Lot 8
  • 8

ANTHONIS MOR | Portrait of Alessandro Farnese (1545–1592) in armour

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  • Anthonis Mor
  • Portrait of Alessandro Farnese (1545–1592) in armour
  • Asking Price: $2,975,000oil on canvas
  • 68 7/8  by 39 3/8  in.; 175 by 100 cm.


Possibly, Margaret of Austria, inventory of 26 February 1586, as portrait of Alessandro 'when he returned from Spain';
Thence by inheritance to Alessandro Farnese, and by descent, (possibly) inventories of the Palazzo Farnese, Rome, 1644, no. 240 and 1653, no. 7;
Art market, Italy, where acquired in the 1930s by Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata (1877-1947);
Thence by inheritance until sold (Property of a European Nobleman), New York, Christie's, 19 April 2018, lot 28 (as Anthonis Mor and Alonso Sánchez Coello);
Where acquired by the present owner.


L. Fornari Schianchi, "Collezionismo e committenza tra potere e spirito religioso nel ducato farnesiano", in A. Emiliani (ed.), La pittura in Emilia e in Romagna. Il Seicento, Bologna 1993, vol. II, pp. 10, 17, reproduced and pp. 28-29, note 7 (as Anthonis Mor);
M. Kusche, El caballero cristiano y su dama - el retrato de representacion de cuerpo entero, Madrid 2004, p. 354, fig. 317 (as Alonso Sánchez Coello);
A. Pérez de Tudela, 'Alejandro Farnesio en la corte de España (1559 - 1561 en particular)', re-edited version to be published in K. De Jonge y H. Cools (eds.), Alessandro Farnese e le Fiandre, Acts of the international congress at the Académie royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Palais des Académies, 20-22 October 2005, forthcoming;
G. Bertini, 'Un altro quadro con il ritratto del Principe Alessandro', in L’inventario di Margherita d’Austria, Turin 2012, p. 72, note 138 (as Mor);
A. Pérez de Tudela, Antonio Moro y Alonso Sánchez Coello en la corte española junto a Alejandro Farnesio (1559-1563), unpublished manuscript, 2014 (as Mor and Sánchez Coello);
A. Pérez de Tudela, 'El príncipe don Carlos de Austria', in C. García-Frías and J. Jordán de Urries (eds.), El Retrato en las Colecciones Reales de Patrimonio Nacional. De Juan de Flandes a Antonio López, exh. cat., Madrid 2015 (as Mor);
A. Donati, Anthonis Mor / Antonio Moro alla corte di Spagna dagli esordi al ritorno nei Paesi Bassi, unpublished manuscript (as Mor).


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is in remarkably good condition given its period. The canvas is lined. The texture of the paint is still quite lively. The paint layer is cleaned, varnished and retouched. Retouches are very sparingly applied, and there is hardly any damage or weakness. The figure is in particularly good condition with barely any retouches at all. The work should be hung as is.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This imposing full-length portrait of Alessandro Farnese (1545–1592) at age 16 is believed to have been commissioned from Anthonis Mor in 1561, while both the artist and the sitter were stationed in the newly established Court of Philip II in Madrid.1 The sitter was the grandson of Emperor Charles V by his mother, Margaret of Parma, also known as Margaret of Austria (1522–1586), and half-sister of King Philip II. Alessandro had been educated in his uncle’s court in Brussels, where Mor first painted his portrait in 1557, when the boy was 12 (Galleria Nazionale, Parma). Alessandro remained in his uncle’s court in Madrid from 1561–63, and two years later, married Maria of Portugal and entered into the service of Philip II. Alessandro bravely assisted his uncle, Don Juan of Austria (1547–1578), during the great naval victory over the Ottoman fleet in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto. In 1578, after he led a faction of the Spanish army to a remarkable defeat of a multinational coalition of forces, he was appointed Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. He would go on to reclaim Maastricht, Bruges and Antwerp from the United Provinces (as they were known after the 1579 Union of Utrecht). Following his father Ottavio’s death, he became Duke of Parma and Piacenza in 1586, though his son, Ranuccio, ruled in his stead. After a failed attempt to invade England under the protection of the Spanish Armada, Alessandro won several victories against Henri IV of France, but was ultimately wounded at the siege of Caudebec-en-Caux and died in Arras at the age of 47.  The present painting and another version, now in the Meadows Museum, Dallas, are both given to Anthonis Mor, but possibly with the participation of Sánchez Coello, to whom the latter painting had long been attributed. While Mor excelled in capturing the psychology of his sitters, Sánchez Coello was particularly skilled at painting costume and armour. Like the earlier portrait of Alessandro, the format follows almost exactly that of Mor’s painting of Philip II in the El Escorial, which enabled him to repeat a composition without substantial changes to the post. Alessandro stands against a dark background, wearing a full corselet (or half armour), for field use on foot, as is demonstrated by the type of sword and dagger worn on either side. The splendid Italian-made armour, with red piping identifying Alessandro as a member of the Spanish army, is dated to circa 1560 and is almost certainly the Milanese armour mentioned by Margaret of Parma in her correspondence as being delivered to him in Madrid in October 1561. At the time of this portrait’s commission, Mor was on a permanent retainer with the Spanish court, and Sánchez Coello was gaining favor in court and would eventually succeed his teacher as Spanish court painter.

By the end of October Mor had already requested a passport to return to Brussels; this had a validity of only three months and Mor was certainly back in Brussels by early 1562.