Philip II, King of Spain
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Philip II, King of Spain
oil on panel, 1555
3 3/8 in. x 2 1/2 in. (86 mm x 64 mm)
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Presented to the Gallery by Edward Peter Jones in 1960. The earliest known owner was recorded as the Rev. Walter Sneyd in 1865. This small portrait is one of a pair (with that of Mary I, NPG 4174) and the two portraits were painted by the same hand (using different sources) and would have been designed to be displayed together.
The portrait head is a derivative, reversed, of the Titian type; for example, that in the Galeria Corsini, Rome. A portrait of Philip II by Titian was sent to Mary I in 1553 in order that she could see a likeness of her future husband, but the owner, Mary of Hungary (Philip’s aunt) stipulated that it should be returned.
Notes on likely authorship
It is possible that this pair (NPG 4174 and 4175) may have been produced the year after the couple’s marriage to commemorate the union, either as gifts to distribute to courtiers or to be sent abroad.
There is a later inscription on the reverse attributing the painting to the miniaturist Louis de Vargas: ‘Louis de Vargas pinxit’.
Commentary on painting style and technique
The fur collar is painted with extremely fine and delicate brushstrokes. The edge of the fur is created by a combination of the black paint of the jacket being brushed upwards to form a spiky line for the gaps between hairs, and very fine strokes uniting the white collar and black jacket. The small fur sections between the jacket buttons are very fine brushstrokes of grey paint flicked over the black. A blue pigment, which appears to be smalt, is present in the whites of the eyes. There are possibly also a few particles of smalt in the flesh paint. The modelling of the ear and eyes is very delicate. The profile is outlined and shaded with a brown glaze, seemingly the same as that used in the hair.
The blue background is painted with a mixture of smalt and white lead, applied with a ‘combed’ method, creating surface striations; a technique noted also in the smalt backgrounds of Edward VI (NPG 442). The background of the companion portrait of Mary I (NPG 4174) is painted in exactly the same way.
Justification for dating
The date 1555 is inscribed on the painting. Dendrochronology could not be carried out because the panel is too small. The material and techniques are consistent with a mid-sixteenth-century date.
Drawing and transfer technique
The paint has become more transparent so that underdrawing is visible through the paint of the face. Infrared reflectography also revealed comprehensive underdrawing in the face. The drawing is strong and definite, and not as sketchy as that found on its companion picture Mary I (NPG 4174). The outline of the head and the shape of the hairline are delineated with firm, curved lines. The eyes, nose, mouth and ear are drawn with bold, solid lines. Hairs in the beard are indicated with slightly lighter, more free marks. The appearance of the drawing indicates that it might have been traced or transferred from a pattern, in contrast to the more freehand style of NPG 4174.
The paint generally follows the drawn lines, although the painted top of the head is slightly higher than the underdrawn outline. The nose is painted to a slightly different shape (more curved) than that in the underdrawing, but otherwise no pentimenti are evident. There may be underdrawing elsewhere but due to the black paint of the costume this could not be detected with infrared reflectography.
Relevance to other known versions
The portrait head is a derivative, reversed, of the Titian type; for example, that in the Galeria Corsini, Rome and in the Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina, Florence.
- Head and shoulders with fur collar - Bodleian Library of Oxford, LP 53
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 249
Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Portrait Miniatures on Loan at the South Kensington Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1865, p. 59 (no. 630)
Compare Images (what's this?)
Compare high-resolution images against the painting - mainly x-ray and infra-red photography images, but sometimes UV or raking light images - side by side with the ability to zoom in on details.
The painting has suffered some loss in the past, around the edges, along a split that runs approximately 12 mm down from the top centre, and down a vertical line to the left of the split. These have all been restored. The background has discoloured and underdrawing is visible through the paint of the face, which has become more transparent. There is a very fine craquelure. The top right corner is chipped, and there is a notch out of the wood approximately 10 mm down on the left-hand side. Both of these are old damages. There are no new losses, the varnish is even with good gloss, and the retouchings are good. The retouching around the edges and in small losses has been sensitively carried out, and has not discoloured or become visible in normal light.
