Diego Velazquez Royal Portrait Heads to Auction

Diego Velazquez Royal Portrait of Queen Isabel de Borbón Heads to Auction for the First Time in Half a Century.

Dec 4, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
aesop Diego Velazquez mercury behead argus jacob jordaens painting
Aesop1638, via Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain; with Mercury Draws his Sword to Behead Argus, by Jacob Jordaens, 1620, via NVG Gallery.


Diego Velazquez royal portrait of Queen Isabel de Borbón heads to auction at Sotheby’s New York.  Isabel was Spain’s King Philip IV spouse. Overall, this is the first auction of the piece in fifty years. Also, the expectations for selling the painting are $35 million. The auction will occur next year in February.


Diego Velazquez Created the Piece at Queen’s Peak

Isabel de Borbón, Queen of Spain (ca. 1631) Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s


Many know the queen by several names – Elisabeth of France and Isabella of Bourbon. Overall, she was the French ruler King Henry IV’s child. Velázquez’s portrayal of her is “of a calibre and importance” that rarely appears on the market, according to a statement from Sotheby’s. The painting also represents the queen in her 20s. She is donning an opulent black court gown.


Isabel was at the pinnacle of her abilities when she posed for the artwork. Also, she was renowned for her compassion and wisdom as a queen. Velazquez took another look at the picture in 1631 after initially creating it in the late 1620s. This happened not long after meeting Peter Paul Rubens, a Flemish artist. Rubens encouraged the Spaniard to study the Italian masters.


The Birth of the Milky Way by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636-1637, via Museo del Prado


Additionally, Velázquez probably sought to modernise the outfit Isabel appears to be wearing. “Though Velázquez was already widely celebrated when he painted this work, here we see him at a moment of transformation”, Christopher Apostle, Sotheby’s international head of Old Master Paintings, said in a statement.

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How the Piece Changed Its Owners

Equestrian Portrait of the Count-Duke of Olivares. Via archive


King Philip placed the artwork in the Buen Retiro residence in Madrid after its creation. It was displayed as a pendant, or paired artwork, with Velázquez’s Philip IV in Black, now at the Prado Museum in Madrid.  The painting arrived to France in 1808, during Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. The piece then found its place at the Louvre museum. It also hung in the Galerie Espagnole, or Spanish gallery, under the reign of Louis Philippe.


Aftet that, Henry Huth, a commercial banker and renowned book collector, bought the piece. He placed it at his Wykehurst Park estate in England. The picture stayed in the family until 1950, until selling. Current owners have the piece since 1978. Also, the piece is available for viewing at Sotheby’s galleries on New Bond Street in London until December 6. This is the first public exhibition in the U.K. in half a century.


Rokeby Venus, Diego Velazquez, circa 1647-1651


It will then travel to New York for a pre-sale exhibition ahead of the Sotheby’s annual Master Paintings auction on February 1. The $35 million estimate for the sale is more than double the current auction record for a work by Velázquez. His painting Saint Ruffina (1629–32) sold at Sotheby’s London in 2007 for $16.9 million.

























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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.