« PreviousContinue »
seem to have been exceedingly pleased with the transaction. Carleton was delighted with the pictures he acquired and Rubens was more than happy with the antique marbles he received in exchange.
We may sec from the above list, that Rubens giving rein to his creative powers, not only accomplished works at his own pleasure on the most varied subjects, but was at the same time also continually occupied with the delineation of sacred subjects. Moreover he allowed his pupils to copy his earlier works, since he was sure that to find numerous purchasers for them. The famous picture in the Antwerp Museum known under the name of Lc Christ sur la Paillc, which has the special merit of being painted entirely by himself, is one of the religious pictures executed by him at that time. The centre-piece represents a so-called Picta. The Dead Body of Christ supported by Joseph of Aremathea reposes on a bench covered with straw (hence the name). Mary Magdalen folding her hands gazes in deep emotion at the Saviour, whilst the Holy Mother raising the pall, with which she is
Fig. 51. Head OF A Child. (Nicholas Rubens as a child.) Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
(To page 70.)
about to cover her beloved Son, her beautiful face expressing the deepest grief looks up to heaven. On one of the wings is represented the Virgin and Child; on the other St. John, his eyes raised heavenwards in deep devotion. A fine drawing for the centre-portion is in the Albertina at Vienna (Fig. 45). Another painting belonging to this period or perhaps even somewhat earlier, is the Assumption of the Virgin, originally painted for the church of the Barefooted Friars (Carmelites), but now in the Museum at Brussels, a work also completed entirely by himself.
During the year 1617 was painted the picture in St. Pauls' Church at Antwerp, formerly in the Church of the Dominicans: the Flagellation of Christ; renowned for its treatment of the nude. Two important works
were also executed for churches at Malines. For the church of St. John in that city, he was commissioned towards the end of 1616 to paint an Altar-piece representing the Adoration of the Magi. It was a composition
which he had treated once before with great success, on a larger scale, and which he also subsequently repeated. He found therein an opportunity for rich display and picturesque profusion: representing the Oriental Kings with great splendour, attended by a most brilliant suite. In the execution of this subject he succeeded in producing a great variety of new and powerful effects. Of all the compositions however dealing with this same subject, the one at Malines is perhaps the most fascinating and executed with the most loving care. We are told that Rubens himself always spoke of this work with great satisfaction. The picture gives us an impression of joy and festivity due to the beautiful harmony of its colour. The key-note is the King in the centre, clad in a magnificent red mantle, which forms a contrast with the blue garment of the Virgin. Light radiates from the Infant as it were illuminating the Kings, the oldest of whom is on his knees, whilst the second one, in the red mantle, stands behind him, and the third, a negro, gazes around with looks of curiosity. His train is born by two rather impudentlooking pages, who are closely followed by a crowd of people, all anxious to catch a glimpse of the Holy Babe. On the wings of this altar-piece, which is still in situ, are scenes from the lives of the two SS. John: the Baptist and the Evangelist. Cardinal Richelieu offered 10,000 florins for these works alone, but the parishionors firmly declined his offer.
Another painting, of a different type, but not less admirable is the one belonging to the Liebfrauenkirche at Malines. It was executed in 1618 in the brief period of only 10 days for the so-called "Brotherhood of the Fishermen", and represents the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. Here is no display of splendour, but merely some sturdy fishermen, toiling over their work, under a lowering sky such as spreads over the North-Sea. This is a most impressively realistic piece of work, and we can quite understand why Rubens, in the list made for Sir Dudley Carleton, stated of a similar picture of fishermen, that it was "painted from life". The subject of this latter painting, the Finding of the Tribute Money, appears also on one of the wings of the altar-piece at Malines; while the pendant represents Tobias dragging a Fish out of the Sea, at the bidding of the Angel Raphael. Again of a different kind, though belonging to the same period, is a picture painted for the Church of the Jesuits at Ghent, now in the Museum at Brussels: the Martyrdom of St. Lavinus. The subject is certainly a horrible one, but the painful subject is alleviated by the introduction of angels descending swiftly from heaven and scattering lightnings amongst the terrified executioners. The same strenuous feeling is displayed in the wrathful figure of Christ, the Avenging Judge, in a composition in the same Gallery painted for a Franciscan Convent at Ghent. The Holy Mother and St. Francis are imploring the Lord to spare the world from his vengeance. The force of Divine Wrath is as powerfully expressed as is the supplicating earnestness of the Holy Intercessors.
Whilst Rubens was in negociation with the English Ambassador at the Hague for the exchange of the antique marbles he, in reference to Carleton's