NGV National Gallery of Victoria

Philip V

Miguel Jacinto Meléndez
Spanish 1679–1734
Philip V, King of Spain c.1718–22
oil on canvas
82.0 x 62.0 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P07603)

Lived: 19 December 1683 – 9 July 1746

Reigned: 16 November 1700 – 14 January 1724 (abdicated); 6 September 1724 – 9 July 1746

Married to Maria Louisa of Savoy (170114); Elisabeth Farnese (1714–46).

First ruler of the Spanish branch of the French Bourbon dynasty. Philip, Duc of Anjou, was bequeathed the Spanish throne by Charles II, King of Spain, who had no heirs. The appointment of a French nobleman to the Spanish throne, and the threat that a combined kingdom would create, plunged Europe into the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), with France and Spain fighting against the ‘Grand Alliance’, a large coalition of countries including England, the Dutch Republic, Portugal and Austria. After 13 years of conflict, Philip ascended the throne as Philip V, King of Spain, under virtually the same terms that were originally proposed. As a reward, Philip V gave paintings by Titian to several of his supporters. Not used to the austerity of the Spanish palaces after the extravagance of the palace at Versailles, Philip V ordered the construction of the palace at La Granja de San Ildefonso (Segovia), inspired by Versailles and surrounded by gardens and fountains. The new palace required a similar, but smaller, acquisition campaign as that of the Buen Retiro Palace. Philip acquired modestly, mainly through the purchase of important collections offered through estate sales. Notable purchases included paintings from the estate of the artist Carlo Maratti (who had settled in Spain), the extraordinary collection of classical sculpture that belonged to Christina, Queen of Sweden (acquired for him by his second wife Elisabeth Farnese) and other smaller collections of Italian and Flemish paintings.
The Royal Collection suffered significantly under Philip V’s reign when a fire that originated in the rooms of the French artist Jean Ranc destroyed the Alcázar on Christmas Eve, 1734. More than 500 masterpieces were destroyed, including fourteen Titians. Extraordinarily, many important paintings were saved by being tossed out of the windows, and due to a stroke of good fortune others escaped the blaze because Philip V had just had them relocated to the Buen Retiro Palace. Philip began the construction of the new Palacio Real, following a lavish Baroque design inspired by Bernini’s plans for the Louvre. It was a turning point in Spanish architecture. Even though Philip V was not a collector to rival Philip II or Philip IV, nonetheless his patronage and promotion of the arts in Spain was significant. He founded the Real Fábrica de Tapices de Santa Bárbara (tapestry workshop), re-invigorated the Sevillian school of painting and created the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (school of art) in 1744.