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DOCUMENTATION | Exhibitions: 1648 - War and Peace in Europe

Essay Volumes > Tome II: Art and culture

The Anatomy of Spanish Habsburg Portraits

Certain distinctive features in Spanish portraiture in the age of the Spanish Habsburgs have long been discerned. Sitters are seen to exude a sense of gravity, sobriety and formality. Men do not pose languidly against a classical column or velvet-draped table. Nonchalance is not their style. No one slouches or swaggers. Hats are never worn at a jaunty angle, elbows never jut out. These men never ooze charm nor are they overflowing with confidence. They stand aloof and detached, motionless and impassive. They do not gesticulate and engage in dialogue. Indeed, their reserve is striking and their modesty is proverbial. Men are usually dressed simply and in black (Fig. 1). Except on celebratory occasions, parading in colourful finery is not to their taste. Elegant they may be, but ostentatious they are not. Excess is avoided. Nor do these men indulge themselves in food and drink. On the contrary, their appearance is ascetic. Moderation also tempers their expressions. Laughter seems to have been frowned upon. There are no laughing cavaliers or boisterous groups of men gathered in convivial company. Indeed, grimacing and over-eating and inebriation - indecorous traits - seem to have been confined to the Picaresque novel, the 'bodegón' and court buffoons. In contrast, the Spanish Habsburgs appear grave, formal and modest, and imbued with a profound sense of piety.

Paradoxically, women appear to wear much make-up, especially rouge. Their skin is ivory white and their cheeks are roseate. In contrast to the women in 'bodegones', those in portraits never appear sallow in complexion. They are often dressed in sumptuous, embroidered silks and decked with jewels. Yet such dress masks the body and extends to their ankles, wrists and chin or neck. Bare forearms and décolletage are rarely in fashion. Status is conspicuous; sexuality is concealed. (Fig. 2)

Children in portraits never appear child-like. Like their elders, they behave stiffly and correctly. Unlike the scallywags in 'bodegones' and Picaresque literature, they never laugh or behave mischievously. They are seen and not heard. (Fig. 3)

The veracity of these twentieth-century, intuitive perceptions gains some credence from the comments on Spanish society, especially that of the court, by contemporary observers and travellers. In Baldassare Castiglione's Book of The Courtier, which he completed in Spain, Federigo Fregoso declares that: 'generally speaking, it strikes me that the customs of the Spaniards suit the Italians better than do those of the French, because the calm gravity that is peculiar to the Spaniards, is, I think, far more suited to us than the ready vivacity we see in the French in almost all their movements'. [1]

Elsewhere, Federigo acknowledges that: 'there are many presumptuous Spaniards, but I say that those who are highly esteemed are very modest on the whole. Then there are certain others who stand so aloof that they shun human society too much, and so far exceed a certain mean that they cause themselves to be regarded either as too timid or too proud'. [2]

In this context, it is interesting that the admiration of modesty extended to painting. According to Pacheco, Rubens was impressed by this very quality in Velázquez's paintings (which were mainly portraits): 'y favoreció mucho sus obras por su modestia'. [3]

The gravity of the Spaniards was also remarked upon by James Howell, a Welshman from Abernant in Carmarthenshire. Having travelled widely in Europe - the Low Countries, France, Italy and the Eastern seaboard of Spain - Howell was in a position to perceive the variety of contemporary social attitudes. His letters from Madrid, dated from 5th January 1622 to 15th March 1623, are important, essentially, for political history. He records the machinations surrounding the Spanish Match between Prince Charles and the Infanta María. Yet his letters also reveal much about the temperament of the Spaniards: 'Touching the People, [...] his excess is in too much gravity, which some who know him not well, hold to be pride.' [4] Howell also observed that the deportment of the Spaniard was formal and dignified: 'He walks as if he march'd, and seldom looks on the ground, as if he contemn'd it.' [5] Sobriety was another trait: '[...] the Spaniard is not so smooth and oily in his Compliment as the Italian; and tho' he will make strong protestations, yet he will not swear out Compliments like the French and English'. [6] Any conspicuous show of flattery was frowned upon: 'Here it is not the stile to claw and compliment with the King, or idolize him by "Sacred Sovereign", and "Most Excellent Majesty"'. [7]

The rejection of flattery reflected the Spaniard's modesty: 'Indeed I have read it to be a true Court Rule, that "descendendo ascendum est in Aula", descending is the way to ascend at Court. There is a kind of humility and compliance that is far from any servile baseness or sordid flattery, and may be term'd discretion rather than adulation'. [8]

Howell was also impressed by their piety. He lauded, for example, the practice of retiring to a monastery: 'It is a common, and indeed a commendable Custom among the Spaniards, when he hath passed his Grand Climacteric, and is grown decrepit [...] to retire to some place of Devotion and spend the residue of their days in Meditation, and in preparing themselves for another World. Charles the Emperor shew'd them the way, ... he retir'd into a Monastery, they (his two sisters) into a Nunnery. This does not suit with the Genius of an Englishman, who loves not to pull off his Clothes till he goes to bed'. [9] In matters of dress, Howell noted that the daily attire of men was modest, except that worn on ceremonial occasions. [10]

