Anne of Austria (1691-1666), the eldest daughter of King Philip III of Spain, was married to King Louis XIII of France in 1615. The marriage was very unhappy, partially due to the king's chief minister Cardinal Richelieu. In 1638, Louis XIII and Anne had their first son who succeeded his father in 1643 as King Louis XIV (see lot 461). When Richelieu died in 1642, Anne was appointed regent for the boy king 1643-1651 and wielded power with her own favourite and lover Cardinal Jules Mazarin as prime minister. It was not until Mazarin's death in 1661 that Louis became absolute monarch and his mother retired to the convent of Val de Grâce.
This Petitot enamel belongs to an unusual type of portrait of the Dowager Queen, two examples of which were hitherto known. The standard image depicts the sitter looking to dexter and wearing widow's clothes with a deep lace collar and pearls (see G. Reynolds, The Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Miniatures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London, 1999, p. 238, no. 300). The prototype for the present enamel appears to be the splendid large enamel formerly in the collections of David David-Weill and Sir Charles Clore, part II, sold Sotheby's, London, 10 November 1986, lot 144, now in a Swiss private collection. A smaller version, of approximatively the same size as the present enamel but with a cloud and sky background as in the large version, is in the Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva.