(b. 1614, Avilés, d. 1685, Madrid)

Charles II as Grandmaster of the Golden Fleece

Oil on canvas, 217 x 141 cm
Private collection

Carreño was appointed to the rank of court painter in 1671. Once installed as court painter, Carreño, like his illustrious predecessor Velázquez, devoted himself principally to portraiture. The physiognomy of Charles II as not inspiring, it revealed the consequences of six generations of inbreeding. However, Carreño did his job with skill and dignity. The secret of his success is a compositional format in which the sitters are depicted within a state room in the palace, most frequently the famous Hall of Mirrors. This device allowed the artist to soften the impact of the king's appearance by drawing attention to the surroundings, especially the fascinating reflections of the pictures in the room. As the king aged, he grew inexorably uglier. In this flamboyant portrait of Charles as grandmaster of the Golden Fleece, the disparity between the regal trappings and the lost soul encased within them is profoundly unsettling. The very brilliance of execution only heightens the impression of the king's inadequacy for his lofty office.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.