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The Portrait of Louis XIII, King of France was created between 1622 and 1625 by Peter Paul Rubens. The oil on canvas measures 46.5 by 38 inches (118.1 by 96.5 centimetres). The Baroque-style painting was created with a companion portrait of the wife of Louis XIII, Anne of Austria.
About the painting
Born in 1601, Louis XIII became king when he was just nine years old following the assassination of his father Henry IV. His mother Marie de’ Medici ruled as regent, even after the young ruler was declared of age in 1615. The king continued to be dominated by his mother and his chief ministers during his reign. Known as Louis the Just, he ruled France until 1643.
Ruben was commissioned by Marie de’ Medici to create a series of works starting in 1621. During that time, Louis also commissioned the artist to complete portraits of himself and his wife Anne. Despite the commission, the king distrusted Rubens. He believed the artist was a spy working for his first minister Cardinal Richelieu. Although the king was suspicious of Richelieu, the men are known for transforming France by denouncing private violence like duelling. They also established the Académie français.
Although not known for being an effective ruler, Rubens portrayed strength in his depiction of Louis XIII. The young king is dressed in a polished suit of armour and the Cross of the Order of the Saint Esprit adorns his side. Wearing a gauntlet, his left hand rests on a table next to a plumed helmet. His right hand holds a marshal’s baton.
The painting was based on a portrait sketch that Rubens created of the monarch while in Paris in 1622. The quickly made oil on paper was also used as a model for other works based on Louis made at the artist’s studio. Rubens also created several works for Marie de’ Medici that incorporated Louis XIII, including The Birth of the Dauphin at Fontainebleau, The Consignment of the Regency, Louis XIII Comes of Age, Reconciliation of the Queen and her Son, and The Triumph of Truth.
The portraits of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria by Rubens were part of a collection owned Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, the younger brother of Emperor Ferdinand III and a patron of the arts. Other past owners included Frederick the Great of Prussia in the eighteenth century and Wilhelm II of Germany in the twentieth century. The painting is owned by The Norton Simon Foundation, although not on display at the Norton Simon Museum in California.