Jean Hey: Portrait of Margaret of Austria, age 10 (1490)

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

Theme for this week is portraits of children. Starting is a painting by the Early Netherlandish artist Jean Hey (1475-1505), also known as the Master of Moulins. The woman on this painting is Margaret of Austria (1480-1530), daughter of Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I of Austria and Mary of Burgundy. Margaret was betrothed at the age of 3 to Charles, the son of king Louis XI of France and the future king Charles VIII of France (1470-1498), through the  Treaty of Arras (23 December 1482). She was educated at the French royal court but in 1491 Charles renounced the treaty of Arras and married Anne, Duchess of Brittany instead. Margaret married John, Prince of Asturias and son of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, in 1497 but John died after only 6 months. Margaret gave birth to a  premature stillborn daughter several months later. She remarried again in 1501 with Philibert II, Duke of Savoy (1480–1504) but he died after a marriage of only 3 years, leaving Margaret again widow and childless. After this Margaret never remarried again and was instated as governor of the Habsburg Netherlands by her uncle Holy Roman emperor Charles V - a position she held until her death in 1530. This portait shows Margaret at the age of 10. She is wearing an elaborate pendant of a pelican piercing its breast to draw blood with which to feed its young (the blood represented by the large hanging ruby) which is a symbol of Christian charity and alludes to the sitter's piety. In her hand she is holding a large gold filagree Paternoster bead of her rosary and looks to the right to an unknown object of her devotion (the other half of this diptych is lost but probably was a subject from Christ's Passion). Painting from 1490.

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