Oil on canvas.
Facing us in a three-quarter sitting, Charles I of Lorraine (1571 - 1640), fourth Duke of Guise, is portrayed here in the winter of his life. His look is that of a man proud to have followed his principles, even though they cost him his exile in Florence. Here depicted as a military leader in blackened iron armor damascened with gold, his status as a warrior is by no means usurped. The assassination of his father, Henri de Lorraine, known as the Scarred One, ordered by the French king Henri III, propelled him early on into court intrigues, and the tumult of conflicts pursued him throughout his life as he defeated the League on land and triumphed over the Huguenots at sea. This portrait, attributed to Justus Sustermans, painter to the Medici, can be compared to a similar version dated 1637 and kept at the Uffizi in Florence. In our painting, the Flemish painter reverses the direction of the composition by turning the bust of Charles I to the right. While both versions depict him in the same armor, the white collar with flap in our painting covers his bust more extensively and has less lace. Nevertheless, the white sash in our painting offers an extra layer of floral detailing that catches the light. In keeping with the fashion of his time, the fourth Duke of Guise sports a royal goatee and a crooked mustache. To top it all off, the painting is sublimated by its powerful Tuscan frame in carved and gilded wood.
If Sustermans' first works reflect the influence of Pourbus, he quickly adopted a more Florentine style. His chromatic palette became lighter in the 1630s and his touch freer. This change of style can be explained by the arrival of many Venetian paintings in Florence, thus participating in the spread of the taste for colorito among the elite. However, he remained sensitive to the art of his home country, Flanders, as evidenced by his commission of a painting of Rubens' Horrors of War in 1638. Combining the naturalist manner of the Flemish with Italian influences, Sustermans succeeds in rendering a vibrant portrait of an aging but stoic paladin.
A few months ago, the gallery offered a portrait with a rich pedigree representing Roger de Lorraine, chevalier de Guise, who was none other than the youngest son of Charles I who died on the battlefield at the age of 29.
Provenance: Former Tuscan collection
Size: 64.5 x 47 cm - 91 x 74 cm with frame
Biography: Justus Sustermans (Antwerp, Sept. 28, 1597 - Florence, April 24, 1681) was a Flemish painter who spent most of his career in Italy. An apprentice of Willem de Vos, he arrived in Italy in 1620 where he was quickly spotted for his talent as a portraitist. In 1622, he entered the service of Cosimo II de Medici. As a court painter, he founded a prolific studio and painted the most important personalities of his time, such as Galileo and Mary Magdalene of Austria, whose portraits are now kept at the Uffizi in Florence. Despite the onset of blindness in the 1670s, he continued to paint until his death. His virtuosity will be praised by the contemporary biographer Baldinucci.
- BAUTIER, Pierre, Juste Suttermans: peintre des Médicis, Brussels, G. van Oest & Cie, 1912.
- POULL, Georges, COLLIN, Hubert, La maison ducale de Lorraine devenue la maison impériale et royale d'Autriche, de Hongrie et de Bohême, Nancy, Presses universitaires de Nancy, 1991.
- Sustermans: sessant'anni alla corte dei Medici, (cat. exp., Firenze, Palazzo Pitti, July-October 1983), Florence, Centro Di, 1983.