Portrait of a Noblewoman, Probably Isabella of Portugal (1397–1472)
Netherlandish Painter (mid-15th century)
Oil on wood
Overall 13 5/8 x 10 5/8 in. (34.6 x 27 cm), with added strips of 1/8 in. (0.3 cm) at each side
Bequest of Mary Stillman Harkness, 1950
Not on view
George Salting, London (by 1899–at least 1900, as Early Flemish, Michele de France); [Agnew, London, by 1908–at least 1909]; Friedrich Wilhelm, Freiherr von Bissing, Munich and The Hague (by 1910–26, as Burgundian, about 1420; his sale, Frederik Muller, Amsterdam, November 30, 1926, no. 6, as French, 15th century, Portrait of a Noblewoman, for 27,000 guilders to Duveen); [Duveen, London and New York, 1926–28; sold to Rosenfeld]; Ernst Rosenfeld, New York (1928–d. in or before 1937; his estate, 1937, as French, about 1440; sold to Knoedler); [Knoedler, New York, from 1937; sold to Ryan]; Clendenin J. Ryan, New York (until d. 1939; his estate sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, January 19–20, 1940, no. 219, for $14,000 to Knoedler and Zinser); [Knoedler and R. Zinser, New York, 1940; sold for $16,800 to Harkness]; Mrs. Edward S. (Mary Stillman) Harkness, New York (1940–d. 1950)
London. New Gallery. "Exhibition of Pictures by Masters of the Flemish and British Schools," 1899–1900, no. 34 (as Early Flemish School, Michele de France, lent by George Salting).
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Fifteenth Century Portraits," April 15–27, 1935, no. 3 (as "Portrait of a Noble Lady, presumed to be Michelle de France," by a Master of the Burgundian School, about 1420, lent by Ernst Rosenfeld).
[Max J.] Friedländer. "Die Leihausstellung der New Gallery in London, Januar–März 1900.—Hauptsächlich niederländische Gemälde des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 23 (1900), p. 251, refers to it as an insignificant copy from the end of the 15th century.
Hermann Nasse. "Gemälde aus der Sammlung des Univ.-Professors Dr. Freih. Fr. W. von Bissing zu München." Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst 6 (1911), pp. 231–32, fig. 1 (inscription on frame) and fig. 16, records the inscription on the original frame, "Michelle de France . . . [see Notes]" and identifies the sitter as Michelle de France, wife of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy; considers it a Burgundian work from about 1420 or a later copy.
Hermann Nasse. "Un portrait de Michelle de France dans la collection du Bn de Bissing à Munich." Revue archéologique, 4th ser., 19 (May–June 1912), pp. 406–12, ill., is certain that the subject is Michelle de France, Duchess of Burgundy; based on the costume dates it to the 1st quarter of the 15th century and attributes it to the workshop of Henri Bellechose; states that the picture has been carefully cleaned and restored since Friedländer saw it in 1900.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 4, Paris, 1918, p. 552, ill. (engraving)
, as Burgundian school (after Jan van Eyck?).
Seymour de Ricci. "A Flemish Triptych for Melbourne, II." Burlington Magazine 40 (April 1922), p. 166, discusses versions of the portrait with different identifications of the sitter, maintaining, however, the identification as Michelle de France.
Max J. Friedländer. Letter to Mr. Lowengard [Duveen Bros.]. April 21, 1927, notes that a poor copy of this portrait, reproduced in O. Rubbrecht (L'origine du type familiar de la maison de Hapsbourg, 1910, fig. 9) bears the inscription "Margarata Alberti Dudis in Bavari . . . Philippi Boni mater," and concludes that this is a portrait of the wife of Jean sans Peur [or Margaret of Bavaria]; mentions another portrait of this princess on a tombstone at Dijon (Rubbrecht, fig. 8); attributes the MMA example to a painter occupied at the French Burgundian Court, about 1420; observes that although mostly Netherlanders were active at the court, the boundaries between French and Netherlandish art were not clearly drawn during this period.
Georges Hulin de Loo. Le Maître de Flemalle (typescript of notes for lectures delivered at the centre "Primitifs flamands," Brussels, in 1939). 1939 [information reported by Lorne Campbell, Ref. 1974], associates it with the work of Campin and tentatively suggests that the sitter might be Margaret of Burgundy, Countess of Hainaut and Holland, who died in 1441.
Public Sale. Park-Bernet, New York. January 19–20, 1940, p. 84, no. 219, ill. (photogravure), catalogues the picture.
Paul Wescher. "Das höfische Bildnis von Philip dem Guten bis Karl V." Pantheon 18 (1941), pp. 196, 202, ill., states that on the reverse of this panel the subject is referred to as Michelle de France, but identifies her in his article as Isabella of Portugal, the same sitter that appears in the portrait ascribed to Rogier van der Weyden in the Rockefeller collection (now J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, as Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden).
