The section of 17th through 19th century French painting is among the most comprehensive and high-carat collections of its kind in Germany. The fantastic collection that Margravine Caroline Louise of Baden had already assembled in the 18th century set the standard for collecting in following generations. As a result, the Kunsthalle today possesses first class works of baroque, rococo, classicist, and 19th century art. The Kunsthalle was able to purchase two of Frans Pourbus the Younger (1569 -1622) works in 1987. The pair of portraits was probably created in 1616.
Born in Antwerp, Frans Pourbus was one of the most desired portraitists of European aristocracy. He worked for Vincenzo Gonzaga in Mantua, and after periods in Innsbruck, Naples, and Turin, he advanced to become court painter for Maria de' Medici in 1609.
Pourbus painted the 15-year-old Louis XIII (1601-1643), son of Henry IV and Maria de Medici. The young king, member of the Order of the Holy Spirit, appears with the attributes of his power: sword, staff of command, and a splendid helmet, which he has removed and on which his left hand is resting.
These accoutrements demonstrate his position as Commander in Chief of the French troops. At the time of the painting's creation, the affairs of state still lay in the hands of Maria de' Medici.
However, she passed them on to her son in April, 1617. For centuries, it was thought that the young woman in the second painting was Louis' wife, Anna of Austria. This identification seemed evident, since the French heir to the throne married the daughter of the Spanish king Philip Ill and Archduchess Margaret of Austria in the year 1615 in Bordeaux.
However, in the year 2000, Hans Ost used thorough comparative examination to prove that in fact, Pourbus had not created a two, part "Wedding Portrait" of the royal couple. Instead, the paintings actually depict Louis Xill and his sister, Elisabeth of France. This confusion represents an irony in art history, since Anna and Elisabeth were also "exchanged" in real life. In 1612, Maria de' Medici agreed with the Spanish royal house on the so-called "princess trade", which was officially enacted on the French-Spanish border: Anna was delivered to Louis XIll, for which Elisabeth's hand was promised to Anna's brother, Philip, who was born in 1605. Philip and Elisabeth became engaged, and in 1620, they were married.
The double portrait of the "Royal Children", with its late Mannerist splendour, the monumental, cool noblesse of the figures, and the impressive virtuosity of the painting, is a sparkling beginning for this section of the collection. Furthermore, one is introduced to a figure who was to become one of the most influential benefactors of the epoch.