Michel Sittow, a northern painter who was born in Estonia on the Baltic Sea but apprenticed in Bruges, was an acclaimed portraitist at the Spanish court. After Queen Isabella's death in 1504, his peripatetic career took him to several northern European centers, including Burgundy, where he probably painted this portrait.

The sitter gazes with serious mien, not at the viewer, but at an unseen point beyond the picture's frame. The ornate carpet covering the stone parapet on which his hand rests provided scholars with an important clue that led to the discovery of the object of his concentration -- a painting of the Madonna and Child, of similar dimensions, in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. In that panel a larger portion of the parapet, covered by the same carpet, appears as a support for the Christ Child. It seems certain that the Berlin and Washington panels were originally hinged together to form a devotional diptych.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that the National Gallery's portrait represents Diego de Guevara, a nobleman whose family came from Santander in northern Spain. For forty years Don Diego was a valued member of the Habsburg court in Burgundy. Supporting this identity is the embroidered cross of the Spanish Order of Calatrava on his golden doublet; after serving in numerous positions of trust in the households of Philip the Fair and Charles V, Don Diego was appointed to the wardenship of that order.


  • Title: Portrait of Diego de Guevara (?)
  • Date Created: c. 1515 - 1518
  • Physical Dimensions: w237 x h336 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Andrew W. Mellon Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on panel
  • painter: Michel Sittow
  • Theme: portrait, male
  • School: Netherlandish
  • Provenance: Probably Don Diego de Guevara [d.1520], Brussels; probably heirs of Don Diego de Guevara.[1] Probably Mencía de Mendoza, Marchioness of Zenete [d. 1554], third wife of Hendrik III of Nassau and subsequently wife of Fernando de Aragon, Duke of Calabria and viceroy of Valencia, castle of Ayora, province of Valencia.[2] Infante Don Sebastián Gabriel de Borbón y Braganza [d. 1875], Pau; heirs of Don Sebastián Gabriel de Borbón y Braganza, Pau, 1876.[3] Mme. Maurer, Madrid, by 1915.[4] (Leo Blumenreich, Berlin).[5] (P. & D. Colnaghi, Ltd., London, 1929). (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York, 1929 1930);[6] purchased March 1930 by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 28 December 1934 to The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA. [1] J.K. Steppe, "Het overbrengen van het hart van Filips de Schone van Burgos naar de Nederlanden in 1506 1507," Biekorf. Westvlaams Archief 82 (1982), 217 218, notes that there was a dispute over the estate of Don Diego because he had made two wills. The beneficiary of the first will was his half brother Pedro de Guevara and of the second his illegitimate son Felipe de Guevara, still a minor at the time of his father's death. Professor Steppe also states that the diptych now divided between Berlin and Washington was acquired by Mencía de Mendoza through the agency of Don Pedro. In a letter of 20 October 1981, Steppe notes that he has found the will of Don Diego (in NGA curatorial files; see also Steppe 1982 [as above], 214 215, n. 7). Steppe's publication of this and other documents related to Diego de Guevara and his circle is anticipated with the greatest interest by students of early sixteenth century patronage. [2] Inventories of 1548 and 1554. Archivo del Palau, Barcelona, Marquesado del Zenete, Legajo 122, inventory of 1548, "Item, un retablico pequenyo de dos tablas; en la una esta una pintura de Nuestra Señora con su hijo en brassos y en la otra don Diego de Guevara con una ropa enforrada..., tiene la pintura todo a la redonda una orla de ora; tiene de alto la pintura media vara y de ancho las dos tres palmos e medio"; see J.K. Steppe, "Jheronimus Bosch. Bijdrage tot de historische en de ikonografische studie van zijn werk," in Jheronimus Bosch. Bijdragen bij gelegenheid van de herdendstentoonstelling te 's Hertogensbosch, (Eindhoven, 1967), 39, n. 80; and Steppe 1982 (as in n. 1 above), 218, n. 17, in which the entry from the inventory taken after Mencía's death is also quoted, "Item un retaule ab dos portes, en la una porta esta pintada la verge Maria ab son fill in los brasos y en laltra esta pintada don Diego de Guevara ab una roba forrada de pells." Apparently an artist's name was noted in these inventories only when it could be read on the work itself; see Steppe 1967, 13. These inventories have not been published in their entirety. Mencía de Mendoza's heir was Don Luis de Requesens [d. 1576]. [3] Catalogue abrégé des tableaux exposés dans les salons de l'ancien asile de Pau appartenant aux héritiers de feu Mgr l'Infant don Sébastien de Bourbon et Bragance (Pau, 1876), 71, no. 631, as by Holbein. Catalogue located with the help of Nicole Reynaud. [4] See Max J. Friedländer, "Ein neu erworbenes Madonnenbild im Kaiser Friedrich Museum," Amtliche Berichte aus den königl. Kunstsammlungen 36 (1915), 179; and Francisco Javier Sánchez Cantón, "El retablo de la Reina Católica," Archivo Español de Arte y Arqueología 6 (1930), 117. [5] Max J. Friedländer, "Neues über den Meister Michiel und Juan de Flandes," Der Cicerone 21 (1929), 254. [6] The Getty Provenance Index lists the Matthiesen Gallery as having the painting until 1928, with the remark, "Source: PI: Colnaghi's". For Colnaghi, it gives the dates of ownership as 1928 1929, remarking, "from Matthiesen; joint account; Colnaghi's bought Matthiesen's remaining half share 1929/Source: PI: joint ownership from Colnaghi's." And for Knoedler's it notes, "from Colnaghi's; joint account; sold by Knoedler's in New York/Source: PI: joint ownership from Knoedler's and Colnaghi's."

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