Several times the artist wrote to Infanta Isabel – daughter of Philip II, King of Spain and his third wife, Isabel, a princess from the house of Valois, the sister of the famous Queen Margot. In 1599, she married the Erz-Duke of Albert Habsburg, and Philip II appointed a couple to rule the Netherlands on behalf of the King of Spain.
A just and wise ruler, she did a lot to end the war between the Netherlands and Spain. Her reign was the time of the flourishing of the sciences and the arts, to which she patronized. It was her and her husband that Rubens was a court painter from 1609. Rubens was not only
Their court was located in Brussels, but Rubens stipulated to himself the right to live and work permanently in Antwerp. Infanta died without leaving her offspring in Brussels in 1633. Although the coldness and remoteness typical of the official portrait of time in Spain prevail in the figure of the Infanta, they are softened by a beautiful face and hand, caressing the head of the dwarf Magdalena Ruiz gently. Magdalena Ruiz, a dwarf, fun at the court, had been at Infante for many years. Black dress, white veil and coral necklace emphasize the face.
Magdalena holds two little monkeys – a curious touch from the life of the palace. Common companions of the reigning persons are jesters and “fools”. There is evidence that in 1582 Magdalena accompanied Philip II to Lisbon and died in 1605 in the Escorial.