L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Isabel de Valois, by Juan Pantoja de La Cruz, circa 1605

Isabel (Élisabeth) de Valois (2 April 1545, Fontainebleau – 3 October 1568, Madrid), the eldest daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici, became the third wife of Philip II of Spain in 1559, shortly after the death of his second wife, Queen Mary I of England. She had originally been betrothed to Philip's son, Carlos, Prince of Asturias, but for political reasons ended marrying the father instead. (After her marriage, she had a warm relationship with her troubled stepson, until his mental state deteriorated to such a degree that his father had to lock him away.) The king and his fourteen year old bride were quite pleased with each other, despite the eighteen year age difference, and Isabel even came to be an important political adviser to her husband. Her first pregnancy ended with the miscarriage of twin daughters. She later had two more daughters, both of whom survived to adulthood. Isabel became pregnant once again in 1568, but late in the year she miscarried and died at the age of twenty-three.

This painting is thought to be a copy after an original by Sofonisba Anguisola, who was the protégée of the Queen.  (And her teacher; Isabel was an enthusiastic amateur artist.)  Certainly, it wasn't painted in her lifetime, as the presumed date of its execution is a full thirty-seven years after the Queen's death. 

The fictionalized story of Isabel, Philip, and his son Carlos inspired plays by Otway and Schiller and, most famously, Verdi's opera Don Carlos.


Juan Pantoja de La Cruz (1553, Valladolid – 26 October 1608, Madrid), Spanish painter, one of the great representatives of the Spanish Late Renaissance Mannerist school of court painters. He worked for Philip II and Philip III.


  1. Dead at 23 after so many pregnancies/births. Sigh. But how fetching is that outfit???

    1. I know! On both counts. I've posted about a few young women who've had that same pattern of unhealthy pregnancies and early death. Awful. I wonder, aside from the overall wretched health conditions of the time - not to mention the "medicine" of the day - if part of the problem was that these ladies started their pregnancies at such a young age...?

  2. I was only familiar with Verdi's opera Don Carlo (in which I saw Renata Scotto at the Met---memorable evening in so many ways)
    and hadn't known a thing about the real personalities behind the drama.

    What a striking woman she was, in a slightly butch kind of way. The portrait is inspiring on many levels--not least of which, the combination of unexpected colours. But then I am inclined to think of everything in terms of decorating schemes….