RUBENS, Peter Paul
(b. 1577, Siegen, d. 1640, Antwerpen)

Portrait of George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham

c. 1625
Oil on canvas, 65 x 50 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), was a royal favourite and statesman who virtually ruled England during the last years of King James I and the first years of the reign of Charles I. Buckingham was extremely unpopular, and the failure of his aggressive, erratic foreign policy increased the tensions that eventually exploded in the Civil War between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians.

Buckingham, a connoisseur, had bought Rubens's collection of ancient sculpture, gems, and coins. The painter diplomat also knew the duke - the man whose alleged romance with the queen of France is at the heart of The Three Musketeers - as an influential player in the international balance of power between Catholic and Protestant forces. Rubens here conveyed something of Buckingham's calculating self-interest.

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