A porrtrait is a work of art that can serve to inform us about two seperate people. The first, and most obvious, is the subject of the painting, whil the second is the artist responsible for the piece. One fine example of this is the portrait of Anna of Austria Queen of France Mother of King Louis XIV by Peter Paul Rubens, a Flemish painter of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Sir Peter Paul Rubens was the leading light if the Flemish Baroqu movement, a tradition that came to influence vast swathes of European art. Rubens in particualr becmae known for his elabroate yet still strikin compositions, his stark contrasts between light and shadow, and the strength of character that shone through his portraits. Rubens sometimes depcited his contemporaries of European society, while at other times he portrayed majestic scenes from history, religion or mythology. Whatever his subject matter, hwoever, he never failed to bring a level of gravitas to his artwork.
The painting of Anna of Austria shows ubens at the top of his game as a portrait artist. Anna was a significant figure in her tim, being not only queen of France but also mother of King Louis XIV -- the ruler known as the Sun King. Such a personage damaged a magnificent painter, and Rubens fulfilled his duty by portraying Anne as a truly majestic figure. Her sumptuous gown flows before us, adorned with jewellery and furs, at once otherworldly and tactile. At first glance we see an almost angelic figure descended from heaven, but on closer inspection we make out the folds in the fabric and the texture of the adornments that remind us that we are seeing an ultimately earthbound figure. Then, looking closer still, we find other touches that take us back to the spiritual plane: the material that makes up Anne's neck-ruff is so delicate that it appears almost unbelievable, like a fabric from a fairy tale.
Then, finally, we have Anne's face. Suddenly, we are confronted with the human being at the centre of the painting. Anne's expression is soft and relatable, allowing her to reach out to us across the intervening centuries. We cannot help but imagine her personality, to try and picture this woman going about her daily life at court. Yet even here there is a touch of the divine: note the pearlescent glow that seems to emanate from her face. This was an era when monarchs were believed to have been appointed by divine right, after all, and Rubens perfectly captures the notion of Anne as a mediator between heaven and earth. If you are looking for a historical portrait to put on display in your home, then Anna of Austria Queen of France Mother of King Louis XIV by Peter Paul Rubens will be the perfect choice.