Juan Carreño de Miranda, Portrait of King Charles II, c. 1675

Young man in all black, standing at ornate table, mirrors behind him reflect his surroundings

Juan Carreño de Miranda

(Avilés, Spain, 1614– 1685, Madrid, Spain)

Portrait of King Charles II

c. 1675

Oil on canvas

79 7/8 x 49 1/4 in. (202.9 x 125.2 cm)

Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum purchase, thanks to a gift from Jo Ann Geurin Thetford in honor of her sons, Garrett and Wyatt Pettus, MM.2010.02

Listen to Dr. Julia Vázquez, 2016–2017 Samuel H. Kress Meadows/ Prado Curatorial Fellow at the Meadows Museum discuss this work (2:00 minutes):

Audio Transcript

Juan Carreño de Miranda (Spanish, 1614– 1685)

Portrait of King Charles II, c. 1675

by Dr. Julia Vázquez, 2016–2017 Samuel H. Kress Meadows/ Prado Curatorial Fellow at the Meadows Museum

The painter of this imposing portrait was Juan Carreño de Miranda, an artist who worked with the court of King Charles II of Spain. Charles II was the successor to King Philip IV, famous for his patronage of Diego Velázquez, who rose to be one of the greatest painters in the history of Spanish art. Velázquez’s portraits for the court of Philip IV changed what it meant to be a court portraitist for the Habsburg monarchs. Carreño certainly took notice. Charles II was not a particularly easy subject for a royal portrait. The product of generations of inbreeding, Charles II was beset by physical and mental frailties. Rumors circulated in Europe [of] the Spanish king’s feeble grip on the throne. The challenge for Carreño was to produce portraits that would bolster his legitimacy as a ruler and that would confer to his royal image the majesty that was so lacking in his physical presence. The setting for this portrait could not have been more fitting. Carreño posed Charles II in a real gallery in the Alcazar Palace in Madrid called the Hall of Mirrors. The porphyry tables supported by a bronze sculpture of a lion and the mirrors garnished with eagles were real furnishings in this space, symbolic of the Habsburg dynasty. Reflected in the mirror are paintings from the royal art collection, including a large-scale equestrian portrait of Philip IV. This space was decorated with the furnishings and the paintings seen here by none other than Diego Velázquez, who spent the last decade of his life decorating the royal palace with the riches of the Habsburg art collection. Carreño was present to watch him do this, even helping him execute an ambitious cycle of frescoes on its ceiling. The gallery was designed as the ultimate representation of Habsburg glory and of the two centuries of military conquest, to which Charles II was the heir. The mirror at the center of Carreño’s composition had another important point of reference at the Spanish court. Right before his death, Velázquez executed La Meninas, which is itself a manifesto on the art of royal portraiture. The mirror at its center plays with the complexities of making an image of a royal figure. Carreño cannot have made this portrait of Charles a II without Las Meninas in mind.