COELLO, Claudio
(b. 1642, Madrid, d. 1693, Madrid)

King Charles II

Oil on canvas, 66 x 56 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

One of the most important tasks of a court painter in the age of absolutism was portraiture, either in the form of an individual, family or group portrait. Most of these commissioned works were sent to other royal houses. Whatever the occasion in each respective case, a portrait of this kind invariably had the primary function of representing the court.

Coello's unfinished portrait of King Charles II gives us an opportunity of seeing how the artist worked. The three-quarter profile of the young king is set in a medallion. Coello has concentrated on depicting the brilliance of the shining armour and the rich folds of the bow, using free and spontaneous brush-strokes. Reproductions of a portrait of Charles II from the Städel in Frankfurt, lost in 1945, suggests that Coello toned down these lavish details somewhat in a later version. In comparison to paintings of Alsonso Sánchez Coello, who had worked for the Spanish court a hundred years earlier, Claudio Coello's view of the monarch has little of the stringency of courtly ceremony. He is the last major representative of the Spanish tradition of painting that reached its climax in the Mannerism of the 16th century.