Another Welshman in Madrid, Sir Richard Wynn, who attended on the Prince of Wales as groom of the bedchamber, was amazed at the lavish amount of make-up put on by women, 'so visibly, that you would think they rather wore vizards than their own faces'. [11] This was no fleeting fashion. Earlier, in 1594, the Papal Nuncio, Camillo Borghese (the future Pope Paul V), also recorded that: 'The Women are generally dressed in black, as the men are also and around their face wear a veil as nuns do, ... all the women using as a rule the rouges whereby they alter their naturally brown complexions and they put on so much that they really seem painted.' [12]

As foreigners, the authors of these graphic descriptions of the manners and customs of contemporary Spaniards were in a unique position to discern what was distinctive. Thus it is significant that there is evidence to confirm that such social conventions were accurately represented in portraits. François Bertaut, who accompanied Marshal Gramont on a mission to Spain, recorded that at an audience with the King (16th October, 1659): 'The King of Spain was wearing a very simple costume and greatly resembled his portraits. He was standing beneath a very rich canopy at the end of the room. There was no one near him.' [13]

These visual and literary impressions give rise to a number of questions. Do they reveal the whole man or only his public face? If the latter, why were these specific qualities upheld by the sitter and discerned by the portraitist? Were these characteristics peculiar to Spain? Is the Spanishness of Spanish Habsburg portraiture a viable proposition?

Unequivocally, this evidence reveals that these forms of behaviour were perceived as uniform, distinctive and typical of the Spanish, as opposed to the English, French or Italians. They relate to national identity. They are not innate to the person. They are not manifestations of the natural body or psyche of the individual. Instead, they reflect, consciously or unconsciously, wholly or partly, particular social conventions. In that strictly hierarchical society, where the conduct of the king was archetypal, such behaviour implied the desire to be identified with his public persona. It indicated not only conformity to the status quo but also allegiance to the monarch. Social conventions and political attitudes were subtly intertwined.

Before examining the thinking behind these moreys, it is as well to be aware of modern assumptions about the appearance of present-day monarchs, such as Elizabeth II, and of the Spanish Habsburgs as represented in their portraits. In public, Queen Elizabeth II is seen to embody those qualities that are appropriate to her sovereign majesty, such as dignity, reserve and courtesy. In sum, she displays Christian piety, prudence, temperance and, in her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of various regiments, fortitude. It is the Queen in her official or public body that is here on view. Royal decorum precludes any exposure of informal behaviour. The public would not conceive of her as Mrs Elizabeth Windsor, and certainly not in curlers and slippers! Nevertheless, owing to the media, in particular, the public can hold printed photographs of her in their hands, or see her in close-up on TV in the privacy of their homes. Such familiarity not only blurs the distinction between the public and private persona of the monarch, but also conflates them. Her sovereign qualities, albeit acquired since childhood, appear innate.

Distanced by time and place, the 20th century viewer's perception of this fundamental distinction between the private and public bodies of the Spanish Habsburgs is inevitably blurred. It is difficult to appreciate fully the original function and context of these portraits after their removal from royal palaces to public galleries. As in the case of altar-pieces taken from their altars and liturgical setting, these portraits are denuded of their political significance and their correspondence to the solemnity of court ritual. Indeed, on a gallery wall, Philip IV may be seen to rub shoulders with a kitchen maid in a 'bodegón'. He is even inspected closely and by all and sundry. No one looks at his image with awe for the prototype. The identity of the painter is of more interest than that of the sitter. It is the realism of the style rather than that of the sovereignty of the sitter that impresses the viewer. As a consequence these portraits are often perceived as true likenesses of the King's natural body. Realism, especially illusionism, in portraiture can be not only potent but also deceptive. Seeing is believing, but seeing is dependent on the mental faculties of the viewer. Therefore, care must be taken to prevent 20th century preconceptions from distorting the meaning of such portraits.

It is palpably true that in portraits of Philip IV by Velázquez, for example, the king looks truly dignified and virtuous. Since Bertaut recorded that the appearance of the King at an audience (1659) was similar to that in his portraits, it suggests that Velázquez portrayed the King accurately. Yet Velázquez has represented the King not in his private but public person, as he appeared in audiences, that is, in his sovereign majesty. In this context of appearances, one is reminded of Baldassare Castiglione's advice to courtiers to practise their actions assiduously in order to make them seem effortless and almost without thought ('sprezzatura') [14]. Such ideal behaviour evoked in the mind the prototype of the perfect courtier created by God. Further testament to this conscious distinction between private and public appearances is provided by Pantoja de la Cruz's flat, stylized and iconic portraits of the Spanish Habsburgs (Fig. 4) and his intimate and psychological portrayal of the Augustinian, Fray Hernando de Rojas (Madrid, Marqués de Espeja Collection) [15](Fig. 5). Accordingly, in the formal portraits by Pantoja and Velázquez, the end is the same - the manifestation of abstract principles of rule in the person of the monarch. Only the means are different. Pantoja's playing-card images of King and Queen have been forsaken by Velázquez for a profound insight into the King's consciousness of his sovereign role. Velázquez evokes the workings of his mind. The King is humanized. Nevertheless, his mental preoccupations are inevitably focused on his role. Thereby the viewer can appreciate his aspirations and admire his resolution. Thus, in essence, it remains an image of a King in his office and dignity.

