Gaspar de Guzmán, Count of Olivares and Duke of San Lúcar la Mayor, Grandee of Spain (1587 – 1645), on horseback in a landscape setting

Gaspar de Crayer (1584 – 1669) with the landscape by Pieter Snayers (1592 – 1667)

Gaspar de Guzmán, Count of Olivares and Duke of San Lúcar la Mayor, Grandee of Spain (1587 – 1645), on horseback in a landscape setting

Painted circa 1627 - 1628

Oil on canvas: 133 ¼ x 83 ½ in. (288 x 212 cm.)


Likely commissioned by Diego Felipez de Guzmán, 1st Marquis of Leganés (1580 – 1655), the sitter’s cousin, and which then hung in his palace at Morata de Tajuna; thence to

Diego Dávila Mesía y Guzmán, 3rd Marquis of Leganés (c.1648 – 1711);

thence by inheritance to

Vincente Joaquín Osoria de Moscoso y Guzmán, 12th Count of Altamira (1756 – 1816);[1]

Private collection, Paris, c.1958 (as ‘School of P.P. Rubens’);

Private collection, New York, USA, c.1960 (as ‘School of P.P. Rubens’);

Private collection, Paris, France until 2017. [2]


[1] Perez Preciado in his doctoral thesis on Leganés’s collection considers that the painting is likely that which is listed, after being restored by Francisco Carrafa in 1807, whilst in the collection of the Count of Altamira, as ‘Otro Quadro en qe se representa el Conde Duque de Olivares a caballo; su tamano cinco varas y media alto’ with a given value at that time of 2,000 reales.

[2] Sold Artcurial, Paris, 26th September 2017, lot 102 (as Flemish school), for €281,800.


Listed in the 1637 inventory of the collection of the Marqués de Leganés, as no. 484, ‘Otro del conde duque de san lucar cauallo alazan con lista Blance en quarto baras de alto y tres de ancho de mano de gaspar caer del no quatrocientos y ochenta y quarto se taso en morata’.

Similarly listed in the 1642 and 1655 inventories of the Leganés collection.

Vicente Poleró, ‘Colección de pinturas que reunió en su palacio el marqués de Leganés D. Diego Felipez de Guzmán (siglo XVII)’, Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones VI, 1898-1899, VI, p. 132. [1]

Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, ‘Velazquez y los retratos del Conde-duque de Olivares’, Goya: Revista de Arte, 1960, vol. 37-38, p. 68, ill (as ‘Anonymous Flemish School’).

José Luis López Navío, ‘La gran colección de pinturas del Marqués de Leganés’, Analecta Calasantiana, nº 8, 1962, p. 290.

Matías Díaz Padrón, ‘Gaspar de Crayer: Un Pintor de Retratos de los Austria’, Archivo Espanol de Arte, 1965, no 151, p. 242, fig. 10.[2]

Matias Diaz Padron, ‘Algunos Retratos Mas de Gaspar de Crayer’

Archivo Espanol de Arte, 1965, no 152, p. 294, fig. 4.

Hans Vlieghe, Gaspar de Crayer, Brussels, 1973, p. 254.

Matías Díaz Padrón, Pintura Flamenca en España, doctoral thesis, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1976, p. 1108.

W.A. Liedtke and J.F. Moffitt, “Velazquez, Olivares, and the Baroque Equestrian Portrait” from The Burlington Magazine, (Vol. 123, no. 942), September 1981, London, p. 531.

Matías Díaz Padrón, ‘Gaspar de Crayer y Velasquez, baja la sombra de los Austria’, Galeria Antiquaria, Ano VIII, 1990, pp.16 & 21, no. 4 and detail p.21.

Jose Juan Perez Preciado, ‘El Marques de Leganes y Las Artes’, doctoral thesis, Universitad Complutense de Madrid, 2010, pp. 355 – 356.


[1] Where it is described as: ‘Retrato de 3. an y 4. al del Conde Duque de Olivares Duque de S. Lucar armado de todas piezas y a caballo, de Gaspar Crer’.

[2] Following the dispersal of the Leganes collection, de Crayer’s authorship was lost for the following century until Matías Díaz Padrón’s publication in 1965, but hidden unseen in private collections, it still was not recognized as such until our acquisition of it at auction.

This magnificent equestrian portrait depicting Gaspard de Guzmán, the Conde-Duque de Olivares is a rediscovered masterpiece within the oeuvre of the Flemish painter Gaspard de Crayer. Olivares as the king’s valido (or chief minister) was the most powerful man in Spain during the reign of Philip IV. The painting was almost certainly commissioned by the sitter’s cousin Diego Felipez de Guzmán, Marqués de Leganés, within whose great art collection it is first documented in 1637.[1] Leganés particularly favoured the work of the Flemish Antwerp-born artist Gaspard de Crayer – and helped by his patronage, de Crayer became painter to the archducal court of the Spanish Netherlands in Brussels. Leganés’ position in Flanders seems to have been fundamental to his predisposition to Flemish painting. In his role as ambassador, he was an intimate member of the archducal court in Brussels during the 1620s, and resident there from 1630 to 1635. 

