« PreviousContinue »
the Netherlands, profitting greatly by the work of the artist. Woodcarving also was greatly benefitted by the reproduction of his ideas; so that from this period works appear of real artistic merit in that branch of art. If we look for dates on Rubens' pictures we may find a mythological painting of /upiter and Callisto in the Gallery at Cassel, dated 1613; and another delicious little night-piece, representing the Flight into Egypt in the same collection, dated 1614. This latter much recalls a picture by Adam Elsheimer, whose acquaintance Rubens made in Rome. The same date 1614 is also attached to a small and highly finished Pietà in the Museum at Vienna. The shoulders of the dead Christ, much foreshortened, rest against the knees of the Madonna, who, with loving care, closes the glazing eyes of her dead Son. His right arm is supported by Mary Magdalen, the favourite female Saint of the painter, whilst in the foreground kneel the other Maries
Fig. 36. Head of A Child (Rubens' eldest daughter). In the Liechtenstein Gallery at Vienna.
weeping bitterly. Beside the Holy Mother stands the impressive figure of St. John (Fig. 28). The Museum at Antwerp possesses a larger replica of this picture with a landscape background by the “velvet.” Breughel. As a rule, however, inscribed dates are very rare on pictures by Rubens. Moreover, they do not tell us much; for the master's power, when settled in Antwerp
was so fully developed, and, throughout the whole of his artistic career, he remained so true to himself, that it is very difficult — almost impossible in fact— with most of his works, to fix even approximately the period of their execution.
Mythology always seemed to give him new ideas: and he enjoyed representing wild scenes, such as the Abduction of Orithyia by Boreas, the North-Wind, now in the Academy of Vienna, or the A'ape of the Daughters of Leucippos by Castor and Pollux, now in the Munich Pinakothek (Fig. 29). He threw special enthusiasm into his groups of Diana and of Bacchus; and he revelled in representing the sports of woodland deities (Figs. 30 and 31); depicting their boisterous ways and inebriatedly amorous gambols with great gusto. At one time he paints them accompanied by voluptuous naiads, at another by graceful and timid nymphs; whilst sometimes, for the sake of contrast, he introduces into the composition even the chaste Diana herself (Fig. 32). He deals repeatedly with the legend of Meleager and Atalanta, a subject which gave him the opportunity of representing manly strenght and
womanly charm in close contrast. In the Gallery at Cassel there is a splendid subject with a half-figure of Meleager presenting the bristling head of the Calydonian boar to the beautiful huntress, whilst Envy lurks in the background. Another representation of the same subject is at Munich, rendered even more attractive by the addition of magnificent grey-hounds and a fine landscape (Fig. 34). It was on rarer occasions that he approached subjects of the Old Testament. Amongst these are the sketches of Ahasverus and Esther, designs for the decoration of a ceiling, and the splendid painting of Samson and Delilah, both in the Pinakothek at Munich (Fig. 33). In 1614 his eldest son was born. He was named after the Archduke Albrecht, who stood sponsor for him. In spite of the coat of arms at the back of the composition, we may recognise in the fascinating portrait in the Dresden Gallery of a lady with a baby on her lap (Fig. 35), Frau Isabella, her face somewhat thin and worn, and her infant son. The head of a child in the Liechtenstein Collection at Vienna, is, no doubt, a likeness of Rubens' eldest daughter who, with her clear almond-shaped eyes and amiably expressive mouth, seems the very image of her mother (Fig. 36). The charming
Fig. 39. Study of A Horse. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
Madonna surrounded by Cupids and enclosed in a wreath of flowers, – the latter a masterpiece of Breughel, -is unmistakeably also a portrait of Isabella and the infant Albrecht (Fig. 37). An ever increasing number of commissions compelled the master to avail himself of the help of his pupils in executing his pictures, especially in large compositions and replicas: but he himself always put in the final touches; thus giving them the stamp of his genius. The pupils entered into the ideas of their masters as far as their respective abilities allowed.