What was the original rationale behind these portraits? Ultimately, the distinctive social conventions reflected and promoted in them would seem to derive from the ideology of Spanish Habsburg rule which, in turn, was steeled in response to preserving the religious and political welfare of its empire. Firstly, therefore, the historical context must be examined. It was unique. The Spanish Habsburgs ruled not a unified national state but a dynastic confederation, composed of independent kingdoms, each with its own administration, laws and taxation. It included not only Sicily and Sardinia, the Kingdom of Naples, the Duchy of Milan and the Netherlands, but also the Philippines and extensive territory in the Americas. From 1580 to 1640 they also controlled Portugal and its overseas possessions. Extraordinary political power, military strength and economic prosperity were the concomitants - for a time - of their imperial dominion. Extraordinary problems also faced them. Charles V clearly recognised the difficulty of ruling so many kingdoms. In a letter to his son, Philip, (May 4th, 1543), Charles pointed out to him 'how many lordships you must "señorear", how different they are from one another, how far apart, and how separated they are by language barriers. And you, as their ruler, must understand those who live therein and be understood by them'. [16] The problem was aggravated by the sheer scale of their empire. To ensure that supplies, communications, bureaucracy and defence were adequate and in order demanded firm control. Even in peaceful circumstances the task was enormous. However, this was a time of religious strife and renewal.

The religious state of Spain was radically different from that in other European Catholic countries. Owing to historical circumstances, in particular, the Reconquest of Christian Spain from the Moors, there developed a symbiotic relationship between the Catholic Kings and the Catholic religion. After the Nasrid dynasty finally capitulated to Isabella and Ferdinand in 1492, their reign was witness to both the unification of the Peninsular under Christian rule and a fervent desire for religious reform, both institutional and personal.

Concurrent with this movement for reform was the undertaking of the defence of the Catholic Church against the infidel and the heretic. The threat of Islam did not terminate when the Moors were expelled from Spain. Moorish converts to Christianity - 'moriscos' - were regarded by many as potentially subversive. Such perceptions were confirmed by the first (1499-1500) and, especially, the second (1568-70) Revolt of the Alpujarras. [17] These internal threats were accentuated by the westward advance of the Turks and the Moorish domination of North Africa. However, in 1571, their policy of aggrandizement was checked when the combined naval forces of Spain, the Papacy and Venice defeated the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto. In spite of this decisive victory, which was won under the dazzling leadership of Don John of Austria, the forces of Islam continued to present a serious threat. Tunis was re-captured by the Turks in July 1574. Fez was taken in 1576. However, by the end of the decade, the Sultan was distracted by Persian affairs and Philip II had to re-direct his forces to the Atlantic to face his Protestant enemies. [18] The arena of battle had changed.

Nevertheless, the 'moriscos' in Spain were still regarded as a possible danger because the purity of their Christian faith was in doubt. They might foment another internal rebellion, such as the previous Revolts of the Alpujarras, and collude with the Moors in North Africa. As a consequence, Philip III ordered the expulsion of all 'moriscos' from Spain, which took place during the years 1609-1614. [19]

The 'moriscos' were not the only group of converts who were regarded with suspicion in Spain. The purity of the faith of those who had rejected Judaism and converted to Christianity - 'conversos' - was also a matter of great concern to the Church and to the Catholic Kings. To investigate the veracity of the faith of the 'conversos', Isabella and Ferdinand established the Inquisition in Spain in 1478. In contrast to the medieval Inquisition, this tribunal was under the control, essentially, of the Spanish monarchs and only subservient nominally to the Pope. The Crown appointed the Inquisitors. [20] Their function was not to interrogate Jews, who, at that time, had not yet been expelled, but those who had been baptized into the Christian Church. [21] However, so difficult was the task of verifying the faith of the Judeo-converso, especially while Jews were permitted to remain in Spain, that the Catholic Kings eventually decided to expel all Jews from their kingdoms. It is significant that this took place only some months after the defeat and expulsion of the Muslims in 1492. [22] Political reconquest was to be identified with religious purification.

Such drastic measures were not the only means of ensuring the religious health of the Monarquía Católica. There was also a spate of statutes ('estatutos de limpieza de sangre') which were aimed at those with 'impure' blood, that is 'moriscos' and 'conversos'. They applied not only to former Muslims and Jews but also to their descendants. These statutes were introduced into various cathedrals, religious and military orders, and certain civic institutions. The most significant was probably that which applied to the cathedral of Toledo, the primatial see. It was introduced in 1548 by Juan Martínez Silíceo, the archbishop of Toledo and former tutor to Philip II. It was approved by Pope Paul IV in 1555, and confirmed by Philip II on the 6th August, 1556. [23] The intention was to prevent the admission of those with 'impure' blood, notably 'conversos', and to frustrate those already in office. It was a matter of cleansing the Body Politic.

A social consequence of these statutes was that it engendered a distinctive form of social pride, one which was based not only on purity of faith but also purity of blood. Together with legitimate birth, these were to be the firmaments of the code of honour with that which society was so deeply imbued.

Here was a society that was, essentially, both strictly orthodox and elitist. It was shaped by official attitudes that had been formed in response to having to defend the Catholic religion and maintain its purity. It was a matter of fulfilling its obligation to God. Radical and extreme measures were adopted because the health of the Body Politic of the Monarquía Católica was so seriously threatened. Indeed, the rigour with which the statues were enforced has to be seen in a broader context, one which involved the challenge not only of Islam but also of Protestantism, which was perceived as a dangerous cancer within the Church.

