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Martin van Meytens

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Martin van Meytens

Estimated price: € 2.000 / 4.000
USD: 2.146 / 4.292 $GBP: 1.691 / 3.381 £
Starting price:  1.000
  • USD: 1.073 €
  • GBP: 845 €
  • USD: 1.073 $
  • GBP: 845 £
USD: 1.073 $GBP: 845 £

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Martin van Meytens


Stockholm 1695 – 1770 Wien, attributed
Emperor Joseph II as a child
Around 1750
Oil on panel
107 x 70 cm, with frame 115 x 76 cm

Martin van Meytens, born in Stockholm in 1695, was a renowned Swedish-Austrian painter celebrated for his refined portraiture. After studying in Paris, London, and Italy, Meytens settled in Vienna, where he became the court painter for Empress Maria Theresa. His style evolved from Baroque to Rococo, marked by a meticulous attention to detail and an ability to capture the elegance and personality of his subjects. Meytens’ work significantly contributed to the visual documentation of the Habsburg court, making him a pivotal figure in 18th-century European art.

This remarkable painting depicts Emperor Joseph II as a child, reflecting the significance of his birth and early years. In this portrait, the young Joseph II stands confidently in a red jacket and radiates regal composure. In his left hand he holds a staff, a symbol of his future authority, while his right hand rests on his hip, suggesting self-confidence and nobility. The luxurious clothing he is wearing, which is executed with meticulous precision, emphasises his royal status.

Joseph II, who was born in 1741, was the long-awaited heir to the Habsburg throne, making his birth a momentous occasion. As the eldest son of Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, he was destined to play a decisive role in European politics. His birth was celebrated throughout the Habsburg lands and numerous portraits of him as a child were commissioned to emphasise his importance and promote the continuity of the dynasty.

The dissemination of images of Joseph II as a child served several purposes. They underpinned the legitimacy and stability of the Habsburg succession, conveyed the image of a strong and stable dynasty and prepared the public for his later rise to power. The portrait contributed to this narrative with its attention to detail and regal depiction, portraying Joseph II not just as a child but as a future emperor who embodied the values and responsibilities of his line.

Joseph II ascended the throne in 1765 and his reign was marked by significant reforms aimed at modernising the empire, promoting the ideals of the Enlightenment and increasing the efficiency of the administration. His importance in European history is underlined by his efforts to centralise the state and his attempts to implement far-reaching changes in education, law and society.

This painting is a testament to the painter’s ability to capture both the likeness of the sitter and its symbolic meaning, ensuring that the Habsburg legacy was visually celebrated and preserved for posterity.

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