Here we share seminal publications on Habsburg women and their families, commencing with the scholarly vanguard of Habsburg women researchers who took it upon themselves to explore the lives of these women as early as the nineteenth century.
Louise Roblot-Delondre and Habsburg Women Portraiture
Louise Roblot-Delondre was an erudite woman and amateur historian. In 1913 she wrote a ground-breaking monograph on Renaissance Habsburg queens, regents and princesses with the objective of cataloguing their portraits, portrait engravings, and drawings, a number of them located in the Receuil d’Arras, dating between 1500 and 1600.
Roblot-Delondre focused on powerful women of the family who had long been overshadowed by their male relatives and husbands. The catalogue or étude iconographique she compiled of Habsburg women, enhanced with detailed genealogies, encompassed as well, queens and princesses of the Spanish and Portuguese royal houses who had married into or were related to the Habsburgs in the sixteenth century, such as Juana I of Castile (1479-1555), her daughter Catarina of Austria, Queen of Portugal, King Manuel I of Portugal’s daughters, Infanta Maria of Portugal, Duchess of Viseu (1521-1577), Empress Isabella of Portugal (1503-1539), and Infanta Beatriz of Savoy (1504-1538). Her study is the first to delineate what precisely constituted a court portrait of a Habsburg queen or princess in the sixteenth century - that is the essential components which characterized their portrayals, such as medium, format, size, composition and pose.
Roblot-Delondre’s premise was to ascertain with archival documents, royal inventories and bibliographic sources the portrait commissions these women undertook, and to underscore their patronage of distinguished sixteenth-century painters. An appendix provides a list of these artists with short biographies. She brought into the limelight specific Habsburg women, localized their portraits in public and private collections, and updated erroneous attributions.
We consider this seminal publication an important reference and handbook which all students and scholars interested in Habsburg Women should consult.
Louise Roblot-Delondre, Portraits d'infantes: XVIe siècle. Étude iconographique (Paris-Brussels: Van Oest & Co., 1913)
Lisbon: Between Spices and Diamonds, 1500 to 1755
No Renaissance court had been so completely altered by the Age of Discoveries than that in Lisbon,
Portugal. Vasco da Gama's historic journey around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 catalysed
the founding of an overseas trade empire which extended from Brazil to Africa, India and the Far East.
As a result, Lisbon was suddenly transformed into a global metropolis of international fame.
The Habsburg Infanta, Catherine of Austria, who has been featured here in several posts, reigned as Queen of Portugal for over 50 years, from 1525 to 1578.
Annemarie Jordan Gschwend (1998) VIII. Lisbon: Between Spices and Diamonds, 1500 to 1755,
The Court Historian, 3:1, 16-23, DOI: 10.1179/cou.1998.3.1.003
THE "PANGOLIN FAN"
AN IMPERIAL IVORY FAN FROM CEYLON
Hugo Miguel Crespo & Annemarie Jordan Gschwend
A definitive, well-illustrated book published in 2022 on nine carved ivory fans produced in the royal workshop of a lost kingdom in Ceylon for the Lisbon court in the mid-sixteenth century.
An outstanding carved ivory fan is the focus of this singular book by two renowned authors and specialists in the field. This unique fan, nicknamed the “Pangolin Fan”, because
of the unusual representation of an Indian pangolin on its upper handle, belongs to a small group of exclusive ivory fans carved in Renaissance Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka).
The Portuguese royal family received these fans, alongside other imperial ivories, as diplomatic gifts from the King of Kōṭṭē, Bhuvanekabāhu VII. The delegation he sent in 1542 from Ceylon to Portugal was the first Asian embassy to visit Europe. His ambassador and Brahmin chaplain, Śrī Rāmaraksa Pandita, brought in his baggage a large group of imperial ivories that fired the imaginations of the Portuguese royals who received them.
The Portuguese Queen, Catherine of Austria (r. 1525-1578), was most fascinated by these spectacular ivories, and she quickly began to disperse them amongst her family and favourite relatives. Bhuvanekabāhu’s rare and exceptional ivory fans represent globalisation and cross-cultural transfers between Asia and Europe after 1542.
These ivories bridged Ceylon and Portugal in a unique way, illustrating the extraordinary diversity, ingenuity, and quality of Sinhalese craftsmanship. As exotic showcase pieces, these fans came to represent the extent and power of the Lisbon court in the mid-sixteenth century and qualify as some of the most important Kunstkammer pieces ever collected by the Avis, Habsburg, and Farnese courts in the Renaissance.
The “Pangolin Fan” is the only one of nine imperial fans to remain in a private collection. The others, originating from distinguished princely collections, are proudly exhibited in museums in Munich, Naples, Vienna, and Braunschweig, while one, previously unknown to scholarship, was stolen in 1920.
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