The insistence on religious orthodoxy, which had already been a feature of the activity of the Church in relation to the 'moriscos', 'conversos' and certain spiritual groups, such as the Alumbrados, was now heightened. Consequently, the very dogmas and subjects which had been challenged by the Protestants - notably, Justification by Faith and Good Works, the Seven Sacraments, the Sacrifice and Real Presence of Christ in the Mass, and the Invocation and Intercession of the Virgin and Saints - were acclaimed with greater enthusiasm. Thus religious life was characterized by both the fervent desire for the spiritual reform of the individual and the zealous promotion of orthodox beliefs.

The political implications of the Protestant Reformation were also portentous for the Spanish Habsburgs. Their perception of their raison d'être - to commit themselves to the maintenance and protection of the Catholic religion in order to fulfil their obligation to God - was fundamentally challenged. In addition, since the hierarchy of the institution of the church had been threatened, essentially because of the Protestant rejection of the Sacrament of Order, it followed that the monarch would not be able to call upon the authoritative support of that institution. Furthermore, the notion that the monarch, too, was endowed with special, divine authority to rule as God's appointed would also be undermined.

The response of the Spanish Habsburgs was to defend and promote their role with greater energy. They, principally, assumed the mantle of responsibility for the defence of the Catholic religion because of their military might and prowess, their economic wealth and, above all, their commitment to God. As a matter of duty and in accord with the tradition of the Catholic Kings, it was incumbent upon them to come to the defence of the Catholic Church.

Their tasks were uniquely formidable. Outside the Iberian Peninsula they faced such powerful political enemies of the Catholic cause that confrontation inevitably involved military campaigns on a vast scale. In turn, these depleted both their manpower and exchequer. The problems were exacerbated by both the extent and location of their territories. Exposed to more threats, the defence and the securement of their supplies was made infinitely more difficult. Yet the Spanish Habsburgs were determined to discharge, honourably and gloriously, their obligation to God by ensuring that there would be, in the celebrated words of the poet Hernando de Acuña, 'one monarch, one empire and one sword'. [24]

These pressing religious and political circumstances were fundamentally different from those facing other European monarchs. However, it would be wrong to assume that these exigencies determined Spanish Habsburgs rule. The response of individual Spanish Habsburg monarchs was a matter of choice.

Their ideology of kingship, like that of other Christian monarchs, such as Henry IV of France and James I of England, was firmly based on Scripture. Basically, these monarchs believed that God had created the world and ordained their appointment as rulers. All power, like grace, was ultimately derived from God:

'Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.' (Romans, 13:1.). [25]

Likewise, all victories were God's victories:

'For I will not trust in my bow: neither shall my sword save me.

But thou hast saved us from them that afflict us: and has put them to shame that hate us.' (Ps 43. 7-8).

Thus, as Christians, these Spanish monarchs believed that they ruled their kingdoms by 'the grace of God'. Accordingly, Charles V instructed Prince Philip that:

'as principal and firm foundation of your governance you must acknowledge God's magnanimity, and submit your actions and desires to His will.' [26]

In the words of Francisco de Vitoria, the celebrated Dominican political theorist:

'the power of kings is derived from divine and natural law, not from the [commonwealth] itself, nor directly from men'. [27]

Vitoria and other Spanish political theorists also maintained that God's power was initially transmitted to the people who subsequently transferred it to the king. [28] The same idea is found in Philip II's instructions to the Viceroy of Naples (1558):

'The people was not made for the sake of the prince, but the prince was instituted at the instance of the people.' [29]

However, this did not undermine the basic assumption. As in the economy of sacramental grace, the power of the king was believed to come not from the people but from God.

In this context, legitimacy and succession were vital concerns. The former demonstrated to the people that the House of Austria was the proper receptacle for God's grace. To have usurped that power would have been not only politically and morally reprehensible, but also sinful to God. The significance of succession is apparent in Titian's Allegory of Lepanto (Museo del Prado) (Fig. 6). Philip II is shown offering his son, the Infante Fernando, to God as a testament of the perpetual commitment of the Spanish Habsburgs to use that power in defence of the Catholic Church. According to the motto, 'Maiora Tibi', on the scroll attached to the palm offered to the Infante by a figure of Victory hurtling down from heaven, he is destined for greater things. The painting may have been commissioned in connection with the swearing of allegiance ('juramento') to this heir to the throne by the Cortes, which took place in May 1573. [30] In this context, it is noteworthy that the gist of the motto was repeated in the 'Juramento' to Baltasar Carlos in 1632. He was heralded not only as a successor and emulator of his father's glories, but also as a conqueror of new realms. [31]

In the exercise of that power, the Spanish Habsburgs assumed sole responsibility. In the Diet of Worms (1521), Charles V declared:

'It is not my desire and will that there be many lords, but one lord alone, as is the tradition of the Holy Roman Empire'. [32]

With similar intent, Philip II reminded the Council of Italy (1588):

'[...] since God has entrusted me with so many (kingdoms), since all are in my charge [...]' [33]

Although these monarchs heeded, in varying degrees, advice from their councils and counsellors, they alone were ultimately responsible to God for the defence and welfare of their kingdoms. Thus they were determined that their efforts would not be resisted. That would be sinful, as St Paul had warned the Romans: 'Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation' (Romans, 13.2). Yet they themselves were also mindful of God's power to destroy them if they committed iniquities, like the kings cited in the Prophecy of Ezechiel. Although they were above the law they were subject to it. [34] They could not transgress it and behave despotically otherwise they would be rightly resisted. [35] In fact, as God's appointee, the king had to act for the common good.

