WEYDEN, Rogier van der
(b. 1400, Tournai, d. 1464, Bruxelles)

Isabella of Portugal

c. 1500
Oil on panel, 47 x 38 cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Some major altarpieces for noble clients by Rogier van der Weyden are now lost. One, executed around 1445-1450, was a picture of the Madonna being venerated by the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy and their son. The Duchess, Isabella of Portugal, gave it to a monastery in Batalha in Portugal, where her father was buried. The composition survives only in a cursory sketch of the early 19th century. A rather better impression of the donor's likeness is conveyed by a portrait of Isabella of Portugal by an anonymous artist, but again, this is only a copy from Rogier's original. The original was based on either the same portrait drawing as was used for the donor's picture on the Batalha altarpiece, or from her likeness in the altarpiece itself. Although the copy displays some weaknesses, Rogier's concept of portraiture is still perceptible in the tender, slightly mocking expression on the duchess's aristocratic face, and in her long fingers. The detailed reproduction of her expensive clothing reflects the ducal splendour that must have been conveyed by the Batalha altarpiece.

The original by Rogier van der Weyden of which this is a copy must have been painted before 1451, the date of an anonymous altarpiece panel now in New York; the depiction of the female donor in the altarpiece was strongly influenced by the portrait of Isabella of Portugal, the characteristic necklace in particular matching in both arts. The description of Isabella as the "Persic Sibyl", top left, is a later addition.