An unknown lady, possibly from the court of Margaret of Parma (1522 – 1586)

Circle of Anthonis Mor van Dashorst
(c. 1517 – c. 1575)

An unknown lady, possibly from the court of Margaret of Parma (1522 – 1586)

Painted 1567

Oil on panel: 17 7/8 x 14 in. (45.4 x 35.6 cm.)


with Galerie Crouzet, Paris, by 1990;

Private collection, USA.

Dated upper left: ‘1567’


This striking portrait dates to 1567, the last year of Margaret of Parma’s Governance of the Netherlands. Margaret’s half-brother Philip II of Spain had appointed her Governor of the Netherlands in 1559, in exchange for the custody of her son, Alexander Farnese (1545 – 1592). She faced the rising storm of discontent against the Inquisition and Spanish despotism, and Philip had left her with purely nominal authority, the result being the Revolt of the Netherlands.  She was forced to have every task approved by Philip. In 1565, an opposition party was forged from the Dutch nobility, and in 1566, riots took place all over the Netherlands. The next year, Philip sent her military help led by the Duke of Alba but Margaret resigned when she realized that his power of attorney superseded her own and retired to L’Aquila in Italy, as Governor of Abruzzo. In 1578, her son Alexander Farnese was appointed to the office of governor-general of the Netherlands, with Philip appointing her as co-regent. However, it was short lived and Margaret had to retire to Namur in 1582.  She was given permission by Philip to return to Italy in 1583, dying there in 1586.


Anthonis Mor painted Margaret of Parma in 1562, and the present portrait owes much to his presentation of the Duchess – not least in costume and handling. Mor was born in Utrecht but trained in Antwerp. He was much in demand as an artist across the royal courts of Europe, with patrons including the Duke of Alba, Philip II of Spain, Maximillian II of Portugal, Mary Tudor, William I of Orange, Alessandro Farnese, and of course, his mother, Margaret of Parma. In the late 1560s he lived and worked in Antwerp, painting not just the nobility, but also wealthy citizens and merchants. His style was influential and set the tone for those working in his circle.