Around 1555 the Duke of Alba commissioned three life-sized bronze busts by the great Italian Renaissance portraitist Leone Leoni: one of himself and the other two of the Hapsburg emperor Charles V and the emperor's son, Philip II of Spain. Though the busts depict sitters of different rank-an emperor, a king, and a duke-Leoni presents them almost identically, as armored warriors in the cause of the Counter Reformation. For more than a century they have adorned the Guard Chamber at Windsor Castle, surrounded by actual weaponry and armor. Just as victorious Romans piled up the armor of their enemies as offerings to the gods, so George IV (who acquired the busts in 1825) turned these symbols of power into trophies of war.
* This lecture is made possible by the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation.
Jonathan Marsden has been Director of the Royal Collection and Surveyor of The Queen's Works of Art since 2010. From 1996 he worked as Deputy Surveyor with curatorial responsibility for the Applied Arts in all the British royal palaces. As a curator he has specialized in sculpture, and is currently working on a catalogue of European sculpture in the Royal Collection. He has published widely in this area and contributed to the catalogue of the exhibition Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009. He has contributed as curator or author to numerous exhibitions at The Queen's Galleries at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, most recently Victoria & Albert: Art & Love in 2010.
Jonathan Marsden, Director of the Royal Collection, analyzes the use of armor in portraiture. While art historians have claimed armor was used to portray military might and masculinity, Marsden explains that because of the cost of armor, it was more used to portray wealth.