Justus Sustermans (Antwerp 1597 – 1681 Florence)
Portrait of Vittoria della Rovere (1622 – 1694)
Oil on canvas
26.1/4 x 20.1/2in. (66.7 x 52cm.)
Provenance: Christies, London 31st October 2013. Lot 71.
Vittoria della Rovere, wife of Grand Duc Ferdinando II of Medici, mother to the future Cosimo III was the daughter of Federigo Ubaldo della Rovere and Claudia de’ Medici. She is best known for the art collection assembled by her family in Urbino and as the person who, through marriage, passed the hugely important body of work on to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (to avoid ceding it to the Pope who wanted Urbino as a papal state at the time). Always interested in worldly and cultural affairs, she spoke Spanish and French, knew Latin and sponsored a variety of literati, becoming patroness in 1654 of a literary academy in Siena called Le Assicurate, devoted exclusively to women.
Much of the Palatine Gallery at the Pitti Palace would have been her personal apartments and the legacy she bought from Urbino includes the vast collection of Titians and Rafaels in the Pitti and Uffizi collections. Though painted by Carlo Dolci and others, Justus Sustermans probably painted her more than anyone else.
Vittoria lived in wanton luxury in Florence losing contact with a declining country. She is buried in Florence in the Medici chapels as perhaps the best known of the grand Duchesses of Tuscany.
Justus Sustermans, a contemporary of Van Dyke, was a Flemish painter best known for his portraits of the Medici family when he became court painter. His works can still be admired in the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi and many other important museums in the world. During his lifetime he was considered in Italy as one of the most important painters of this time.