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After Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1399-1464)

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1396-1467) c. 1445

Oil on panel | 31.9 x 22.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 403440

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  • Philip the Good ruled the duchy of Burgundy from 1419 to 1467. An active patron of the arts, he had strong links with Henry VI's court in England though he preferred to concentrate on the expansion of his own land rather than becoming embroiled in the Hundred Years' War.

    He is shown here wearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, which he established on 10 January 1430 in emulation of the English Order of the Garter; he had been invited to become a Garter Knight but declined for fear of offending the French King Charles VII. The symbol of the Order refers to the tale from Greek mythology in which Jason led the band of Argonauts on a quest to find the golden fleece of the ram Chrysomallos, which was hung on a tree guarded by a dragon. It was controversial to use a pagan symbol for a Christian order, but the chivalrous overtones of the story clearly appealed to the Duke, who had the legend illustrated for him numerous times.

    This portrait conforms to a standard type of image of Philip the Good created by various artists to satisfy popular demand. There is no known painted prototype and it is possible that the numerous versions derive from an original drawing by Rogier van der Weyden, unofficial painter to the Burgundian court. The prototype for portrait may have formed part of a matrimonial diptych, which would have included a portrait of Isabella of Portugal, Philip's third wife whom he married in 1430.

    The portrait was probably painted by a member of Rogier van der Weyden's large workshop and is a stylised, emotionless and idealised image of the ruler. Comparison with other versions, such as that in Bruges Musée Communal, highlight the pattern-book nature of the image. Philip is depicted in three-quarter profile, wearing a black chaperon (a hood or hat), with a scroll prominently held in his hands. The gesture of his hands is striking; his right is outstretched as though in prayer, whereas his left is foreshortened, thereby demonstrating the artist's grasp of perspective. The age of the sitter - around 50 - combined with the style of his clothing indicates a date around the mid 1440s.

    Text adapted from Bruegel to Rubens: Masters of Flemish Painting, London 2007

    First recorded in the collection of Henry VIII at Whitehall in 1542 (no 775); in the Privy Gallery in 1639 (no 45); probably one of the '31 pictures of Kings and princes' sold for £20 to de la Mare on 28 June 1650 from St James's Palace (no 218); recovered at the Restoration and back in the King's Privy Gallery at Whitehall in 1666 (no 123). The painting spend the 18th century at Kensington Palace, in the Queen's Dining Room in 1710 (no 159) and 1818 (no 159), where it appears in Pyne's illustrated Royal Residences of 1819 (RCIN 922153).

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on panel


    31.9 x 22.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    42.6 x 33.2 x 4.4 cm (frame, external)