Political writers of the period expanded on the political notions implicit in this role and utilized the traditional image of the Body Politic as a figure for the kingdoms under the dominion of the Spanish Habsburg monarch. The king was the head of the Body Politic and in this paternalistic role was responsible for its members, such as the ecclesiastical and military arms. [36]

According to traditional concepts of kingship, the monarch was thought of as having two bodies - the body natural and the body politic. [37] The former applied to his own person and was subject to infirmities and decay, the latter signified the sovereignty of his rule over the Body Politic and was perpetual. The king himself was a mortal being but in his office and dignity was without trace of imperfection and immortal. [38] The idea is succinctly expressed in the acclamation: 'The kind is dead! Long live the king!' [39]

Since these kings were ordained by God to be responsible for their kingdoms, it was natural that they imitated Christ, the head of the Mystic Body. Indeed, St Thomas Aquinas, quoting St Paul and the book of Wisdom referred to kings as ministers of God. [40] The idea was repeated by the Jesuit political theorist, Francisco Suárez:

'Once power has been transferred to the king, he is at once the "vicar of God"'. [41] Thus the political rule of true Christian kings inevitably implied a moral responsibility. This concept was elaborated by Aquinas, for whom politics was a branch of ethics: '[...] the object of human society is a virtuous life [...] Now the man who lives virtuously is destined to a higher end ... Thus the final aim of social life will be, not merely to live in virtue, but rather through virtuous life to attain to the enjoyment of God [...] But the enjoyment of God is an aim which cannot be attained by human virtue alone, but only through divine grace... it is the king's duty to promote the welfare of the community in such a way that it leads fittingly to the happiness of heaven.' [42]

Accordingly, virtue was not an end in itself, as proposed by Aristotle (Politics, Bk. VII, ch.15), but a means to an end. Yet it was not merely for the goodness of the city or state, as expounded by Plato (The Republic, Bk.IV), but for admission into the City of God. Therefore, a lack of virtuous conduct was damnable. Consequently, in the body politic of the Spanish Habsburgs and in its representation, virtues that were intrinsic to Christian rule - the Theological Virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the Cardinal Virtues of justice, fortitude, prudence and temperance had to be manifested. Indeed, as Aquinas had argued, the monarch has to be a paragon of virtue. [43] Thus a contemporary Dominican political theorist, Domingo de Soto, wrote that greater virtue was needed in the prince than the citizen because 'how, if he himself is not temperate and just and strong, can he properly command such virtues?' [44]

It is a fact that these religio-political ideas of kingship were, in substance, no different from those expounded by other Christian monarchs. In his 'True Law of Free Monarchies' (1598) and in his speech to Parliament in March 1610, James I declared that his authority was derived from God and, therefore, was absolute. He was above the law, but subject to it, so that he could be deposed if he abused God's authority. Likewise, he was the head of the Body Politic and, in that capacity, exercised a paternalistic rule over his kingdoms. [45] His government was magnificently commemorated by his son, Charles I, when the latter commissioned Rubens to decorate with allegorical imagery the ceiling of the Banqueting House in Whitehall. Personifications of the virtues figure large.

Since these religio-political theories of kingship were shared beliefs, why was the body politic of the Spanish Habsburgs so distinctive? The explanation would seem to depend on the unique historical circumstances and the zealous determination of their Catholic Majesties to defend and promote Catholicism and the Catholic Monarchy, that is, their kingdoms. To this end, they were carefully tutored from the cradle. In their youth they were expertly instructed in matters of government and their person. Nothing was left to chance. No wonder that juveniles resembled adults in their portraits! Instruction came in various forms. Political treatises, the so-called 'mirrors of princes', proliferated after the mid-sixteenth century, no doubt in response to the exigency of having to deal with mounting political and religious problems. [46] Charles V, himself, sent Prince Philip two instructions, the first in the form of two letters, one of which was secret (1543), and the second was his political testament (1548). The young prince is urged to be devout, exemplary in virtue and pragmatic. [47] When king, Philip himself wrote a secret, detailed instruction to his half-brother, Don John of Austria, upon the latter's appointment as supreme commander of the armada of the Holy League that had been formed to fight the Turks. [48] Since the letter was confidential, it clearly reveals Philip's personal sentiment. It is not about military tactics but moral conduct. Ultimately, the success of the former will depend on the latter, since he has to be devout to merit God's grace. Thus, above all, Don John must be a good Christian, not only inwardly but also in his appearance and behaviour, since a man of his elevated status has to set a good example. In this connection, he must pray, hear mass and go to confession. Philip then exhorts him to exemplify the Cardinal Virtues in his conduct - prudence, justice (and clemency), fortitude and temperance. He expounds on the latter at length. Don John must shun flatterers, not be tempted by the flesh, abstain from excessive eating, resist playing cards and throwing dice (the subject of many a low-life painting), avoid swearing, especially blasphemy, control his temper, refrain from excessive familiarity, since this will undermine his authority, and eschew costly and ostentatious clothing. Philip also urges him not to make rash statements or promises. Thus, to be firm in his commands, which is an essential attribute of leadership, and which can have such serious consequences, it is of the utmost importance to reflect carefully beforehand. Impetuosity is imprudent. Even in battle, Philip would prefer him to be conquered by prudence than victorious through recklessness and fury. Don John must be a model of self-restraint - 'templanza y moderación'. If he is disobedient he will be answerable to God, in the first place, and secondly, to Philip.

