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An opening section introduces the visitor to the key players in the story and to the mutual relations between the Habsburg courts at the end of the 16th Century. In the first place Philip II, the old man portrayed by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz (Monasterio de El Escorial) beside the Chair of the Suffering Philip II (Monasterio de El Escorial). The Dress of Isabella Clara Eugenia (Toledo, Monasterio de San Clemente) together with the Portrait of Isabella Clara Eugenia by Bartolomé González (Escorial, Habitación de las infantas) represent the Archduchess. The candidates for the Infanta’s hand illustrate the dynastic interests of the Habsburgs: The Young Rudolph II by Alonso Sánchez Coello (Nelahozeves, Portrait Gallery of the Castle), Sebastian of Portugal by Cristovao de Morais (Madrid, Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales), Don John of Austria by Sánchez Coello (Madrid, Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales), Henry of Lorraine by Frans Pourbus II (London, Earl Spencer Althorp), etc.


Among them is Luis Velasco’s Portrait of Albert as a Cardinal (Madrid, Instituto de Valencia de don Juan), Isabella’s future husband. As cardinal, Albert ordered the "Triptych" of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme from Peter Paul Rubens for his titular church (Grasse cathedral). The Blessed sword and blessed hat of Archduke Ferdinand of the Tyrol (given by Gregory XIII) (Vienna, Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des allerhöchsten Kaisershauses) will replace those of Albert which are damaged. Finally dynastic continuity is illustrated by Rubens’ Portrait of Charles the Bold and his Portrait of Ansegisus and Begga (both in Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). The founder of the dynasty ends the opening section: Rubens and Jan Wildens’ The devout Rudolph I of Habsburg (Madrid, Prado).

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