Margaret of Austria

Artist: Jean Hey (called Master of Moulins) (Netherlandish, active fourth quarter 15th century)

Date: ca. 1490

Medium: Oil on oak panel

Dimensions: 12 7/8 x 9 1/8 in. (32.7 x 23 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Robert Lehman Collection, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.1.130


The daughter of Emperor Maximilian I, Margaret of Austria was betrothed at the age of three to the infant dauphin Charles, the future Charles VIII, and served briefly as "queen of France" from 1483 to 1491. She is shown here around the age of ten, one year before she was repudiated by her intended husband. The initials C and M within the border of Margaret's collar (backwards C in the left border) probably signify their union. The chain of gold shells on her headdress may be part of the armorial insignia of the Bourbon dynasty with which she was then associated. The elaborate pendant of a pelican piercing its breast to draw blood with which to feed its young (the blood represented by the large hanging ruby), a symbol of Christian charity, alludes to the sitter's piety. These elements are mounted on a gold fleur-de-lis. Demonstrably showing her faith, Margaret holds a large gold filagree Paternoster bead of her rosary and looks to the right, presumably toward (what was originally) the object of her devotion. This panel likely formed the left of a diptych, whose right wing, now lost, may have represented a subject from Christ's Passion.