The Infanta Margarita
  • Date: after 1656
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 70.8 x 55.5 cm
  • Inv: P100
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Further Reading
  • Infanta Margarita Teresa (1651–1673) was the first child of King Philip IV of Spain (1605–1665) and his second wife, Mariana of Austria (1634–1696). One of the couple’s few surviving children, she married her mother’s brother, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705) in 1666. Betrothed at a young age, Velázquez painted three portraits of the princess, in 1654, 1656 and 1659, to be sent to the Court in Vienna, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The infanta was described as being exceptionally beautiful, and she appears thus in these portraits. Their compositions hardly vary, yet they beautifully chronicle their subject’s evolution from a young infant to a princess, and reveal with profound sensitivity her childishness behind the façade of royal dignity.

    This painting is a close version of the full-length portrait sent to Vienna in 1656. The infanta is about five-years-old, around the same age as in Velázquez’s most famous painting, Las Meninas (1656, Prado Museum, Madrid). She wears the same silver dress with slashed sleeves, fur-trimmed collar and cuffs, and red bows, which animate her pale complexion. Their similarities may suggest that both Las Meninas and the Kunsthistorisches portrait were based upon a single sitting. Recent cleaning and removal of the old discoloured varnish has revealed the exceptional quality of this painting, indicating that it was probably made by a close follower of Velázquez.

    The painting was probably once in the collection of John Meade (1775–1849), the British consul-general in Madrid, who amassed a collection boasting numerous Spanish, Dutch and Italian masterpieces, including works by El Greco, Murillo and Zurbarán, that was subsequently dispersed over the course of several sales in London and Madrid. It was acquired by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in 1852.