CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The Archduchess Isabella (1566-1633): Artistic Agency between Madrid and the Southern Netherlands

Research Conference: 12 September - 13 September 2024

The 23rd Art History Seminar of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) is organized in collaboration with the research project AGENART at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM). It will highlight various aspects of the artistic patronage of the Archduchess Isabella, who lived in Madrid and Brussels between 1566 and 1633.

23rd Art History Seminar of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage

The Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Austria (1566-1633), sovereign (1599-1621) and governess (1621-1633) of the Southern Netherlands, was not only a prominent political figure, but an active artistic and cultural agent throughout her life, commissioning some of the most important works by artists such as Rubens or Callot, promoting religious foundations, architectural and urban projects.

Born to Philip II and his third wife, Isabel de Valois, the Infanta married quite late for the standards of her time, and this caused her to remain in Madrid for half of her lifetime. There, she accompanied her father in the years of construction of the Monastery of El Escorial and advised on the assembly of one of the continent’s most important collections of relics and artworks, and its library and prints. After marrying her cousin Archduke Albert of Austria, she moved to Brussels where the couple would use art as a means of showing the splendour and prosperity of their dominions to the rest of the European courts, with which they always wanted to be compared in spite of being dependent on Madrid. On Albert’s death in 1621 without succession, Isabel lost her sovereign condition and was demoted to governess by her young nephew, the Spanish king Philip IV. This last period of her life saw her realize the most ambitious artistic commissions she ever undertook.

This conference will address Isabel’s artistic and cultural agency for the first time, by analyzing works of art and architecture commissioned, promoted and collected by her in different media during her youth in Madrid and her married life and widowhood in Brussels.


The conference will take place on 12 and 13 September 2024 at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage and at the Instituto Cervantes, both in Brussels. A standard ticket costs €25,- and a student ticket is €15,-. Registration is required. Visit the website of the Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage for a complete overview of the program and to register for the conference.