NGV National Gallery of Victoria

Philip IV

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
Spanish 1599–1660
Portrait of Philip IV (1605-65) in court dress c.1653
oil on canvas
69.3 x 56.5 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P01185)

Lived: 8 April 1605 – 17 September 1665

Reigned: 31 March 1621 – 17 September 1665

Married to Elisabeth of France (161544); Mariana of Austria (164965).

Philip IV was a true art lover and the most important European collector in the seventeenth century. As a child he studied drawing and painting under Juan Bautista Maino. His earliest commissions as king were for the renovation and remodelling of several of the royal palaces. To decorate them Philip IV turned to his grandfather, Philip II’s collection. Here he discovered the Italian masters, resulting in a renewed interest in Italian art. Peter Paul Rubens’ visit to Madrid in 1628 also had a profound influence on Philip IV, the former not only acting as diplomat for Spain, but also supplying a series of large mythological and allegorical canvases for the Torre de la Parada, Philip’s hunting lodge near Madrid.
In 1630 the construction of the Buen Retiro Palace commenced. This was an enormous project that took seven years. Eight hundred contemporary paintings from Spain, Italy and The Netherlands were commissioned to decorate it. The finest artists working in Rome and Naples were engaged for the project including Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin, Giovanni Lanfranco and Mario Nuzzi. The collections of friends and enemies were also plundered to fill the new palace. Under Philip IV the Royal Collection of sixteenth-century Italian painting was consolidated in three ways: firstly, the further acquisition of works by Titian; secondly, the inclusion of underrepresented Venetian masters, such as Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Tintoretto and the Bassanos; and thirdly, the addition of works by central Italian painters such as Correggio, Parmigianino, Andrea del Sarto and Raphael. Most of the paintings by Raphael now in the Prado came into the Royal Collection at this time. The majority of paintings acquired by Philip IV, however, were from auctions and estate sales, the most important being that of Charles I of England following his beheading in 1649. The royal household accounts list no less than 42 painters in the employ of the court during the reign of Philip IV.