Given its monumental scale and composition, the portrait is demonstrably a conscious statement of power and dominance. Olivares is depicted in parade armour regally astride a stallion, holding aloft his marshal’s baton, arm outstretched towards an open landscape, with clear reference to his status as an imperial commander. Indeed, this pose was often just reserved for kings and emperors. With its very low view-point, the painting was clearly meant to be hung in a palatial setting at a great height, with the desired effect that any viewer would feel subservient beneath it. This design owes a clear debt not only to de Crayer’s contemporary Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640), (as seen with reference to Rubens’ portraits of Don Rodrigo Calderon, and the Duke of Lerma), but also to other earlier great equestrian portraits of royals by Titian, Velasquez and Van Dyck.  

The rolling wooded landscape with its distant vista of hills can be attributed with some confidence to Pieter Snayers, a fellow Antwerp painter who was to collaborate with de Crayer on several occasions.[2]  Snayers clearly was one of Leganés’ favourite artists, and is best known today for his large-scale battle scenes, of which Leganés had some twenty-two in his collection, out of a total of thirty-one in which Snayers was involved.

In our painting, de Crayer duplicates a composition that he also uses in the equestrian portrait of his patron, and Olivares’ cousin, the Marqués de Leganés, which now hangs in the Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna. In that painting the Marqués is depicted in a similar pose in civilian costume and on a virtually identical horse, though of a different colour. Interestingly, it is noticeably smaller in scale than our painting, measuring 225 x 177.5 cm.  We do not know if they were commissioned at the same time, or whether one preceded the other. That said, it has been proposed that the portrait of Leganés can be dated to a visit to the Netherlands in 1627, which could provide a post ante quem.

As previously mentioned, in these two paintings de Crayer utilizes a design first used by Rubens in his portrait of Don Rodrigo Calderon.  Indeed, all three works may also have drawn inspiration from an engraving of Julius Caesar which formed part of the series of engravings “Twelve Emperors” by an earlier Antwerp artist Adrien Collaert, after Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus (1537 – 1612), published in the late 1580s.

The Marqués de Leganés also commissioned a second equestrian portrait of his cousin Olivares, which is now in the collection of Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts. This time the composition is sideways-on, with Olivares again depicted in armour, though less elaborately decorated, and astride a rearing white horse, wearing a similar plumed hat, though black and not red. [3]


Gaspar de Guzmán, Count of Olivares and Duke of San Lúcar la Mayor, Grandee of Spain (1587 – 1645)

Gaspar de Guzmán was born in Rome in 1587, to one of Spain’s oldest noble families. He was not, however, the eldest son, and would originally have been intended for a career in the church, had his elder brother not died young. Once at court his extraordinary rise to power began. Under Philip III he was appointed to a post in the household of the heir apparent, thanks to his maternal uncle, Don Baltasar de Zuniga - a key foreign policy advisor to the king, and a trusted advisor to the young prince Philip. Olivares rapidly became the youthful prince’s most valued advisor, and on Philip III’s sudden death in 1621, he was in prime position to advise the 16-year-old Philip IV, and indeed to ‘manage’ the young king’s rule.

Philip’s confidence in Olivares was such that he ordered all papers requiring the royal signature to firstly be sent to the count and duke.[4] Of course, with such power quite literally to hand, he would also go on to bear the brunt of any failures.[5] From the very beginning of Olivares’ tenure as the ‘valido’, which lasted from 1621 – 1643, he was inclined to see domestic policy as a tool in support of foreign policy. He committed Spain to the recapturing of Holland, abandoning the armistice previously held under Philip III. This led to a renewal of the Eighty Years’ War, at a time when Spain was still embroiled in the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648). The resulting financial and diplomatic strain on Spain was such that by 1640, Olivares’ foreign policy was under particular pressure from an increasingly powerful France.

In domestic policy, however, Olivares was perhaps skillful in using the formal and elaborate protocol of the court as a way of controlling the ambitions of Philip's rivals. During the 1620s he created juntas, smaller governmental committees, to increase the speed of decision making, tasked to implement his policies. This initially gave Olivares greater control and power. His desire was to completely reform the Spanish state so that Catalan and the other provinces would pay a more even distribution of taxes, ultimately to fund foreign policy. Although the intellectual argument for this was sound, in practice it exacerbated a growing hatred against his rule, marked by major uprisings in Catalonia and Portugal.

