Royal Portraiture: Justus Suttermans and his Workshop

Portraiture began with the stylized paintings of the profiles of ancient Egyptians and continued in popularity throughout the Greek and Roman eras. Starting around the 15th century, portraits began to show the subject (otherwise known as the sitter) looking towards the viewer. Symbols of status and wealth were added to the paintings’ backgrounds.

The Medici family adopted this style in their royal portraits, with idyllic portrayals demonstrating how subjects wanted to be regarded in real life. If sitters desired to be considered strong military leaders, they would be painted with fine armour. If they wanted to underline their wealth and status, they would be depicted with elaborate garments. The finished portraits embellished ballrooms and dining halls, as a form of propaganda, to remind viewers of the Medici’s status and importance. Moreover, to further increase awareness of the Medici family’s power, many variations of the same portrait were produced and distributed to other Italian and European courts.

To satisfy the growing demand for portraits, the Medici often favoured the paintings of Justus Suttermans. He was a well-known Belgian artist born in 1597. In 1620, he came to Florence to serve Cosimo II de’ Medici as court painter. It is thought his first work for the family was a portrait of Cosimo’s widow, Maria Maddalena. Suttermans was able to meet the demands of the Medici by supplying various versions of the same portraits: either with alterations made to costumes, or by painting heads and hands and sketching figures, leaving his workshop to complete the works. He also produced the same portrait either with or without a hat, a common practice in 16th-century portrait painting.

Throughout his life, Suttermans portrayed three generations of the Medici family, and while doing so, was always careful to display their pre-eminence in the city of Florence.

Oil on Canvas, 1630 ca., cm 64 x 79

Portrait of
Francesco
(of Cosimo II)

Workshop of Justus Suttermans (1597-1681)

Francesco de Medici was the fourth son of the Grand Duke Cosimo II of Tuscany and Mary Magdalene of Austria.
He was born in 1614 at the Pitti Palace in Florence. As one of the sons of royalty, Francesco is depicted with a bright red scarf against a dark background to stand out and catch the eye of the viewer.
This portrait also has him depicted in armor in recognition of his military career. Francesco died when he was 19 during the siege of Regensburg in 1634.

Portrait of
Lorenzo
(of Ferdinando I)

Workshop of Justus Suttermans (1597-1681)

  • Oil on Canvas
  • 1645 ca.
  • cm 64 x 79

Lorenzo de’ Medici was the seventh son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand I and his wife Cristina of Lorraine as well as the younger brother of Cosimo II. He is depicted in attire very similar to what his father would wear in an effort to highlight his royal lineage. As the seventh born, he never reached a royal position himself, but was still recognized as a noble figure of the time. Lorenzo de Medici died in 1648.

Portrait of
Odoardo Farnese

Workshop of Justus Suttermans (1597-1681)

  • Oil on Canvas
  • 1625-1646
  • cm 64 x 79

Half portrait of Odoardo Farnase, the spouse of Cosimo II’s daughter, Margherita of the Medici (1612 - 1679).

Oil on canvas, 1630-1650, cm 64 x 79

Portrait of
Leopoldo
(of Cosimo II)

Workshop of Justus Suttermans (1597-1681)

Leopoldo de Medici was an Italian scholar, cardinal and art patron.
He was the youngest son of Grand Duke Cosimo II as well as the brother of the future Grand Duke Ferdinand II.
Once his brother took over the Grand Duke position, Leopoldo supported his political direction of the state and tried to promote agriculture, manufacturing and trade.
Leopoldo became a cardinal by Pope Clement in 1667.
He is shown with a book as an acknowledgement of his scholarly and religious affiliations.

Portrait of
Mattias
(of Cosimo II)

Workshop of Justus Suttermans (1597-1681)

  • Oil on Canvas
  • 1650 ca.
  • cm 64 x 79

Half portrait of Mattias de Medici was the third son of Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici of Tuscany and Archduchess Maria Maddalena of Austria.

Portrait of
Vittoria della Rovere

Workshop of Justus Suttermans (1597-1681)

  • Oil on Canvas
  • 1650
  • cm 64 x 79

Half portrait of Vittoria delle Rovere, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany.