 2 pies, 4 pulg, 9 lin; ancho 2 pies.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 538.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in yellow. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in gray. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

12 Characters from Prado Museum
24.03.2017 - 16.07.2017

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
01.10.2016 - 01.01.2017

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
01.06.2016 - 01.09.2016

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
La Coruña
09.05.2016 - 29.05.2016

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
15.10.2015 - 16.01.2016

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
12.06.2015 - 20.09.2015

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
04.02.2015 - 17.05.2015

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
17.09.2014 - 04.01.2015

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
14.02.2014 - 20.07.2014

Los objetos hablan. Colecciones del Museo del Prado
23.10.2013 - 19.01.2014

From El Greco to Goya: Masterpieces from the Museo del Prado
Ponce, Puerto Rico
25.03.2012 - 16.07.2012

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
12.06.2007 - 02.09.2007

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
05.03.2007 - 20.05.2007

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
12.12.2006 - 18.02.2007

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
19.09.2006 - 26.11.2006

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
22.06.2006 - 21.08.2006

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
Santiago de Compostela
09.03.2006 - 14.05.2006

Oriente en Palacio. Tesoros asiáticos en las colecciones reales
01.07.2003 - 31.08.2003

Oriente en Palacio. Tesoros asiáticos en las colecciones reales
01.03.2003 - 30.06.2003

Las tierras y los hombres del rey
22.10.1998 - 10.01.1999

Displayed objects +

Fan: Otro elemento a destacar es el abanico plegable japonés que porta la dama, una incorporación a los usos y representaciones femeninas proveniente de Portugal, adonde llegaron los primeros abanicos orientales a finales del siglo XV.

Jewels: Destaca el aderezo de perlas, presente en el collar doble y cabello.

Clothing / Dress: Dama cubierta con vestido de color noguerado, lujosamente guarnecido por cadenetas doradas, con mangas rajadas y alto cuello abierto por delante a la manera flamenca.

Update date: 02-02-2023 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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