Number of boards: 1
Panel Orientation: Vertical
An examination of tree rings, which can help to provide the earliest possible felling dates for the wood used for the panel. The technique can also indicate the geographical origin of the wood.
Dendrochronology could not be carried out because of the size of the panel.
A technique used to identify changes in composition beneath the surface of the paint layers and to understand the physical structure of a panel or canvas.
The x-ray image clearly shows the vertical wood grain. Filled areas along the old split, including a large repair at the centre of the lower edge, show as white patches. The image is slightly opaque, suggesting that there is lead white in the priming. The paint appears to be delicately and thinly applied, although the lead white highlights of the collar, fur and chain are thicker and more visible (see x-ray 01).
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Infrared reflectography revealed comprehensive underdrawing in the face. The drawing is strong and definite, and not as sketchy as that found on its companion picture Mary I NPG 4174. The outline of the head and the shape of the hairline are delineated with firm, curved lines. The eyes, nose, mouth and ear are drawn with bold, solid lines. Hairs in the beard are indicated with slightly lighter, more free marks. The appearance of the drawing indicates that it might have been traced/transferred from a pattern and then reinforced with the firm lines. There are lots of double-lines, where the tracing and subsequent reinforcement do not quite match. The reinforcement, over the tracing, could be in black chalk, but it is difficult to be certain. The paint generally follows the drawn lines, although the painted top of the head is slightly higher than the underdrawn outline. The painted nose is also a slightly different shape (more curved) than that in the drawing (see IRR mosaic 01).
Infrared reflectography also shows spots of damage in the face, loss corresponding to the small split at the top of the support, and the vertical line of loss to the left of this. There might be underdrawing elsewhere, but the black paint of the costume meant that this could not be detected with infrared reflectography. Little could be seen in the ruff or fur collar.
Investigation into microscopic pigment samples or samples of other media in order to help with dating, to reveal the order of the paint layers and help to understand the painting techniques used.
Paint samples were taken to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in 2008.
Both samples were set as dispersions.
Sample 1 showed that the background pigment is smalt, with a little lead white. The background was applied in thick ridges, or striations, as in the background of Mary I, NPG 4174.
Sample 2 showed that the yellow paint of the date contains a lead-tin yellow and what appears to be finely ground yellow ochre, but which has a slightly crystalline appearance and is grouped in clusters. Traces of black, red ochre and possibly yellow lake were also seen. More sampling and possibly energy dispersive x-ray analysis would be needed to see if any orpiment is present in the mixture.
An examination of the construction of paint layers, glazes and condition often using a microscope. This method provides important evidence concerning an artist’s technique and paint handling and can reveal a specific artist’s characteristic painting style.
Painting style and method
The painting technique compares very closely to that of the companion portrait of Mary I, NPG 4174. The details are painted with very fine brushstrokes, notably the fur collar. The blue background is painted with the same mixture of smalt and lead white, applied with a 'combed' method creating surface striations in small ridges, which have also been observed in the smalt backgrounds of other portraits, for example Edward VI, NPG 442.
The panel was probably prepared with a chalk ground, and then a thin white priming layer. This contains lead white (see X-ray), and is left visible in places in the painted image, between brushstrokes, as a mid-tone (see micro 12).
Extensive underdrawing was detected with infrared reflectography (see Infrared reflectography), and much of it is visible through the paint surface, especially in the face, hair, ear and top edge of the ruff (see micro 01, micro 02, micro 03, micro 04 and micro 08).
Paint layer structure
Smalt particles are present in the whites of the eyes. There are possibly also a few particles of smalt in the flesh paint. In both these areas the particles have remained very blue, probably because they are in a mixture with lead white. The flesh paint also contains lead white, vermilion and red lake. Pure red lake was used for the line between the lips. The modelling of the ear and eyes is very delicate. The profile is outlined and shaded with a brown glaze, seemingly the same as that used in the hair. The dark red outline of the eyes is a mixture of a little red lake and some black. The brown irises of the eyes were painted before the whites, and use the priming as a half-shadow.
