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Portrait of Mariana of Austria

Portrait of Mariana of Austria
Diego Velázquez 032.jpg
ArtistDiego Velázquez
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions234 cm × 131.5 cm (92 in × 51.8 in)
LocationMuseo del Prado, Madrid

Portrait of Mariana of Austria is an oil-on-canvas painting by Diego Velázquez completed c. 1652–53. Dona Mariana (known as Maria Anna) was the daughter of Emperor Ferdinand III and the Infanta Maria Anna of Spain. She was nineteen years old when the painting was completed. Mariana had been intended to marry Prince Baltasar Carlos, her first cousin. When he died, his father, and her uncle, Philip IV married her to preserve the hegemony of the Habsburg in Europe. As such she became Queen consort of Spain, reigning from 1634–1696. The painting's dating is based on the matching description of a portrait sent to Ferdinand in Vienna, noted on the 15th December 1651.[1]

The painting shows the future Queen in a black and silver dress with silver braid and red bows. Her bodice is adorned with jewellery, including a gold necklace, bracelets and a large gold brooch. Mariana is shown as wearing an unhappy expression. Her face is heavily made up, and her right hand rests on the back of a chair, and she holds a lace scarf in her left hand. Alongside her, a clock rests on scarlet drapery. The picture is bathed in harmonious shades of black and red; the rather dramatically drawn curtain was painted over by another hand.

The portrait is one of a series of Velázquez's portraits of the Spanish royal family completed in the 1650s.[2] These paintings are marked by an emphasis on brighter hues, dark backgrounds, extravagant head dress, fashionably wide dresses and penetrating physiological examination. The series culminates with the 1656 Las Meninas, which includes an older maternal Mariana, her daughter at center-stage, and the Infanta Margarita Teresa.


Detail of Las Meninas (1656) showing Mariana's daughter, the Infanta Margaret Theresa. Prado, Madrid
Portrait of Philip IV in Fraga, 1644. Frick Collection, New York

Mariana had been betrothed to Philip's son Baltasar Carlos, but he died in 1646, leaving the Spanish king heirless.[3] Then over forty years old, Philip sought Mariana, his niece (her mother Maria Anna of Spain was Philip's sister, Baltasar had been her cousin), then fourteen.[4] Mariana was thirteen years old at the date of the portrait, and has been described by art historian Rose-Marie Hagen as appearing like a "ruddy-cheeked, naive girl who loved a good laugh".[5]

She had an unhappy life; Mariana and Philip did not meet before their marriage, and later found little in common. Her bid to provide Philip with an heir in a family whose male children tended to be sickly,[6] included a number of false hopes and miscarriages.[7] When Philip died in 1665 she became regent for her son Charles II, the last of the Spanish Habsburgs.

Commission and dating

Velázquez was then crown painter and an Aposentador mayor del Palacio (officer charge of palace lodging) since 1652,[8] but worked in a pressurised court under threat from the anti-Catholic Oliver Cromwell, the Catalan revolt and the withdrawal of support from Austria.[9] Velázquez often felt drained by his workload;[8] his courtly duties hindered his leisure time. His responsibilities reduced his available for painting,[10] and produced less than twenty paintings during the last eight and a half years of his life. Of these some fourteen survive, and are mostly portraits of the royal family. The series was prompted by Philip and Mariana marriage, and extended to include portraits of their first two children to live beyond in fancy, Maria Theresa of Spain and Felipe Prospera. Felipe died aged 3 years, but portraits of Maria Theresa became especially in demand when she reached marriageable age, and were sent to potential suitors.[11]

He accepted the commission during his stay in Italy between 1649 and 1650. When Ferdinand III requested a portrait of his daughter in 1652, Philip asked Velázquez to return to Madrid with it as soon as possible.[1] A replica, now in the Musee du Louvre, was sent to Ferdinand on 15 December 1652.[12] From this, we can infer that the painting was completed at least before this date.[13]

Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress, 1659. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Velázquez painted a series of portraits of Mariana after Philip's death. Imbued with a sense of pathos, they emphasise her loss and the effects of widowhood. Although most of the portraits are dour or mournful in tone, in life Mariana was vivacious and fun loving.[14][7] The 1653 Portrait of the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain shows her in a very similar pose, complete with wide haircut and dress, and beneath a similar overhanging velvet curtain. She became the central figure in his Las Meninas, painted one or two years after the current work.[6]


Velázquez, Portrait of Mariana, 1660. Palace of Versailles

Velázquez's royal portraits sought to reinvigorate 16th century court portraiture, which were until then, according to art historian Javier Portus, "petrified into a rigid format...with its cliches of gesture and deportment". Velázquez's portraits are instead in-dept examinations of the sitters characters.[15] Mariana is portrayed as elegant, extravagantly dressed in the height of contemporary fashion, but wears a pouty expression. She holds an unusually rigid and stiff pose, with her upper body and head seeming to almost suffocate underneath her black dress, which is at least given pictorial space.[16] The dress is supported by a wide farthingale; its width emphasised by the broad lace collar and the horizontal patterns of the dress' trimmed borders, and her wide collar.[15]

Portrait of Mariana of Austria is composed from in harmonious shades of whites, blacks and reds. The dramatically drawn curtain has been painted over by another hand.[17] The scarlet velvet curtain is dramatically drawn on the top left hand corner, lending the painting a theatrical air; its presence tends to confine the space occupied by the queen and throw out the painting's the center of balance.[18] Its material and colour is similar to the long table behind her, on top of which is placed a gilded clock.[19] This table and clock are likely intended to represent her courtly duties as Queen consort.

