Examining an ‘Arranged Pair’: the Portraits of Philip II and Anne of Austria

This month has seen further technical examination of two of the Stirling Maxwell Collection portraits in the ‘Unwrapping an Icon’ project. This is to help us to deepen our understanding of the techniques and materials being used in the studio of Alonso Sánchez Coello in sixteenth-century Spain and to compare our findings with those for other portraits in the project and for other artists’ workshops at the time. Over the summer, Master’s student Natalie Lawler will be helping Mark Richter with this additional examination and the processing and interpretation of the results. Natalie is currently studying for an MLitt in Technical Art History at the University of Glasgow, and has opted to focus on the topic of ‘Philip II and Anne of Austria, An Arranged Pair: Technical Study of Two portraits by Alonso Sánchez Coello in the Stirling Maxwell Collection’ for her dissertation, supervised by Dr Richter and myself. There are many examples of portraits of men and women, husbands and wives, and especially kings and queens that have been collected and presented together as a pair. Natalie’s dissertation will examine the extent to which these particular two portraits can really be said to be a matching pair. Are the materials and paint techniques, including the buildup of layers, directly comparable? Are there signs of more than one painter’s hand at work? And even if they were conceived or commissioned together, are there differences in how they have been treated over time?

We wish Natalie every success in her studies and hope to check in with her again once her dissertation is completed.

Hilary Macartney

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Fig. 1. Natalie Lawler adjusts the stereomicroscope to examine details of the paint surface of the portrait of Philip II by Sánchez Coello with Mark Richter. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.
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Fig. 2. Natalie Lawler watches as, using a stereomicroscope as a guide, Mark Richter takes a microscopic sample of red pigment from an area of damage on the portrait of Anne of Austria by Sánchez Coello. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

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