Portrait of Cardinal Mazarin

Portrait of Cardinal Mazarin

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Title: Cardinal Mazarin.

Author : MIGNARD Pierre (1612 - 1695)

Creation date : 1661

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 65 - Width 55

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Condé museum (Chantilly) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Domaine de Chantilly) / Harry Bréjatsite web

Picture reference: 00-006957 / PE314

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Domaine de Chantilly) / Harry Bréjat

Publication date: December 2012

Professor at the University of Paris X Nanterre

Historical context

The portrait of Mazarin was commissioned from Pierre Mignard. The artist, after a stay in Rome where he gained a great reputation, was recalled to France by Louis XIV in 1657. The one presented here is currently kept at the Condé museum in Chantilly.

There are at least twelve other almost identical portraits of Mazarin dating from the years 1658 to 1660. Later Watteau will say with a laugh that he was specialized in the heads of Saint Nicholas when he worked for a painter of pious images.

Image Analysis

Portrait of Cardinal Mazarin

The painter (or one of his students) portrayed the cardinal as a bust. This close-up gives the model an exceptional presence. The character is seized by three quarters, he turns his head towards the spectator. Mazarin’s expression is serious, he looks you in the eye with an intense, almost intimidating gaze.

The cardinal wears an extremely sober outfit: a red coat without the slightest decoration and a small white flap that highlights the pensive face. As was the fashion of the time, he has fairly long hair and wears a mustache and a little musketeer goat. The red cap completes the garment. Only a slight light detaches this grave figure from the dark background.

It will come as no surprise that the Chantilly museum keeps this portrait: the castle, which belonged to the Montmorency family, passes by marriage to the family of the princes of Condé. Louis II de Condé, the great rebel of the Fronde, later known as the Grand Condé, possessed a portrait of Louis XIV's minister to whom he stood up for several years, during the Fronde, before choosing to go and serve the king of 'Spain. In 1659, the rebel made his submission to the king and therefore to the minister.


Mazarin, a man of peace

Mazarin, true successor of Richelieu, continued the work of the great cardinal. In 1630-1631, he negotiated, as envoy of the Pope, the treaties of Cherasco in northern Italy. They are concluded to the advantage of France (acquisition of Pignerol) and the Duke of Nevers, protégé of Louis XIII, heir to Mantua and Montferrate. In 1643, Louis XIII made Mazarin, who had become a cardinal, the godfather of his son and successor, Louis XIV. On the death of the king, the regent Anne of Austria takes the Italian cardinal as principal minister. But the great figures of the kingdom ousted by this choice go into revolt. From May 27, 1643, the Cabal des Importants led by the Duke of Beaufort, a grandson of Henri IV, threatened the regent and her minister. Mazarin is even targeted by an attack foiled in time.

In 1643 France was engaged in the war against the Emperor Habsburg and his Spanish cousin. The French armies had to fight on several fronts: Spanish Flanders and Roussillon, Alsace and the banks of the Rhine which depended on the Empire. The weight of these armies imposes an almost unbearable burden on the treasury. To fill the coffers that empty too quickly, the Comptroller General of Finance, Particelli d'Emery, appointed to this position by Mazarin, is forced to propose new taxes: in 1644, the toisé which must be waived in 1645 before the opposition from parliamentarians; then, in 1646, the tariff which increases the customs duties on goods entering Paris. In 1648, despite the peace with the emperor obtained by the treaties of Westphalia, this fiscal pressure, imposed by the weight of the war continued with Spain, was the main cause of the revolt of the magistrates, threatened in their property, then nobles, ousted from the Council and therefore from power. The Fronde raged for five years, until 1653. It would take another five years for Spain to bend.

To end the war against Spain, Mazarin kept the armies in the field and, at the same time, dealt with the adversary. In 1658, Turenne won the Battle of the Dunes near Dunkirk. From now on, Philippe IV leaves his favorite Don Luis de Haro to negotiate with Mazarin. On November 7, 1659, the two ministers signed the Treaty of the Pyrenees. Mazarin, diplomat, always in search of peace, completed his work by leaving France enlarged by the three bishoprics of Lorraine, Metz, Toul and Verdun, and Alsace, in 1648, Roussillon, Artois and fourteen places in Flanders, in 1659.

  • official portrait
  • Louis XIV
  • Anne of Austria
  • Sling
  • absolute monarchy
  • Mazarin (cardinal of)
  • Great Century
  • customs


Simone BERTIÈRE, Mazarin, the master of the game, Paris, Ed. de Fallois, 2007.

Pierre GOUBERT, Mazarin, Paris, Fayard, 1990.

Louis MARIN, The King's Portrait, Paris, Ed. of Midnight, 1981.

To cite this article

Hélène DUCCINI, "Portrait of Cardinal Mazarin"

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