Olivares was undoubtedly an intellectual who ruled according to his readings. His scholarship and patronage of the arts can be understood in the context of his passion for books. Recent research has brought to light the extent of his vast library. Scholars have long known that Olivares, like other powerful men of the age, ‘lived their lives surrounded by books’, but the scope and nature of Olivares’ book collecting have only recently been determined and set in a cultural and political context.[6] 

Contemporary accounts of Olivares describe him as a large man, with an ‘out-size personality’ to match and ‘a gift for endless self-dramatisation’.[7] He has been cast historically as ambitious and greedy, for both Spain and for himself, but his longevity remains indisputable. More generally, however, the Spanish would ultimately hold the king’s favourite responsible for the demise of Spanish prominence in Europe during the 1640s. Philip IV himself conceded that it might be necessary to sacrifice Olivares’ life to avert unpopularity from the royal house at a time when France was challenging Spanish supremacy and the very stability of Spain itself was in question. Olivares was obliged to retire in 1643 by the king’s order, and it is not impossible that he would have been destined for the scaffold had he not died of natural causes soon after.


Gaspar de Crayer (1584 – 1669)

Gaspar de Crayer was renowned as one of the greatest painters of his day in his own lifetime. His work has inexplicably been largely forgotten and unrecognized since the nineteenth century.  The Musée de Flandre in Cassel, France, will be holding a major exhibition dedicated the artist’s work from 8 June – 4 November 2018, in a long over-due reassessment and realignment of de Crayer’s position in the art historical cannon – ‘between Rubens and Van Dyck’, asserting that de Crayer’s paintings are ‘comparable to the pomp and circumstance associated with Rubens… and the refined elegance of Van Dyck’.

He was born in Antwerp, the son of a decorative painter, and is believed to have studied under Raphael Coxie in Brussels, court painter to the governors of the Spanish Netherlands – Archduke Albrecht of Austria, and Isabella Clara Eugenia. It is likely de Crayer’s apprenticeship with Coxie brought him to the attention of important Brussels patrons at court, and in the first part of his career he dedicated himself to portraiture, enjoying the patronage of the Spanish governors and officials who were stationed in the Spanish Netherlands, as well as members of the Brussels city council. Most notably among these of course, was Diego Felipez de Guzmán, 1st Marques of Leganés, who commissioned many works from the artist for his great collection, including this one.

By 1635 de Crayer was appointed by Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Austria (brother of Philip IV of Spain), as his first court painter, and he went on to work as court painter to Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria when he became governor in 1647. Another important foreign patron was the German Catholic ruler, Maximilian Willibald of Waldburg-Wolfegg, for whom de Crayer executed several large altarpieces for the churches in the Palatinate between 1658 and 1666. He spent the last five years of his life in Ghent, where he had already produced altarpieces and played a leading role in the coordination of the monumental decorations for the Joyous Entry of the Cardinal-Infante in Ghent (1635).

Early on, the influence of Rubens’ work on de Crayer was immense. The level of borrowing of motifs from Rubens suggests that he must have had some form of contract with Rubens’ workshop, even sharing certain models. His figures are imbued with a Rubensian monumentality and he was likewise influenced by the emotionally charged subjects of Anthony van Dyck.[8]


[1] With an inventory of over 1,300 paintings, it was the greatest formed in Spain during the 17th century. At the turn of the 18th century, the Leganes estates passed by inheritance to the 8th Conde de Altamira, remaining practically intact until 1833 when much of the collection was dispersed at auction and today works can be found in museums and collections around the world.

[2] There are two other collaborative works recorded in the Leganés collection, both again large-scale equestrian portraits. One of Leganés himself (inv. no. 485) and the other of Philip IV (inv. no. 488).

[3] It is listed in the 1637 inventory under number 446 and described thus:

‘Un Retrato de tres baras de ancho y quarta de alto del conde de oliuares duque

de san lucar harmado de todas piezas en un cauallo ruzio de mano de gaspar

de craer del nº quatroçientos y quarenta y seis la taso en mill y duzientos Reales’.


[4] He was created Duke of Sanlucar la Mayor by the king, but preserved his inherited title in combination with the new honour, and accordingly became known as ‘El Conde-Duque’. 

[5] His attempts to centralise power and increase wartime taxation led to revolts in Catalonia and in Portugal that would ultimately bring about his downfall.

[6] J. H. Elliott, Richelieu and Olivares, 1984, p. 26, and Poder y saberbibliotecas y bibliofilia en la época del conde-duque de Olivares, ed. O. Noble Wood, J. Roe & J. Lawrance, with an introductory essay by John Elliott, (Madrid: Centro de Estudios Europa Hispaěnica, 2011). 

[7] J. H. Elliott, The Count-Duke of Olivares. The Statesman in an Age of Decline, 1986, p.293.


[8] Van Dyck’s portrait series of leading personalities of the time, commissioned for the ‘Iconography’ (Icones Principum Virorum), was very influential as an inspiration for other portrait painters.