The Wallace Collection

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Henri IV and the Spanish Ambassador
  • Richard Parkes Bonington (1802 - 1828)
  • Henri IV and the Spanish Ambassador
  • France
  • c. 1827
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 38.4 x 52.4 cm
    Object size: 69 x 81.5 x 8.5 cm
  • P351
  • West Gallery II
Further Reading
  • This painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1827-8. The subject is taken from an anecdote (probably apocryphal) related in the 'Mémorial pittoresque de la France' (1786) concerning Henri IV (1553-1610), King of France from 1589, one of the most able and popular of French monarchs. At Fontainebleau in 1604 the King was playing with the Dauphin, letting him ride on his back, when an ambassador arrived:

    ‘to discover the conqueror of the Catholic League and the Monarch of France in this undignified position. The worthy Henri, without getting up, stopped and said:
    - Have you any children, Ambassador?
    - Yes, Sire.
    - Then I may finish my trip round the room.’

    The subject had been treated before by other artists, including Ingres and Pierre Révoil who had both identified the ambassador as Spanish. Attractive images of Henri IV, the first Bourbon king, had been common under the Emperor Napoleon but had a particular relevance and appeal after the return of the Bourbons in 1815. Bonington's picture was one of eight at the Paris Salon of 1827-8 with a scene taken from the life of Henri IV.