Felipe IV, cazador (1632-1634)

Velázquez, Diego (1599-1660)

Felipe IV, cazador (Philip IV in Hunting Dress)
Oil on canvas, 189 x 124 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Between 1635 and 1637, important additions were made to the Torre de la Parada, the king’s hunting pavilion situated in the woodlands surrounding the royal palace of El Pardo, on the outskirts of Madrid. During these years, a major project was undertaken to decorate the building with paintings, for which principally Peter Paul Rubens was called upon. Rubens conceived of an extensive programme of mythological paintings, which he created with the assistance of other Flemish artists. Another painter who contributed to the decoration of the pavilion was Diego Velázquez, who produced images of philosophers, hunting scenes and portraits. In addition to paintings of dwarfs and jesters, the portraits included representations of Philip IV, his brother the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand, and the Crown Prince Baltasar Carlos, all portrayed outdoors, accompanied by dogs, wearing hunting attire and carrying guns. The only one of these paintings for which a date is known is Crown Prince Baltasar Carlos as hunter (P01189), who was depicted when he was six years old, that is, in 163536, as an inscription indicates. Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand as hunter (P01186) was probably painted earlier, for beginning in 1634 he was away from Madrid, serving as governor of the Low Countries. For different reasons, we can assume that Philip IV as hunter was also painted earlier, and adapted to suit its new location in the Torre de la Parada, for which these portraits´ typology must have been deemed particularly suitable. Probably because of its new placement, several changes were made to the image of the king, now clearly visible to the unaided eye. These pentimenti reveal that the rifle was once longer, his left leg was situated more to the right side of the canvas, and the area around his waist was more complex. The evidence of a copy of the painting in its earlier state by Velázquez‘s workshop (Musée Goya, Castres, France), and X-ray photographs of the present canvas, tell us that in its first state the monarch’s head was uncovered. The existence of the workshop version suggests that the changes were not made immediately. The fact that the portrait of Baltasar Carlos is the only one to include a specific topographical reference (the area around the Sierra del Guadarrama, near El Escorial), which is closely connected to the environs of the Torre de la Parada, also prompts us to imagine that only this portrait was originally conceived specifically for the hunting pavilion. Philip IV is portrayed here during his physical and political maturity, when Spain still enjoyed its status as a hegemonic power in Europe. These are the years in which courtly culture underwent an extraordinary expansion, reflected in important building and decorative projects, such as the Buen Retiro palace and the Torre de la Parada. We see him in the countryside, standing next to a holm oak (quercus ilex), wearing attire and striking a pose that today might seem casual, but that at the time communicated a very specific meaning. Depictions of the hunt, in that age, were considered “images of war”, as numerous contemporary writers reiterate. Therefore, these paintings referred not only to a common pastime for the sitters, but also called attention to one of the inherent responsibilities of any prince or king. In 1724, Antonio Palomino described this portrait and that of the cardinal-infante, emphasising the physical effort involved in the hunt: It would seem that [the painter] saw them at the hottest point of the day, arriving fatigued from the hunt -as strenuous as it is delightful- gracefully unkempt, dust from the roads in their hair (not like the courtiers of today)!, their faces bathed in sweat, as Martial [in one of his epigrams] portrays [the Emperor] Domitian in a similar case, lovely to behold, perspiring and covered in dust. This painting is novel from a typological standpoint, for no important precedents exist. Though the artist has done without references to his sitter’s royal status, he nevertheless has managed to transmit a sense of majesty through his elegance, the confidence and impassiveness with which he gazes at the viewer, the manner in which he rests his left hand on his waist and, finally, the way in which the king fills the foreground and is related to the landscape behind him (Text from Portús, J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 84). (Museo Nacional del Prado, El Palacio del Rey Planeta: Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2005, p.78)

See also:

• Felipe IV, King of Spain (1605-1665)