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Rubens' portrait of Charles V, a copy of Titian's original.

Rubens' portrait of Charles V, a copy of Titian's original.

Rubens copy of Titian's original

It is pleasing that the public will now be able to view a painting of Charles V by Rubens at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Painted between 1600 and 1605, it is a copy of an original Titian that is lost, most likely destroyed in a fire while in the Spanish royal collection. It shows the emperor in armour in his later years.That the Charles V portrait should be so highly valued is a consequence of its being both a record of a lost Titian and by one of the most renowned painters of the early 17th century.

It is one of 46 objects and collections that will go to UK museums and galleries as part of the Cultural Gifts Scheme (in exchange for tax reduction) and Acceptance in Lieu (settling Inheritance Tax) announced today by Arts Council England. Other objects include a Damien Hurst bronze sculpture 'Wretched War', paintings by Bellotto and Guardi, Islamic ceramics from Gurgan, a city near the Caspian Sea destroyed by the Mongols in 1220-21, a pair of George III pier tables and glasses by Chippendale and the archives of Tony Benn and Clement Attlee.

Titian's portraits of Charles V

Titian was highly regarded by Emperor Charles V and was responsible for several of the best known paintings of the emperor, such as 'Charles V at the Battle of Mulhberg' (equestrian portrait) (1548), 'Portrait of Charles V' (seated) (1848), and 'Portrait of Charles V with a dog' (1532-33). He also painted the portrait of Charles' wife, the Empress Isabella, which Charles commissioned after her early death, and 'La Gloria' or The Final Judgement, commissioned by Charles in 1550, completed in 1554. The latter hung above the altar in the chapel at Yuste, Charles' place of retirement. It shows Charles and his family praying, surrounded by figures from the Old and New Testaments. Dressed only in shrouds, his crown lying at his feet, it represents his withdrawal from earthly power. His accommodation was arranged such that he could see the painting through the wall from his bed chamber in his final moments.

Richard Heath
Richard Heath
Richard Heath graduated in history from the University of Cambridge and was a history teacher for 35 years. He now enjoys travelling with his wife in their VW camper van, exploring historical sites and appreciating all that Europe has to offer.

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