NGV National Gallery of Victoria

Elisabeth Farnese

Miguel Jacinto Meléndez
Spanish 1679–1734
Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain c.1718–22
oil on canvas
82.0 x 62.0 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P07604)

Lived: 25 October 1692 – 11 July 1766

Second wife of Philip V.

Elisabeth came from the Farnese family, who ruled the Duchy of Parma in northern Italy  part of the Holy Roman Empire  for almost two hundred years. She was an amateur artist, who was well acquainted with her family’s significant art collections in Parma and Rome. Her artistic sensibilities were moulded by the Italian visual tradition. As her influence over her husband increased, Elisabeth reduced the number of commissions flowing to French artists, while steering royal patronage towards Italy, and moderated the modelling of Spanish art academies along French lines. Even though the couple consulted each other on all matters, it is clear from the royal inventories that Elisabeth and Philip had specific areas of artistic interest. The queen collected Italian works from the 16th and 17th centuries, including masterpieces by Correggio, Guido Reni, Francesco Salviati and Poussin and Flemish works by such celebrated artists as Anthony van Dyck, the Bruegel family, Paul Bril and David Teniers II. Elizabeth also collected 17th century Spanish art, especially the works of Bartolomé Estefan Murillo, an artist whose work was not particularly liked by the king. But Elisabeth also balanced the acquisition of works from previous centuries with contemporary paintings, albeit with an Italian flavour. The paintings and sculptures from her collection can be identified by a fleur-des-lis stamped or engraved upon them. A significant redecoration of the San Ildefonso palace in 1735 prompted the commissioning of two major cycles of paintings, executed predominantly by Italian painters including Sebastiano Conca, Francesco Trevisani, Francesco Solimena, Donato Creti, Giambattista Pittoni, Giovanni Paolo Panini and Andrea Locatelli. After the death of Philip V, Elisabeth was marginalised by the new king, Ferdinand VI, necessitating a slight reduction in her patronage. But she continued to actively support the arts, including the establishment of The Royal Glass Factory at La Granja. At her death she divided her vast personal collections amongst her three sons.