The implications for Don John's appearance in his body politic are clear. He must be seen in decent not lewd or low company. He must be slim, not obese, and soberly, rather than pompously, dressed. He must be calm and reflective, never angry nor impetuous, and he must distance himself to avoid over familiarity in order to maintain his authority. He must earnestly embody the virtue of temperance - not for its own sake but to fulfill his prime obligation to God. The correspondence of Philip's prescriptions on decorum to that manifested in Spanish Habsburg portraiture is plain to see.

It is significant that Philip II's ideology of rule, including these paternalistic prescriptions to Don John, resembles that which the celebrated Augustinian, Alonso de Orozco (1500-1591) expounded in his commentaries on the Rule of St Augustine. In particular, those on modesty in dress and general deportment and, especially, on obedience to the Superior of the convent are strikingly similar. [49] Furthermore, Philip's directives also seem to reflect a knowledge of Thomist moral principles. This is not surprising. His moral instruction was provided mainly by royal confessors, who were always members of the Dominican Order, that bastion of orthodoxy against heresy. [50] Their appointment was not a matter of convention; it was a matter of conscience. It was to ensure the health of the Body Politic. Thus Philip reminded Don John that he must be entirely subject in everything to his confessor, [51] and in his last words of advice to his son, Prince Philip, which he dictated to his own confessor, Diego de Yepes, he declared: 'Confess your sins often and seek out a wise confessor, who will instruct you in what course to avoid and what course to follow'. [52]

The profound influence of regulars and seculars on the moral codes of sixteenth and early seventeenth century Catholic Europe has been noted in recent years. [53] It implies a positive reception. Thus, although this civilizing process does not ultimately derive from courts, [54] the latter were receptive to it and, in turn, promoted it. The Christian Neo-platonic ethos of the fourth book of Castiglione's Book of the Courtier is testament to this fact. It is especially true of the hierarchical court of the Spanish Habsburgs. As scholars have observed, there was a unique, symbiotic relationship between the religion and politics of these monarchs. They were perceived as ministers or vicars of God, addressed as 'Their Catholic Majesties', and held responsible for the 'Catholic Monarchy'. In addition to their dependence on confessors, it is significant that, for example, Philip II consulted his theologians on the legitimacy of the religious policy that he was pursuing in the Netherlands, [55] and Philip III summoned a Junta of theologians and jurists to discuss the marriage negotiations involving Charles, Prince of Wales and the Infanta María. [56] Thus, since the political rule of the Spanish Habsburgs was tempered by their Catholic faith, and not vice versa, the Theological and Cardinal Virtues were of paramount importance to that rule. Consequently, as Philip II reminded Don John, it was imperative that these virtues were clearly manifested in his conduct.

It follows that a portrait of the monarch in his official capacity must not only resemble him but also indicate his embodiment of whichever of these virtues is appropriate. Since identity and decorum were fundamental, accuracy of representation was paramount. Accordingly, as in the case of religious images, the production of royal portraiture was subject to censorship. In 1633, Velázquez and Vicente Carducho were both instructed to examine contemporary portraits of Philip IV and other members of the royal family. Only twelve out of eighty four portraits satisfied the criteria of likeness, decorum and artistic merit. In all the remainder, the heads needed to be re-done.

Furthermore, one portrait had to be entirely re-painted and, in another, the green colour of the king's breeches and stockings had to be painted out because it was considered indecent. [57] Later, in 1679, Juan Carreño and Francisco Ricci were also ordered to inspect portraits of the royals to ensure that none were defective. [58]

This insistence on conformity would have established a set pattern for the portrayal of the king and, thereby, conditioned the perception of the viewer. The criterion of decorum is significant because it implies that the king would be shown to manifest those qualities regarded as intrinsic to Spanish Habsburg rule. He would be depicted in his body politic. Thus, in accord with the function of religious art, the portraits is to be respected not for itself - it is not art for art's sake - but for the prototype represented therein. It serves to elevate the mind of the viewer to the king in his divinely ordained office and dignity and to the virtues he embodies in that capacity. For that reason portraits of Spanish Habsburg were potent images. This is plainly evident in the following examples.

In an engraving by Pedro Perret of the Infante Don Carlos (1622) (Fig.7), the latter is shown looking up in admiration and deference - he has removed his hat - at a portrait of Charles V in armour and holding a baton. [59] The message is clear. It is inscribed on the frame of the portrait: 'Virtutem ex me'. [60] Don Carlos is exhorted to emulate the valour of his namesake, his great grandfather. Dressed in armour, steadfast in pose and fixed in intent, the implication is that the Infante will honour his commitment.

