Auction 132 Antiques & Works of Art, Silver & Jewellery


Portrait of Philip III as a young Prince, aged 14



150.000 - 200.000

Session 1

25 October 2023


Oil on panel
With inscription: AET[TATIS] SUAE. 14

114x90 cm 155,5x103 cm (com moldura)



Additional Information

Provenance: Private collection

Portrait of Philip III as a young Prince

This martial portrait of the young Prince Philip, later Philip III of Spain and Philip II of Portugal (r. 1598-1621), belongs to a series of portraits commissioned by his father from leading painters at his court in Madrid. Philip II recruited Alonso Sánchez Coello (1531-1588), Juan Pantoja de
la Cruz (1553-1608), and the lesser-known Flemish artist Justus Tiel (?-
d. 1595) to execute representative images of his only surviving son born in 1578. The number of images, originals and workshop copies, attest to Philip II’s desire to promote his adolescent son at European courts, sending these portraits abroad as diplomatic gifts.
Philip III was the fourth child of Philip II and his fourth wife, Anna of Austria, and at birth considered an unlikely successor to the Spanish and Portuguese crowns. After the quick, successive deaths of his elder brothers, his father was obliged in 1572 to proclaim him the heir apparent at just four years old. At seven, Infante Philip took an oath required by Spanish heirs and was given the title of Prince of Asturias. This frail boy became the hope of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. When he ascended the throne in 1598 as Philip III, he ruled over a world empire that reached its zenith as a global power during his reign.
Fears that Infante Philip, a sickly child, would not survive, marked his childhood. He was not gifted in governance nor interested in rule; his youth was overshadowed by his dominant father, who oversaw every detail of his formal education, especially in the martial arts. His father commissioned various suits of child armour to complement the boy’s military training, to enforce the image of a healthy, vigorous son, promoting his military skills and prowess at his court.
To celebrate Philip as Prince of Asturias in 1585, he was gifted by the Governor of Milan, Carlos of Aragón and Tagliavia, the 1st Duke of Terranova (r. 1583-1592), a custom-made half-suit of armour to mark this critical juncture in the prince’s life. Attributed to the Milanese armourer
and goldsmith Lucio Piccinino, also known as Lucio Marliani, this armour survives in two museums. The Patrimonio Nacional in Madrid holds most
of the suit, including the burgonet and breastplate, illustrated in this vintage image (Fig. 1), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art the gauntlets.
This splendid ensemble (garniture) made to the precise measurements of
the seven-year-old Philip was designed for foot combat and is elaborately decorated with mythological figures, grotesques, putti, masks, and trophies. Medallions display Jupiter, his daughter Minerva (Goddess of Wisdom), Mars (God of War), and four Virtues: Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, and Temperance. Fame and Victory on the breastplate complement the richly embossed decoration. With its carefully selected allegories, the Duke
of Terranova’s gift displayed appropriate examples of war, peace and government, providing the future king with a blueprint for rule.
Five years later, this same armour was chosen by Philip II for a symbolic portrait of the education of Philip III, which he commissioned from Justus Tiel in 1590. This portrayal in the Museo del Prado showcases the prince, now twelve, wearing Terranova’s suit he had long outgrown (Fig. 2). The iconographic scheme of the Milanese armour inspired Tiel’s composition, hence its inclusion in this portrayal. The dense composition centres around the prince, with personifications of Chronos (Time), Cupid (Love), and the female figure of Justice, referencing the principles by which the heir
and future king should rule. It is Tiel’s only signed and dated work to have survived, as his other documented portraits are now lost.
Very little is known about Justus’ life or career at Philip II’s court, his work deserves more study and attention. He was a relative of the Flemish artist
Jan de Til, designated the king’s painter (pintor de su Magestad) since the mid-1560s. Jan collaborated with another Fleming from Antwerp, Cristiano de Amberes, the principal painter in the king’s stables (caballeriza). Both men were responsible for painting banners, flags and standards for the stables and ephemeral decorations for royal entries and funerals. It remains to be determined if Justus learned the art of painting with Jan.
This present portrait, hitherto unknown and unpublished, reflects the impact of Habsburg court portraiture practised by Alonso Sánchez Coello and his star pupil, Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, at the Madrid court, whose styles influenced Justus Tiel. A portrait of Infante Philip III in armour in a private collection, dating c. 1588, attributed to the young Pantoja, provided Justus Tiel with a prototype. Philip, aged ten here, is shown full length in half- armour. His stance is carefully arranged. The prince holds a military baton
of power with a plumed helmet on a table as a demonstration of his martial prowess and fortitude (Fig. 3).
A version of this portrait was sent to the Medici court in Florence, as a gift for Ferdinando I de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Yet another by
the elderly Sánchez Coello, who died in August 1588, was dispatched to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in Rome. In a letter, Pantoja’s master addressed the cardinal; the portraitist was content that his portrait of Prince Philip had pleased him.
Pantoja readapted his early, experimental composition, reversing the pose for a more dignified, regal full-length martial portrait sent to the imperial court in Vienna as a gift (Fig. 4). The fourteen-year-old Philip, positioned before a draped green velvet curtain, wears a suit of armour which exists in the Real Armería in Madrid. Identical allegories of rulership and military power
are repeated: Fame, Victory and an armed general with a baton of power
are embossed on the breastplate. Around his neck is a red ribbon with the Order of the Golden Fleece received in 1583. His left hand grasps his sword, while his right hand rests upon his morion helmet on a table covered with red velvet. Also depicted is the boy’s gauntlet belonging to the same Milanese- made garniture.
Justus Tiel looked directly to Pantoja de la Cruz, painting here a reversed mirror image of the Vienna portrait. As in Vienna, Philip, wearing the
same Milanese armour and the Order of the Golden Fleece, dominates
the foreground plane with a three-quarter length pose, directly facing the viewer. Details in the suit and clothes are rendered schematically, suggesting workshop intervention. The prince rests his hand on an empty table covered with red velvet while a raised green velvet curtain frames the composition, theatrically presenting the prince. The inscription above right confirms the prince’s age (14) and the date of execution as 1592. This present portrait, with its ornately carved frame, can be attributed to Tiel and his assistants, painted two years after his remarkable allegorical portrayal in the Prado (Fig. 2). It underscores Tiel’s reliance upon Pantoja’s state portrait in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, this portrait perhaps commissioned as a gift for a foreign court.

Senior Researcher and Curator
Centro de Humanidades (CHAM), Zurich and Lisbon

Closed Auction