Reynaldo dos Santos. Letter to Theodore Rousseau. December 20, 1951, considers this a portrait of Isabella of Portugal before her marriage to Philip the Good of Burgundy, finding confirmation in her resemblance to the older woman in the Rockefeller [later Getty] portrait; states that if our portrait was indeed made before her marriage, then it must have been painted by a Portuguese artist; notes that more certain attribution is made difficult by the rarity of Portuguese paintings from the first part of the 15th century.
Erwin Panofsky. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. Cambridge, Mass., 1953, vol. 1, p. 478 n. 4 to p. 293, calls this picture a free copy of the Rockefeller [later Getty] panel minus the inscription.
Reynaldo dos Santos. "Retratos do século XV." Belas Artes, 2nd ser., no. 5 (1953), pp. 34–35, fig. 1, sees a resemblance in features to the portrait, earlier in date, of D. João I in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, suggesting that our portrait may represent his daughter, Isabella; comments on the similarity of the sitter here to that in the Rockefeller [later Getty] portrait.
Helen Comstock. "The Connoisseur in America: Portrait of Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy." Connoisseur 137 (March 1956), p. 71, tentatively identifies the sitter as Isabella of Portugal based on her resemblance to a 17th-century variant inscribed with her name in the Hammer sale (Heberle, Cologne, October 5–6, 1894, no. 151, ill.); rejects identification of either sitter with that of the subject represented in the Rogerian Portrait of a Lady in the Rockefeller Collection [now Getty Museum]; notes that Isabella appears with other members of the house of Burgundy in the central panel of a triptych, "The Feeding of the Five Thousand," by the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine, in Melbourne, Australia [National Gallery of Victoria]; says our portrait may have been executed before Isabella left Portugal in 1430 and considers it a work of the Portuguese School, either a Northern or Flemish artist working in Portugal or a Portuguese student of some member of the school of Bruges.
Kurt Bauch. "Bildnisse des Jan van Eyck." Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften (1961/62), p. 107, fig. 11, observes that the picture appears to represent Isabella of Portugal, and must have been made by one of her Netherlandish court painters whose other works remain unknown.
Maria Julieta Ruival. Unpublished manuscript. 1966, dates our picture about 1415 and suggests the painter was a Portuguese artist working in Flanders; identifies the subject here and in the Rockefeller [Getty] portrait as Isabella of Bavaria; notes her resemblance to the sitter in a portrait in the Louvre, Paris, whom she identifies as Isabella of Bavaria based on her similarity to the sitter in a portrait inscribed with her name in the Stoclet collection, Brussels.
Lorne Campbell. Unpublished notes. 1972, notes that several versions of this portrait exist, including one at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, "which forms part of a series of reliable portraits of the Counts and Countesses of Flanders, and which is inscribed with the name of Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy"; believes there can be no doubt that the sitter here is Isabella; finds attribution of our panel to a Portuguese painter unreasonable, since, as the most repeated likeness of the Duchess, the original must surely have been the work of one of the Burgundian court painters in the Netherlands of "?ca. 1440," based on the costume; observes that the portrait "may be entirely repainted, except in restricted areas of the flesh".
Lorne Campbell. Unpublished catalogue entry. May 20, 1974, sees in this portrait an affinity with the works of Campin and Jacques Daret and suggests it is the work of Daniel Daret, who was appointed court painter in 1449; lists six other variants, noting that the inscriptions on them agree only in identifying the sitter as a Duchess of Burgundy; dates the costume from about 1450 and concludes that the sitter can only be Isabella of Portugal, who married Philip the Good in 1429, and who died in 1472; notes that later unscrupulous copyists, "when unable to secure authentic portrait of the personages whom they wished to depict, used available portraits of different personages".
Lorne Campbell. Unpublished notes. 1981, states that infrared reflectography reveals that this portrait was painted over an unfinished picture of the Virgin and Child, "which was also in the style of the 'Master of Flémalle'"; believes the original, and also this replica, were by artists from his circle and were probably painted about 1440.
Claudine Lemaire and Michèle Henry. Isabelle de Portugal, duchesse de Bourgogne, 1397–1471. Exh. cat., Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier. Brussels, 1991, p. 149, calls the Getty picture a presumed portrait of Isabella of Portugal, a late replica by an unknown artist based on a lost original by Rogier van der Weyden; considers our panel a mediocre interpretation of Rogier's original, although the coiffure, dress, and smile of the sitter are reminiscent of the sitter in the Getty work.
Diane Wolfthal and Cathy Metzger. Los Angeles Museums. Brussels, 2014, pp. 202, 205 n. 23.
Inscribed on original frame: "Michelle de France. Fille de Charles VI Roy de France et d'Isabeau de Bavière. Mariée en juin 1409 à Philippe le Bon Duc de Bourgogne" (see Nasse 1912).