The picture is the only known full-length portrait of Mariana. As an official court portrait it adheres to convention, and every attempt is made to convey a sense of her majesty. Both the chair and table-clock indicate her royal status.[20]


X-radiograph scan

Mariana is depicted with alabaster skin and a heavily painted, rouged face. She seems small and almost doll-like under her hair and the very wide head-dress. Her bust is tightly encased in the bodice, her stiff farthingale reflects her interest in high fashion. Her face is painted with thick brush strokes and layers of opaque paint that thin towards the edges, where they appear, from x-radiograph, to have been applied in quick dabs.[21] According to Hagen, Mariana felt constricted by the demands of court, and suffered "boredom, loneliness, home-sickness and illness in consequence of her never ending pregnancies [which] transformed the lively girl into that wilful, mulish German".[5]

Her pout reappears in a number of Velázquez's later portrayals, and in Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo's 1666 Mariana of Spain in Mourning, painted just after her husband died and the year her daughter Margarita, aged twelve, was sent to marry her uncle, Emperor Leopold I, king of Hungary and Croatia and Bohemia.[21]


Mariana was fond of luxurious clothes and adornments.[4] Her dress is extensively lined with silver braids and decorated with red ribbon.[1] Her many pieces of jewellery include bracelets, gold chains and an elaborate gold brooch pinned at her breast. Her doll-like face pouts and her cheeks are heavily lined with rouge. Her brown hair is adorned with red ribbons and worn in a series of braids that reach widely on either side. Mariana wears a large white and red plume to the right which pictorially frames her face.[1] Her left hand holds an elaborately folded and outsized white cloth, which in its attention to line and abandonment of scale has been described as "worthy of El Greco".[4] She wears a tightly fitted bodice which accentuates her waist but gives her the appearance of being flat chested. She holds a lace scarf in her left hand.

Mariana's extravagance with clothes and jewellery was much commentated on during her lifetime, but modern historians temper that view with the fact that her married life was pressured by the need to produce a male heir. This more sympathetic view looks past Velázquez's great portrait and at the fact that in real life she was a rather plain looking woman, and perhaps lacking in much of the elegance the master attributes to her.[19]

Provenance and copies

Half-length workshop copy, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The painting was noted in a 1700 inventory as a pendant to Philip IV in Armour with a Loin, now in El Escorial, Madrid,[1] sometimes attributed members of his workshop. Philip's portrait is unfinished, with some sections, including the lion, described as "hardly more than sketched".[6] Velázquez later enlarged Mariana's portrait by extending the area describing the overhanging canvas, probably so that the canvas would be equal in size to the portrait of Philip.

Louvre copy

Several contemporary full-length copies are known; one in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, a second was sent to Archduke Leopold William in 1653, but is now lost. The third was in the Prado until it was acquired by the Louvre in 1941.[1] A half length version attributed to members of his workshop is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[3] A further copy, dated c. 1656, is at the Ringling Museum of Art, in Sarasota, Florida.[22]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Mancini (2007), p. 226
  2. ^ Prohaska (2007), p. 230
  3. ^ a b "Mariana of Austria (1634–1696), Queen of Spain". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 12 January 2018
  4. ^ a b c Dominguez (1990), p. 248
  5. ^ a b Hagen (2010), p. 396
  6. ^ a b c Gállego (1989), p. 248
  7. ^ a b White (1969), p. 127
  8. ^ a b White (1969), p. 124
  9. ^ White (1969), p. 123
  10. ^ White (1969), p. 125
  11. ^ Gállego (1989), p. 240
  12. ^ Ortiz et al,
  13. ^ Morán; Rudolf (1992), pp. 291–92, 301
  14. ^ Dominguez (1990), p. 131
  15. ^ a b Portus (2007), p. 238
  16. ^ Anderson (2002), p. 171
  17. ^ "Mariana of Austria. Queen of Spain". Museo del Prado. Retrieved 21 September 2013
  18. ^ Dominguez (1990), p. 251
  19. ^ a b Dominguez (1990), p. 250
  20. ^ Gállego (1984), pp. 220-23
  21. ^ a b Ackroyd et al (2005), 52
  22. ^ "Mariana of Austria, Queen of Spain". Ringling Museum of Art. Retrieved 22 February 2019


  • Ackroyd, Paul; Carr, Dawson; Marika, Spring. "Mazo's 'Queen Mariana of Spain in Mourning'". London: National Gallery Technical Bulletin, Volume 26, 2005
  • Anderson, James. Daily Life During the Spanish Inquisition. Westport CT: Greenwood, 2002. ISBN 978-0-3133-1667-8
  • Dominguez, Ortiz Antonio. Velázquez. New York: Harry N Abrams, 1990. ISBN 978-0-8709-9554-5
  • Gállego, Julián. Velázquez. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; H.N. Abrams, 1989
  • Gállego, Julián. "Visión y símbolos en la pintura española del Siglo de Oro". Cátedra, 1984
  • Hagen, Rose-Marie. Masterpieces in Detail. London: Taschen, 2010. ISBN 978-3-8365-1549-8
  • Mancini, Giorgia. In Carr, David (ed). Velázquez. National Gallery, London, 2007. ISBN 978-1-8570-9303-2
  • Morán, Miguel; Rudolf, Karl. "Nuevos documentos en torno a Velázquez y a las colleciones reales". Archivo español de arte, 65, 1992. pp. 291–92, 301
  • Portus, Javier. In Carr, David (ed). Velázquez. National Gallery, London, 2007. ISBN 978-1-8570-9303-2
  • Prohaska, Wolfgang. In Carr, David (ed). Velázquez. National Gallery, London, 2007. ISBN 978-1-8570-9303-2
  • White, Jon Manchip. Diego Velázquez: Painter and Courtier. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd, 1969. ISBN 978-0-2410-1624-4

External links