I was reading an article the other day about Joanna of Castile the sister of our Queen consort Catherine of Aragon. In the article was a picture of her husband Philip the Handsome who reigned as King Philip I of Castile and was also the Duke of Burgandy. Now the photo in my opinion didn’t do the poor man justice.
This portrait was produced around 1500 when Philip was Duke of Burgundy and around 22 years old.
This picture got me thinking how accurate were these portrait of their sitters?
Well in truth we will never know. But is there a reason for the way the pictures look.
Now I know nothing about art, I was useless at it at school and I only exceled at stickmen. But is a picture’s quality just down to the artist or does the tools they used have an influence on how good the picture was.
Let me explain. In 1500 the quality of the canvas the artist used would not be the same as more modern artists would use. In fact the picture of Philip was painted on an oak board. Now surely this influenced how the paint flowed on the wood. There are natural cracks and marks on the wood. Would this mean the paint went to an extent where it wanted and so the picture was less accurate?
The same is true of the quality of the paint. Oil based paints these days will be much better than the oil paints of 1500. With the development of manufacturing processes paints will be more consistent. Back in 1500 the paints would have been of a much lesser quality so did this mean that they didn’t flow as well and thus made a lesser quality painting.
So did the development of the materials account for the increased quality of artwork or did the talent of the artist increase?
This picture of King Henry VIII was painted by Hans Holbein the Younger around 1540, just 40 years after the picture of Philip the Handsome. The quality of the picture thought is so much better and it is well documented that this was a true likeness of the King. This is an oil painting but was done on a canvas rather than wood.
So comparing the 2 picture you could say that the artist of Philips picture was just not as good as Hans Holbein, but the since they are not on the same canvas then that could make a difference. The only true way to compare whether wood or canvas was best would have been for an artist to paint the same portrait on both wood and canvas.
Also the cost of the painting would probably have an impact on the quality. Henry VIII wasn’t known for scrimping on his spending so the Holbein painting probably cost a great deal. Maybe Philip used a lesser known artist would didn’t charge as much and so you could speculate that he used lesser quality paints and this resulted in the above portrait.
If you think about it the same is true for with the photographs of our ancestors. Early photos are of very stern looking people with absolutely no character to them. This was due to the quality of the camera and the long exposure needed. My camera can take a photo in 1/4000 of a second so I can catch the image instantly and so smiles and movement can be captured.
So was Philip the Handsome portrait a true likeness of him or not, we may never know but we can say that the quality of the artists material may have had an impact on the final picture. Whether it was a true likeness or not his wife Queen Joanna of Castile loved him dearly.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!