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Portrait of Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia, Spanish Regent of the Low Countries, as a Nun, 1625

Rubens, Peter Paul, and Workshop
Flemish, 1577-1640
Oil on canvas
45-1/2 x 34-7/8 in. (115.6 x 88.6 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

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Archduchess Isabella (1566–1633), the daughter of King Philip II of Spain, was married to Archduke Albert and alongside him ruled as sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands. After her husband died in 1621, she was made governor of the Netherlands on behalf of the King of Spain. As a ruler, Isabella entrusted Rubens, her court painter, with not only artistic projects but also sensitive diplomatic missions. Here, she is portrayed in the habit of the Sisters of St. Clare, the order she joined after Albert's death—a common practice for noble widows at the time.

The portrait projects an image of the Archduchess’s simple religious life. Standing in front of a neutral background, she wears a modest robe tied with a cord around her waist. Characteristic of Ruben’s portraits, Isabella catches the viewer’s eyes with a lifelike expression. Her engaging face is framed by a halo-like glow that subtly emphasizes the Archduchess’s piety.

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