Portrait of Francesco I d’Este

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez

Seville, 1599 – Madrid, 1660


Oil on canvas, 68 x 51cm.

This famous portrait has always been one of the symbols of the Estense collection. It was completed between 1638 and 1639 when the young Duke (Modena, 1610 – Santhià, 1658) was a guest of the Spanish royal family.

One of the greatest artists of all time, Velázquez worked almost exclusively for the court of Philip IV. He excelled in portraiture to which he brought an extraordinary range of formal registers and introspective perspicacity. Francesco d’Este is captured at three-quarter length, armoured like a condottiero and bearing the Toson d’Oro livery collar bestowed on him by the King. The liquid brushstrokes which evoke the gleaming metal and pink sash become tighter in the young face of the Duke, looking out to the viewer with a profoundly human and present gaze. He went on to rule for a further twenty years marking one of the most splendid eras of the Estense dynasty.