Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Portrait of a Nobleman

c. 1670
The sitter engages the eye of the viewer with a certain calm intensity which, given that his hand is also raised to his breast, may denote a marriage portrait. His identity is lost to us today but his aristocratic demeanour is suggested by the sword he carries in his other hand and by the fashionable Spanish "golilla" collar.

1806 – 1824
Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg (1781–1824), Munich, Germany [1]

1824 – still in 1883
Maximilian Joseph Eugène Auguste Napoleon de Beauharnais (1817–1852), 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg, Duke Romanovsky, Munich and St. Petersburg, Russia, by inheritance; the Leuchtenberg family, by inheritance [2]

by 1906 – still in 1911
M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York [3]

by 1911/11/25 – 1978/07
Sir William Cornelius Van Horne (1843–1915), Montreal, Canada; the Van Horne family, by inheritance [4]

1978/07 – 1979/09/24
A.R.T.E. AG. (Arts Research & Trade Establishment), Schaan, SL., Liechtenstein, [5]

1979/09/24 –
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from A.R.T.E. AG [6]

[1] Prince Eugène de Beauharnais was Napoleon's stepson. In 1806 Eugène married Princess Augusta Amalia Ludovika Georgia of Bavaria (1788–1851), daughter of Maximilian I of Bavaria. The painting is said to have been a wedding present to the couple [Myron Laskin Jr., Michael Pantazzi. “European and American Painting, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts, 1300-1800.”

Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1987, p. 204]. His father-in-law gave Eugène the title of Duke of Leuchtenberg. After the fall of Napoleon in 1814 he retired to Munich.

[2] An engraving of the painting appears in an 1852 catalogue of the Leuchtenberg collection [The Leuchtenberg Gallery. A collection of pictures forming the celebrated gallery of his Imperial Highness the Duke of Leuchtenberg at Munich, engraved by J. N. Muxel, curator of the gallery, comprising 262 engravings from the works of the most famous painters, ancient and modern.” Frankurt/Main and London: Ackermann & Co., 1852, no. 102, as Velasquez da Silva: “Portrait of a Spanish grandee”]. Maximilian, the 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg's art collection was transferred from Munich to St. Petersburg in 1839. In his 1883 publication, Charles B. Curtis mentions a portrait in the Leuchtenberg Gallery of St. Petersburg entitled “A Grandee”, with matching dimensions, which he attributes to Velasquez [Curtis, Charles B. “Velasquez and Murillo.” London and New York, 1883, p. 86, no. 219, “A man with long hair falling on his shoulder, wearing a cloak, an embroidered habit, stiff horizontal collar and a sword; his right hand is on his breast, the left not seen.”].

[3] The painting is discussed and reproduced in the “Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs.” vol. X (Oct. 1906 to March 1907), p. 96 ff. The article notes that it was in the possession of Knoedler & Co. at that time.

[4] According to a newspaper article, dated Nov. 25, 1911, railroad magnate William Van Horne purchased the painting in New York [“Canadian Courier”, Nov. 25, 1911, p. 24]. It stayed in the collection of the Van Horne family until 1978. In December 1977, the NGC's Curator for European Art, Myron Laskin Jr., inquired about the possibility of the NGC purchasing the work from Marco Grassi, a New York art dealer, who was acting as an agent to the Van Horne heirs [Application for Cultural property grant or loan, Accession records, NGC curatorial file]. In July 1978 Grassi informed the NGC that the Murillo portrait had been sold [letter by Marco Grassi to Myron Laskin Jr., dated July 18, 1978, NGC curatorial file].

[5] In December 1978 Grassi informed the NGC that the current owner of the painting was willing to sell it again [letter by Marco Grassi to Myron Laskin Jr., dated December 19, 1978, NGC curatorial file]. In a letter dated Aug 16, 1978 he revealed that he was acting on behalf of the firm A.R.T.E. AG from Liechtenstein [NGC curatorial file].

[6] Accession log [NGC curatorial file]. Marco Grassi acted as an agent for A.R.T.E. AG [National Gallery Acquisition Form, NGC curatorial file].

Portrait of a Nobleman
c. 1670
oil on canvas
88.5 x 62.5 cm
Credit line
Purchased 1979 with the assistance of a grant from the Government of Canada under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act
Accession number