The didactic function of the portrait in Perret's print is also encountered, though not with the same exemplary intent, in that by Juan de Courbes of Don García Hurtado de Mendoza, Viceroy of Peru (Fig. 8). [61] The latter is shown addressing Peruvian Indians, who kneel in obeisance, and pointing to a portrait of Philip II displayed beneath a canopy. This compositional formula, showing the conquered being instructed to acknowledge the superior sovereignty of the monarch, who is represented by his portrait, is repeated in Juan Bautista Maino's Recapture of Bahía (Madrid, Museo del Prado) (Fig. 9). In this painting, which formed part of the decorative scheme in the Salón de los Reinos in the Buen Retiro Palace, the defeated Dutch kneel in obeisance while the Spanish Commander, Don Fadrique de Toledo, directs their attention to an image of Philip IV in a tapestry above which is suspended a canopy. Philip IV is shown being crowned by Minerva and Olivares. Minerva, the goddess of just wars, hands Philip the palm of victory while Olivares holds the drawn sword of Justice. At Philip's feet are personifications of Heresy, Discord (or Envy) and Deceit. Because Philip's cause was just, Divine Providence ensured its success, as indicated in the inscription on the cartouche surmounting the canopy: SED DEXTERA SUA. It is an acclamation that victory is achieved not by man's efforts but by God's will: 'But thy right hand and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance: because thou wast pleased with them'. (Ps.43,4) [62]

The practice of praising the prototype or monarch in his sovereign body by showing respect to his portrait was not just fictional. It applied to all state portraits. [63] It was explicitly demonstrated in the case of Velázquez's Philip IV on Horseback and Philip IV at Fraga (New York, Frick Collection). In the case of the former, which has not survived, Pacheco recorded that: 'Velázquez having finished the portrait of His Majesty on horseback, all painted from life, even the landscape, the king was pleased to give permission for it to be shown in the Calle Mayor, outside San Felipe, where it won the admiration of all the court and the envy of artists, for which I can vouch'. [64] It is significant that the portrait was exhibited in public and outside the Augustinian convent of Philip's namesake, San Felipe. Philip's connection with the Augustinians - as a child he was depicted in their habit [65] - presumably stems from his mother's renowned patronage of the Order. [66] Thereby the symbiotic relationship of religion and politics in the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs was publicly demonstrated. It is symptomatic that the portrait was perceived as an astonishing likeness of the King in his body politic, that is, it directed the mind of the viewer to the King's sovereign power and his embodiment of fortitude. This is attested to by Juan Vélez de Guevara in these lines from his celebratory sonnet:

'Oh brush, you render boldness and strength...

Say, are you making a portrait or are you bringing it to life? Y

The portrait so splendidly reveals the royal authority it is heir to that it even commands the eye.

And since you have made it a likeness of power you have imitated what is most difficult, for to be obeyed is easier'. [67]

Soon afterwards, in 1626, this portrait was on display in the Salón Nuevo of the Alcázar in Madrid [68] It was hung in a prestigious position, that is, opposite Titian's magnificent equestrian portrait of Charles V. [69] Since Philip was shown in armour [70], he, too, exemplified fortitude. Thus this pairing of portraits demonstrated not only that Philip, like his brother Don Carlos, (Fig. 7) was inspired to emulate the valour of his illustrious great grandfather, but also that the august House of Austria was perpetually committed to the defence of the Catholic faith and its realms. By 1636, Velázquez's version had been replaced by Rubens'portrait of the King in armour and on horseback, which he had painted in 1628 (Now lost but known through a copy in the Uffizi). [71] It was identical in size to Titian's portrait of Charles V. [72] The sentiment is the same as that conveyed in Velázquez's version but probably more blatant - Philip is accompanied by personifications of Faith and Justice - and expressed with greater bravura.

Years later, Velázquez painted a portrait of the king at Fraga (1644) to celebrate thge military victory of the Spanish over the French at Lérida (Fig. 10). The picture was subsequently sent to the Queen in Madrid where, at the request of the Catalan community, it was displayed in the Church of San Martín. [73] As a mark of respect to the sovereignty of the king, it was covered with a canopy. In his portrait the king was perceived as naturally embodying the quality of majesty. According to Palomino, it 'had such a fine air, such grace and majesty that it looked like another living Philip.' [74] His response recalls those of Pacheco and Vélez de Guevara to the equestrian portrait of Philip, as well as Bertaut's observation that the appearance of the King at an audience resembled that in his portraits. [75]

From the evidence presented, it is apparent that in order to fulfill their obligation to God to secure the welfare of their kingdoms for which they and they alone had been divinely appointed to rule, they were sedulously instructed in moral behaviour. Owing to the enormity of their task and to their zealous determination, the exemplification of virtue in their body politic was intensified. This insistent emphasis on decorum meant that it had to be accurately and distinctly manifested in their portraits. The examples of censorship are symptomatic of that attitude. Thus the function of their portraits was to represent them in their body politic and, thereby, elevate the mind to the prototypes in their office and dignity. As a consequence, the Spanish Habsburgs were seen to embody naturally, zealously and rigorously the ideals of Christian kingship that were founded on the Theological and Cardinal Virtues.

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I dedicate this essay to both Ronald Cueto, who expertly tutored me on the concept of the Body Politic and inspired me to realize its significance for Spanish Habsburg portraits, and Enriqueta Harris, who has generously shared with me her profound knowledge of Spanish art of this period.

