« PreviousContinue »
the master shows us his new conjugal happiness. We are in the garden of Rubens' house. The sun's mild beams illumine the blue sky; and lilacs and tulips are in full bloom. Rubens as usual, dressed in black in Spanish
fashion, leads his wife by the arm. She wears a black bodice with yellow skirt, grey petticoat and white apron, whilst a wide-brimmed straw hat protects her small and fresh-complexioned face from the sun, and she carries a fan of ostrich-feathers. Followed by the youthful Nicholas attired in red,
the couple are strolling towards a pavilion — still existing as an example of the master's architectural tastes—, where refreshments are prepared. In the background we may observe a fountain, and in the foreground to the left an old servant is feeding peacocks. Turkeys, — cock hen and chicks — are promenading in the sun-shine, whilst a handsomely marked dog gambols around (Fig. 100). The study of his own head for this picture — painted by Rubens from a mirror, — is now preserved in the Albertina (Fig. 99).
Fig. 101. Sketch for the picture The Garden Of Love. Drawing in the Louvre at Paris.
(To page 103.)
Immediately after his return from England the painter commenced two scenes for the Henry IV. Series. The life of that King presented more real action than was the case with the life of Maria di Medici; and the master treated the first two subjects for that series the Battle of Ivry, and the Triumph of Henry IV., with obvious delight and with the utmost force that he was capable ot. In the first, we may see the King of France on horseback towering amid the wild tumult of battle, protected by the God of War and accompanied by the Genius of Victory. In the other a solemn triumphal procession such as were held by Roman Emperors, wherein to the sound of trumpets of victory, women and children come forth with joy, to meet the King and hail him not only as victor but also as liberator. In the air hover a cloud of white-robed genii extending palm-branches and wreaths of bay above the grave and noble-looking King. Both those pictures now hang in the room of the Niobids of the Uffizi Gallery at Florence. They are still unfinished having the ground colour only laid on. Indeed they can scarcely be described as pictures, but rather as colossal sketches done in the enthusiasm of first ideas: which is perhaps the reason why they have so great an effect on the spectator. It seems,— although it certainly was the case—, difficult to believe that the master worked upon them for only a few days. But they were fated never to be completed.
In the summer 1630 Maria di Medici arrived in the Netherlands as a fugitive. Richelieu had gained more power over her son than she possessed over him. She there met again the painter who had glorified by his pencil her earlier history, and she visited him in his studio during the autumn of 1631. But she was no longer in the position of a patroness of art, nor had she the means of paying for so great and costly a work as the Henry IV. Series would have been, had they been finally executed by the master. The poor homeless queen had not enough now for her own maintenance , and we learn that Rubens even lent her money on the security of a portion of her jewels. It is a curious coincidence that Maria di Medici, thus banished and a wanderer from place to place for eleven years, finally ended her life in the very same house at Cologne in which Rubens, who immortalized her, had passed his first childhood.
In conjunction with these two scenes from the life of Henry IV. we must mention another work, likewise unfinished, now in the Berlin Museum which represents the Siege of Tunis by Charles V. This also is characteristic of the master's methods of inspiring modern battle-pieces, with heroic grandeur and thus adapting them to his own particular taste and that of the time.
In 1631 Rubens was elected Master of the Guild of St. Luke at Antwerp, on which occasion he presented to that Corporation one of his early paintings, now known at the Antwerp Museum under the name of The Madonna with ihe parrot. Although an attempt at composition in the style of the great Italian masters, it is not without importance, for the lovely Infant Christ, so characteristic of the maste r, has peculiar charm. There is in the same Museum also another painting of the Virgin Mary which must, however have been executed about thirty years later. Originally it adorned the Carmelite Church at Antwerp. It is not a large composition, but is remarkable for its display of sentiment. The Holy Virgin, a mere child with a book in her hand, stands beside St. Anne who, seated on a stone bench, is instructing her with loving patience. Behind the bench, Joachim leaning upon a balustrade watches the group with an expression of affectionate tenderness. Charming child-angels hover amid a blue sky dotted with tiny silver clouds, and lovingly support a wreath of roses above the Virgin's head; while beside her a bower and a tall bush of roses stand in strong relief against the distant landscape.
Wc may also find at St. Martin's Church in the small town of Aalst (Alost) a large altarpiece of the year 1631. The plague had been ravaging in that town, and it was in commemoration of its deliverance from that dire disease that this picture was dedicated by its inhabitants to St. Roch famed as the heavenly protector against pestilence. The picture is divided into two parts; a divine one above, and an earthly one below. Above, attended by an angel, we see Christ himself, before whom the Saint kneels in deep devotion in an attitude of dignified humility, interceding for suffering humanity. Below we can see the terrible results of the plague: — a dead man lies on the ground, while near him another haggard victim of the same scourge, wrapt in a shroud looks the image of utter despair. We
may also at the same time observe relief given in answer to prayer. An old man, hoary with age his arms uplifted, passionately implores the succour of Heaven: and we can even discern reviving vigour in the expression of a young woman though at the point of death. In certain groups of
Knackfuss, Rubens. 9