Martin van Meytens II completed his artistic training with his father. After stints in London, Italy and Sweden, he settled in Vienna circa 1730 where he was appointed court painter in 1732. He worked mainly as a portrait painter, his sitters from various members of the imperial family and the upper nobility in Austria, Hungary, Moravia and Bohemia. Most of his portraits are individual, full-length, life-size portraits. Meytens typically featured his subjects in commanding poses, and rich clothing or a grand Baroque setting with undulating draperies. He enjoyed royal favour into his old age and was lauded by some as the 'Van Dyck' of the present day.
Meytens' subject for this portrait is Leopold II, the third son of Maria Theresa and son of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Leopold II became Holy Roman Emperor himself in 1790 as well as the last crowned King of Bohemia. As emperor and ruler of the Hapsburg lands he succeeded his brother Joseph II. Upon the death of his father he also became the Grand Duke of Tuscany. It was in this role that he could really exercise his diplomatic and administrative abilities, and proceeded to remove all the ruinous restrictions imposed on industry and personal freedom by his predecessors, the house of Medici.
We are grateful to Mr. Matthias Schott who points out that the present figure is a repeat of the same figure of Leopold II with slight variation in the painting by van Meytens of The Royal Family of Maria Theresa with nine children on the terrace of Schönbrunn Palace of 1751, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.