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Louis I, Prince of Asturias
Houasse, Michel-Ange
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Houasse, Michel-Ange

Paris (France), 1680 - Arpajon (France), 1730

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Louis I, Prince of Asturias

1717. Oil on canvas.
Room 039

Michel-Ange Houasse, son of the painter René-Antoine Houasse (c.1645-1710), had enjoyed a long career during the reign of Louis XIV of France (r.1643-1715). From 1715 until his death, Michel-Ange worked in the court in Madrid during the reign of the first Bourbon monarch, Philip V (r.1700-24 and 1724-46), creating interesting landscape paintings, genre scenes, religious paintings and portraits. The present canvas shows the crown prince dressed in the habit of a novitiate of the Order of the Holy Spirit and, as the inscription along the bottom of the painting indicates, he was ten when this work was painted in August 1717. Previously attributed to Louis-Michel van Loo (1707-71), the eminent Spanish scholar Elías Tormo y Monzó (1869-1957) reattributed it to Houasse following a stylistic analysis. There are various copies of this painting in private collections, but their quality is in general quite mediocre, suggesting that they were not produced in the painter´s circle, but are merely inferior imitations. The painting´s subject -the future king of Spain,Louis I- was born in Madrid in 1707. The son of Philip V and María Luisa of Savoy, he was the first Prince of Asturias from the House of Bourbon, a title conferred upon him in the Cortes of Castile in April 1709. In 1720, he married Louise Élisabeth d´Orléans, daughter of the Regent of France, in Lerma, Burgos. Upon his father´s abdication in January 1724, Louis ruled for a mere seven months, dying on 31 August 1724 without a successor. As a consequence, his father, Philip V, resumed the Crown, ruling until his death in 1746. Louis is represented in a palace interior dressed in a silver-grey costume with a serene bearing and a delicately delineated face, lacking the childlike liveliness one would expect in someone of his age. The painting appears to combine something of the interpretive sobriety characteristic of Spanish court portraits from the previous century, here rendered as stiffness, with the decorative tendencies of the French aesthetic, although in a schematic fashion. Houasse has created a splendid contrast between the cold range of colours in the figure of the sitter and the warm tones of his surroundings. The painting is executed with great precision and the colours are harmonious and refined. The even light, which falls from the viewer´s left side of the canvas, illuminates the sitter before a neutral background, which contributes to the sense of volume in the entire arrangement. This painting belongs within the current of international European painting inspired by the French portraiture of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, exemplified in the work of such artists as Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), Nicolas de Largillière (1656-1746), Alexis-Simon Belle (1674-1734), Robert Levrac-Tournières (1667-1752) and Jean François De Troy (1679-1752). Houasse´s painting reveals the characteristic features of these painters´ work, but it lacks the baroque impulse that lies behind their mastery. Despite the work´s somewhat stiff technique, it nonetheless possesses a certain gracefulness. It is true that, as an official portrait, the sitter displays an elegant, even stern bearing, reinforced by his sumptuous dress and his dynastic insignias. Even so, one may still perceive a certain childlike charm; Houasse suggests the prince´s individualism through his treatment of the boy´s gestures, his direct gaze and the focus on his facial expression, in particular, the soft smile on his lips. Houasse´s portraits must not have pleased Philip V, for he hired Jean Ranc (1674-1735), another French painter, in his place. Ranc executed countless portraits of members of the royal family in a more contemporary style, presenting the sitters in sumptuous, spectacular settings. However, it was not until the arrival of Van Loo, who worked in Spain from 1737 to 1752, that a painter would achieve the kind of royal portraiture, with an appearance of modernity, desired by the Bourbon court (Luna, J. J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 90).


Technical data

Inventory number
Houasse, Michel-Ange
Louis I, Prince of Asturias
Height: 172 cm; Width: 112 cm
Royal Collection (¿Real Alcázar, Madrid, 1734?; ¿Palacio Real del Buen Retiro Madrid, 1747?; ¿Buen Retiro, galería del mediodía, 1772, nº 741?; ¿Buen Retiro, 1794?).

Bibliography +

Inventario de las Pinturas del Museo Hecho a la Muerte del Rey Fernado VII, Madrid, 1834, pp. 69, nº12.

