Feb 14, 2014

Habsburgs as GIFs

Here is a collection of portraits commissioned by the Habsburg court in Spain and Austria during the 17th century. Diego Velázquez was the primary court painter for King Philip IV (1605-1665); and his apprentices, Juan Carreño de Miranda and Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo, followed after his death. In Austria, the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, sat for court artists such as Guido Cagnacci, Benjamin Von Block and Jan Thomas. These portraits had many different purposes during this time: to be displayed as powerful symbols; used as political propaganda; or to be given to family members, neighboring courts, and the families of potential spouses.

The Habsburgs often exchanged portraits to arrange their marriages, and many unions were first cousins. This particular family line had extremely high levels of inbreeding – there were two sequential uncle-niece marriages. As a result, their inbreeding coefficient numbers sometimes ranged higher than offspring produced by a brother and sister.

With animated GIFs, we can examine the Habsburgs’ iconography and physiognomy. The Spanish and Austrian royals look so similar that sometimes art historians cannot tell them apart. This series is part of a larger project examining the history, art history and genetics of the Spanish Habsburgs.

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