Portrait of Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia, Spanish Regent of the Low Countries, as a Nun

Rubens, Peter Paul, and Workshop (Flemish, 1577-1640)
Oil on canvas 
45-1/2 x 34-7/8 in. (115.6 x 88.6 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
On View

Archduchess Isabella (1566–1633), the daughter of King Philip II of Spain, was married to Archduke Albert and alongside him ruled as sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands. After her husband died in 1621, she was made governor of the Netherlands on behalf of the King of Spain. As a ruler, Isabella entrusted Rubens, her court painter, with not only artistic projects but also sensitive diplomatic missions. Here, she is portrayed in the habit of the Sisters of St. Clare, the order she joined after Albert's death—a common practice for noble widows at the time.

The portrait projects an image of the Archduchess’s simple religious life. Standing in front of a neutral background, she wears a modest robe tied with a cord around her waist. Characteristic of Ruben’s portraits, Isabella catches the viewer’s eyes with a lifelike expression. Her engaging face is framed by a halo-like glow that subtly emphasizes the Archduchess’s piety.


[Galerie Sankt-Lucas, Vienna, 1934].
Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1875-1947), Schloss Rohoncz, Lugano, by 1935, by descent to his daughter;
Baroness Gabrielle Bentinck (nee Thyssen), through [Rudolf Heinemann, Pinakos], to;
[Rosenberg and Stiebel, New York, September 30, 1957, sold 1959 to];
Mr. and Mrs. Norton Simon, gift 1966 to;
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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