The Patronage of Isabel, Princess of Portugal and Duchess of Burgundy (1397-1471)

Marisa Costa, Universidade de Lisboa,

It is well known that the Portuguese princess Isabel (1397-1471), daughter of King João I and the English duchess Philippa of Lancaster, played a significant role in the European scenario of the fifteenth century. Known in historiography as ‘Isabelle de Portugal,’ this duchess of Burgundy is one of those noblewomen who, by means of her political and economic power as wife (in her case, of Philip the Good, 1396-1467), held a central position as patron of the arts. While it may seem that an analysis of her role in cultural patronage has already been done, the issue calls for an exhaustive, systematic examination. Little work has been carried out, for example, on Isabel's patronage in fifteenth-century Portuguese artistic history.

We have a variety of data, resulting from archival and material evidence, on her involvement in the fifteenth-century European artistic process. A fertile vein of inquiry, Isabel’s patronage raises many questions that have yet to be investigated. For a start, scholarship has taken for granted her sponsorship under the influence of the far better studied cultural deeds of her husband and her son, Charles the Bold. An investigation into the duchess's patronage must consider the course of her own life circumstances (princess, wife/duchess, mother, widow), addressing such issues within the complementary roles played by Isabel in art production, whether as facilitator or recipient.