Today marks the 549th anniversary of the birth of Isabella of Portugal, wife of Charles V, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, and Queen of Spain. In honor of the great woman's birthday, let's discuss the portrait of her that was painted by Vecellio Tiziano, aka Titian, an Italian master.
1. While this painting may look like just another boring royal portrait, there's a little more back-story to it than usual. Isabella never sat for this portrait; in fact, her husband commissioned it nine years after her death. Charles V was greatly affected by Isabella's premature death and, in her memory, commissioned the portrait, wore black for the rest of his life, and never remarried.
2. Vecellio Tiziano was the official painter to the Republic of Venice for 60 years, from 1516 to his death in 1576. In 1533, he was appointed court painter by Charles V and was elevated to the rank of Count Palatine and Knight of the Golden Spur, rare honors for a painter.
3. The color "titian" is derived from Tiziano's frequent use of brownish-orange.
4. The marriage between Isabella and Charles V was arranged for political reasons, as many royal marriages were. However, the two quickly fell in love and spent their honeymoon talking and laughing together.
5. Tiziano and his friends Pietro Aretino (the poet) and Jacopo Sansovino (the sculptor and architect) were known around Venice as the triumvirate. They used their influence with their respective patrons to further each other's careers.
6. Charles V was not the only one impacted by Isabella's death. Francis Borgia, a nobleman who escorted Isabella's corpse to the burial place, decided to "never again serve a mortal master" after seeing the effect of death on the beautiful empress. Eventually, he became a Catholic saint.
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