…and again, by Jan Thomas
Before you ask, yes there is context.
As touched upon in the previous item, Leopold was a very educated monarch. From an early age, he combined his deep learning in history, languages, the natural sciences and music with a devout sense of duty to his empire. But he was also rather insecure, eager to use any public occasion to enhance both his own personal prestige and the prestige of Vienna as a worthy imperial residence. He would often hold theatrical productions at the palace in which both he and his wife would take part themselves.
As well as a few productions the emperor had written himself, Italian ballets and operas were given priority as these were considered the most sophisticated. And it’s in the role of the character of one of these—Acis from “La Galatea”—that the Holy Roman Emperor is posing in the portrait above.
And doesn’t he just look fabulous.
We know that Leopold commissioned Jan Thomas to do these portraits of him and his wife, Margaret Theresa, for the occasion of their marriage in 1666. And these weren’t even the weirdest portraits Jan Thomas produced during his long and illustrious career (see below).
A Turkish traveller once described Leopold as “a cultivated man of extreme ugliness”. It’s not hard to see why a Turk might have taken that view. Leopold was actually a phenomenally successful monarch, transforming Austria into a European power by the end of his reign. He never really needed to involve himself with military matters because he had such an adept general, Prince Eugene of Savoy, who can largely be credited for liberating Hungary from Turkish rule at the very end of the seventeenth century.
Leopold was clearly very pleased with Thomas’s portrait because he kept him on at the imperial court. Up until 1960, the portrait’s whereabouts was pretty much unknown as it belonged part of a private collection (presumably as an object of great amusement). In 1960, however, the painting was bought by the Kunsthistorisches Museum where is has been on display ever since (still as an object of great amusement).