Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013
The Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633), Archduchess of Austria
The sitter here was the daughter of Philip II of Spain who in 1599 married her second cousin, the Archduke Albert; the couple, known as ‘the Archdukes’, ruled the Spanish Netherlands as representatives of the Spanish crown, but with the power to establish a dynasty there. Unfortunately the couple were childless and the hopes engendered by their enlightened rule proved groundless.
This portrait was given to Anne of Denmark (James I’s Queen) in 1603 by the Ambassador of the Spanish Netherlands, Charles de Ligne, princely count Arenberg, along with one (now lost) of the Archduke Albert. This occurred at a time when James I was seeking accommodation with those regarded as the enemy by Queen Elizabeth. The portrait was recorded in 1649 with a varied and important set of foreign and British royal portraits in the Cross Gallery at Somerset House, the Queen’s London residence. Soon after this it came to be described as Anne Boleyn with Princess Elizabeth and Catherine of Aragon with Princess Mary. The costume is clearly that of the Spanish and not the English court and the small figure is not a child but a dwarf.
Though the identity of the sitter and circumstances of the acquisition are well documented the attribution to Frans Pourbus the Younger remains conjectural. This may be the portrait (or at least a version of the portrait) for which Frans Pourbus was paid in 27 June 1600. It seems to match his style better than that of the other names suggested in connection with it: Pantoja della Cruz, Otto van Veen and Gysbrecht van Veen.