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The sitter, his identity as yet unknown, wears on his chest the swordlike cross of the Order of Santiago and wears the red sash of a knight of that order; he holds the baton of a Captain-General. (The sword shaped cross represents the chivalrous character of the apostle St. James and his martyr ways, since he was decapitated with a sword. It can also symbolise taking the sword in the name of Christ.)
In the background is a stormy sea and a sailing vessel. His left hand rests on an elaborately shaped shield which bears the image of a charger.
The Order of Santiago (Galician: Orde de Santiago, Spanish: Orden de Santiago), also known as "The Order of St. James of the Sword," was founded in the 12th century, and owes its name to the national patron of Galicia and Spain, Santiago (St. James the Greater). Its initial objective was to protect the pilgrim of St. James' Way and to defend Christendom.
After the death of the Grand Master Alfonso de Cárdenas in 1493, the Catholic Monarchs incorporated the Order into the Spanish Crown and the pope Adrian VI forever united the office of Grand Master of Santiago to the crown in 1523.
A candidate who wished to join the Order of Santiago must have proved in his first four last names that he, his parents, and his grandparents were of noble descent by blood and not by privilege,
With the exception of the face, the artist has used the medium in a very painterly and free fashion, in fact the left arm is almost sketched in, whilst the right arm and gauntleted hand are depicted with a real feel of the metal.
Although both artist and sitter are unknown this is a very intriguing portrait that one day may yield its secrets.
Bottom left, a later inscription claims the sitter is the Duke of Marlborough and, verso, two old prints of the duke are glued to the canvas.
|External Height||49.50 inch||(125.73 cm)|
|External Width||42.25 inch||(107.31 cm)|