1. Castiglione 1959, pp.134f. (Book II, no.37).

2. Castiglione 1959, pp.115f. (Book II, no.22).

3. Pacheco 1990, p.202.

4. Howell 1892, I, p.200.

5. Howell 1892, I, p.202.

6. Howell 1892, I, p.201.

7. Howell 1892, I, p.156.

8. Howell 1892, I, p.162.

9. Howell 1892, I, p.158.

10. Howell 1892, I, p.166.

11. Thomas 1988, p.331.

12. Thomas 1988, p.344.

13. Brown 1986, p.248.

14. Castiglione 1959, p.43.

15. This distinction was noted by Harris 1938, p.12.

16. Fernández-Santamaria 1977, p.240.

17. Elliott 1963 pp.40, 228ff; Lynch 1981, pp.218-235.

18. Lynch 1981, pp.232.

19. Elliott 1963, pp. 299-303.

20. Lynch 1981, pp.22-23.

21. Lynch 1981, p.26.

22. Lynch 1981, p.28.

23. Sicroff 1960, p.137.

24. Elliott 1963, p.242.

25. Compare Deuteronomy, 17. 15,19; Wisdom, 6. 4-10; Ezechiel, 28.

26. Fernández-Santamaria 1977, p.239.

27. Fernández-Santamaria 1977, p.72.

28. Hamilton 1963, pp.37,162.

29. Elliott 1963, p.242.

30. Inventario General de Manuscritos de la Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, 1959, V, 1750, No 9.

31. Noticia 1850, p.16: 'no solo sucesor y émulo de sus glorias, sino conquistador de nuevos imperios'. For the connection between Velázquez's portrait of the Infante Baltasar Carlos with an Attendant Dwarf (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts) with this 'Juramento', see Brown/Elliott 1980, pp. 55f., 253f.

32. Lynch 1981, p.68.

33. Lynch 1981, 169f.

34. Aquinas 1948, p.139

35. Aquinas 1948, p.161

36. For example Guevara 1532; Furío Ceriol 1559; Puente 1612; Ceballos 1623. I am grateful to Dr Cueto for many of these references.

37. For a magisterial treatment of the history of this concept, see Kantorowicz 1957.

38. Kantorowicz 1957, p.497

39. Kantorowicz 1957, pp. 411-412.

40. Aquinas 1948, ibid, p.43

41. Hamilton 1963, p.39

42. Aquinas 1948, pp. vii-xv, 75,79.

43. Aquinas 1948, p.49

44. Hamilton 1963, p.60

45. Tanner 1952, pp.9-10, 14-17.

46. Fernández-Santamaria 1977, p.247ff

47. Fernández-Santamaria 1977, p.237ff

48. For the following passage Díaz-Plaja 1958, pp.593-603. I am most grateful to Dr Mía Rodríguez-Salgado for drawing my attention to this document many years ago in connection with my research on El Greco's Allegory of the Holy League.

49. Augustinus 1956, pp.34-39, 55-72.

50. Cueto Ruiz 1982, pp. 428ff.

51. Diaz-Plaja 1958, p. 597.

52. Rule/TePaske 1963, p. 6.

53. Knox 1994, pp. 63-99.

54. Elias 1939 in his classic Über den Prozess der Zivilization, had proposed that civilized behaviour was derived from court culture.

55. Elliott 1963, p.244

56. Gardiner 1869, p.118

57. Velázquez 1960, pp.257f.; Harris 1982, pp. 18, 86.

58. Serrera 1990, p.59. See, also, p.58, note 49, for bibliographical sources.

59. Madrid 1981/82, No. 275, p. 92;, Madrid, 1993, No 206, pp. 212f. The engraving was an illustration in Vera y Zúñiga 1622. The portrait of Charles V was based on that by Titian, now lost. See Wethey 1971, pp. 191ff., plates 238, 239.

60. The inscription, which is taken from Virgil, appears in a slightly expanded form ('Disce nepos virtutem ex me') on the triumphal arch set up in Ghent in 1635 to honour the entry of Don Carlos's brother, the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand. See McGrath 1997, I, p. 82, text ill 18. I am grateful to Dr McGrath for drawing my attention to this triumphal decoration.

61. Madrid 1993, No. 130, p.154.

62. Brown/Elliott 1980, pp.184-190.

63. For a classic study of the state portrait, see Jenkins 1947.

64. Pacheco 1990, p. 205. For the translation, see Harris 1982, p.192

65. See Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, Infantes Don Felipe (IV) y Doña Ana, 1607. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

66. The Queen, Doña Margarita de Austria, founded the Augustinian convent, the Real Monasterio de la Encarnación in Madrid.

67. Palomino 1947. For the translation see Harris 1982, p.200

68. Harris 1982, pp. 58f.

69. Harris 1970, p. 368.

70. Harris 1970, p. 368. In addition to Cassiano, there is reference to Philip being armed in Jerónimo Gonzáles de Villanueva's poem in honour of the portrait. See Pacheco 1990, p. 210.

71. Volk 1980.

72. Volk 1980, p. 172.

73. Harris 1982, p. 113

74. Palomino 1947. For translation, see Harris 1982, p.205

75. See note 13. (Bertaut)

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