This image of Philip, perhaps the most powerful man in the world during the late Renaissance, was probably painted from life in Augsburg, Germany, when it was arranged that Philip would inherit Spain and her possessions upon the abdication of his father, the emperor Charles V. The portrait never left Titian’s studio and remained unfinished; the crown, the chain of the Golden Fleece, and the chair were added by a later hand. Titan may have intended the painting as a model for future portraits of Philip, although we do not know of any others in this format.
Titian coaxed Philip’s strong jaw and steely-eyed gaze from a smoky background with the rapid, decisive brushwork characteristic of his late work. It is a felicitous marriage of artist and subject. This portrait commission inaugurated a bond between artist and patron that lasted to the end of Titian’s life. Indeed, the Spanish king became the most faithful and generous patron of the artist's later years.