Hair and moustache
The hair is painted with a dark reddish brown, sometimes mixed with white. The moustache and lighter parts of the beard are painted with a thin, medium-rich yellow/brown glaze, with details added by the white highlights and a few very fine darker brown brushstrokes.
This is painted with extremely fine and delicate brushstrokes. The technique is particularly evident at the centre, where the two collar sections meet. The edge of the fur is created by a combination of the black paint of the jacket being brushed upwards to form a spiky line for the gaps between hairs (as observed in Paget NPG 961 and Flicke NPG 6353), and with very fine strokes uniting the white collar and black jacket. These strokes are painted with a grey which looks blueish but seems to contain only black and white. The fine upward strokes of the black can also be seen extending into the beard in the centre (see micro 09 and micro 11). The small fur sections between the jacket buttons are very fine brushstrokes of grey paint flicked over the black. In the collar the priming, which now appears off-white is partially visible between some brushstrokes (see above and micro 12).
Although initially appearing to have been reinforced, the tiny dots of highlight on the left section of the chain seem to be original and painted in two layers: bright lead-tin yellow over a duller form of the same pigment (see micro 13). This was also seen in Mary I NPG 4174.
The background appears quite granular in places, and exhibits a kind of blanching. There are also areas where the blue has discoloured to a brownish green. The pigment used is smalt, and this could explain the deterioration and discolouration, as smalt is particularly prone to alteration over time. The fact that the background remains such a strong blue, rather than the more common grey/brown of deteriorated smalt, could be due to keeping the small painting enclosed in a box or drawer, or to the presence of lead white in the mixture (see micro 07).
The background seems to have been painted in after much of the rest of the composition, although some final glazes (for example, in the beard) were added after it. Horizontal striations can be seen in the blue background paint, indicating that perhaps the paint was 'combed' after application. This was also observed in Edward VI NPG 4174. The blue of the background has been incorporated into the fur collar, some seemingly brushed in from the background, and the rest mixed with white and used as one of the colours in the fur, to model and create texture (see micro 10).
The numbers are painted over the blue background and are not painted with the same yellow as the chain (see micro 05 and micro 06). They do not show up clearly in the x-ray image. The second '5' appears to go over some darkened brown between the blue strokes. The paint of the date appears to be a mixture of a lead-tin yellow and high quality yellow ochre with traces of other pigments (see Paint sampling).
Order of construction
- Chalk ground
- Priming layer
- Black costume
- Fur collar
- Final glazes
Red lake, lead white, vermilion, carbon black, smalt, earth pigments, red ochre, yellow ochre, lead-tin yellow, possible yellow lake
Changes in composition/pentimenti
The nose is painted in a slightly different shape from that in the underdrawing and the eyelid on the left was drawn in a slightly lower position to the painted position.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Recent retouchings appear as very dark spots in ultra violet light, and can be seen around the edges, and in the hair, face and collar. There are some dark scratches/cracks in the face. Any restoration related to the large fill seen in x-ray at the lower edge (see X-ray) is not visible (see UV 01). The background and clothing fluoresce differently (as also seen in NPG 4174): the background fluorescence is blue/grey, while the black costume is green. There is also yellow/green fluorescence in parts of the hair, probably due to varnish residues let during careful cleaning. The most recent varnish is clear and does not fluoresce in ultra violet light.
Frame date: Early 21st century
Photographic evidence reveals that the painting has at some point been in a plain, dark frame, with a 'wave' patterned outer moulding.
For display purposes a new frame was fabricated in 2014. An identical frame was also fabricated for NPG 4174 Mary I and the two framed works hinged together in the style of a diptych.
New frame constructed from a simple narrow 10 mm oak moulding glued and pinned at the mitres.
Grain filled with gesso and then given an acrylic based ebonised effect finish. Surface sealed with with clear polyurethane matt varnish and then waxed.
Brass hinges aged. Hinges secured with brass pins and fish glue.
Frame rebate lined with moisture resistant foil tape and cushioned with velvet ribbon.
Painting positioned into the frame with plastazote fillets and secured in place with museum board taped to the reverse of the frame.