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier; Pita Andrade, José Manuel, Los retratos de los Reyes de España, Omega, Barcelona, 1948, pp. lám. 141.

Held, J., Michel-Ange Houasse in Spanien. Separata. Munchner Jahrbuch., Munchner Jahrbuch Der Bildenden Kun, Múnich, 1968, pp. 188.

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

Bottineau, Yves, Un probleme d'attribution: le portrait de don Luis, prince des Asturies au Prado, Bulletin de la Societé de l'historie de l'art francais, 1976, pp. 111-114.

L' art européen á la cour d'Espagne au XVIIIe siecle, Reunion des musees nationaux, Paris, 1979, pp. 120.

Baticle, J., Pita Andrade, J. M., El arte europeo en la corte de España durante el siglo XVIII, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General del Patrimonio Artístico y Museos, Madrid, 1980, pp. 121.

Luna, Juan J., Houasse en la Corte de Madrid. Notas y Documentos, Instituto de Estudios Madrileños, 1981, pp. nº 1.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 334.

Bottineau, Yves, El arte cortesano en la España de Felipe V (1700-1746), Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid, 1986, pp. lám. CVI-B.

Iglesias, Maria del Carmen, Carlos III y la ilustración: 1788-1988, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1988, pp. 436, nº4.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº1961.

Du Duc D'Anjou a Philippe V Le Premier Bourbon D'Espagne, Conseil General, París, 1993.

La Pintura Española, Electa, Milán, 1995, pp. 396 / lám. 484.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds Mercator Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 552.

El Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonso: retrato y escena del rey, Patrimonio Nacional; El Viso, Madrid, 2000, pp. 330.

El arte en la corte de Felipe V, Fundación Caja-Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, Museo Nacional del Prado., Madrid, 2002, pp. 115, 438.

Siglo XVIII: España, el sueño de la razón, Fundación Arte Arte y Ciudadania, Madrid,Rio Janeiro, 2002, pp. 197.

Aterido Fernández, Ángel; Martínez Cuesta, Juan; Pérez Preciado, José Juan, Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio. Inventarios Reales, II, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004, pp. 414.

Curie, P., Un jeune prince espagnol au Museé de Lons-le -Saunier, 6, 2008, pp. 56-61.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 90-91 nº6.

Martínez Plaza, Pedro J., El gabinete de descanso de sus majestades, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2019.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1961.
Escuela Francesa / 1961. Retrato del Infante Principe de Asturias. / Alto 6 pies, 2 pulg; ancho 4 pies.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 2111f.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 2387.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 2387.

Inscriptions +

Numº. 1961. / del Principe de Astu- / rias, D. Luis de Borbón; este / cuadro estaba en la sala de / descanso de este Rl. Establecimiento
Handwritten label. Stretcher

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in black. Front, lower left corner

2387 / MICHELANGE HOUASSE / (1680 + 1730) / LUIS I DE ESPAÑA
Wood nameplate. Frame, front, lower bar

Réunion des Musées Nationaux Paris. No cat. 59
Printed label. Stretcher

SIT. Exp "Felipe V", no obra 29
Printed label. Stretcher

M.N.PRADO / 02387
On metallic tablet. Stretcher

M.N.PRADO / M00297
Handwritten label. Frame, back, lower bar

Nº 2387
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

MADRID-PRADO / MICHEL ANGE-HOUASSE / LOUIS I / nº / 59 / T.172x112 / caisse 5
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

L'art européen á la Cour d'Espagne au XVIII eme siècle: Galerie / des Beaux-Arts, BORDEAUX (4 mayo-1 sept. 1979) (1 oct.-31 dic. 1979) nº cat 59
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

Exhibitions +

Their Majesties’ Retiring Room
09.04.2019 - 12.10.2021

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Brisbane, Australia
21.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

El arte en la corte de Felipe V
30.10.2002 - 26.01.2003

El Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonso. retrato y escena del rey
La Granja
15.06.2000 - 15.10.2000

Du Duc D´Anjou a Philippe V
05.04.1993 - 27.06.1993

Carlos III y la Ilustración
27.02.1989 - 16.04.1989

Carlos III y la Ilustración
09.11.1988 - 22.01.1989

Location +

Room 039 (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Update date: 24-11-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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