Peter Paul Rubens developed a new type of equestrian portrait. The system that had been used up until then, in the Titian tradition (Horse portrait of Charles V), depicted a rider on a horse in profile.
|Equestrian portrait of Zygmunt III, Peter Paul Rubens workshop, ca. 1619, source: Wikipedia, Public domain|
Rubens changed this, depicting the figure and mount slightly turned en trois quarts in a short perspective, so that they seemed to be heading directly towards the viewer. The whole composition changed: the horse is shown in an elegant, free walk, not as before in a gallop, while the rider is presented from the front, thanks to which his face is far more visible, and the silhouette adopts a dignified and reliable look, with the chest stuck out and hand resting on a baton.
The first picture of this type was the equestrian portrait of Archduke Albert, known from Jan Brueghel’s Cabinet of curiosities Allegory of Sight. This type has become a role model in Rubens workshop, used in paintings such as Equestrian portrait of Sigismund III Vasa and Equestrian portrait of Prince Lerma. These were often copied by artists from his circle, as in the presented painting, Equestrian portrait of Prince Sigismund Vasa, from the collection of Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection.
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Ryszard Szmydki, Artystyczno-dyplomatyczne kontakty Zygmunta III Wazy z Niderlandami Południowymi, Lublin 2008.