« PreviousContinue »
Carleton, who had just been appointed Ambassador to the United Provinces of the Netherlands. He therefore begs his correspondent to procure him a passport for Holland. Gerbier came over immediately with Carleton to the Hague: and before May, Rubens received a passport enabling him to travel without any hindrance to Holland, accompanied by a train of servants and baggage, with the alleged object of treating with Gerbier as to the Duke's acquisition of pictures and other works of Art. For certain reasons, which Rubens does not communicate to us in his letters, the Infanta wished that at first he should not go beyond Zevenberghen in the North Brabant; but Carleton, on the other hand, was afraid that a meeting between Gerbier and Rubens in so small a town on the frontier would be certain to attract attention, and that the political objects of it would therefore not remain a
secret. For this reason Rubens returned to Brussels in order to get the Archduchess' permission to extend his travels. Even then, however, he avoided the Hague. The Piedmontese Envoy had an interview with him at Delft, but the English Ambassador refrained from a similar expedition for fear lest it should be talked about. Nevertheless Gerbier travelled for some time from one Dutch town to another in Rubens' company; the two artists concealing the true cause of their cooperation behind studio-visits and the purchase of pictures. This journey caused great uneasiness to the cautious Lord Carleton, for he was afraid lest the deception should become known, and Rubens be sent in disgrace out of the country as a "Spanish emissary". He therefore warned the painter not to run risks which might bring injury on others also. Rubens, however, so thoroughly understood how to keep the real object of his journey secret, that the German painter and art-historian, Joachim von Sandrart, to whom was granted the favour of accompanying
the great artist, never even suspected anything; for when he afterwards referred to the days spent with the great master he only relates a variety of studio stories. Precautions were carried so far that, when, later on, Rubens returned to Antwerp, he arranged that letters from Holland on
THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM.
In the Collection of Drawings in the Albertina at Vienna.
After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York.
(To page 104.)
matters of State should only be sent to him under fictitious names. with all this, very little result was really obtained; for the English Ambassador seemed dissatisfied with the verbal assurances of the Infanta Isabella, and the Marquis Spinola objected to them as securities for arriving at final terms. He desired to see the document authorizing Rubens to act for the King of Spain. The Spanish Ambassador, Don Diego de Mexia,
who was expected at Brussels as a Messiah, did not however turn up: and was said to have fallen ill in Paris in consequence of a carriage accident. When at last he did reach Brussels, he did not seem in the least inclined to unite in the efforts for Peace that were being urged on there, and which also had the support of the Envoy from Savoy. In Paris, on the contrary, he had been carrying on negotiations between the Sovereigns
Fig. 91. PORTRAIT OF ISABELLA BRANT. In the Hermitage at St. Petersburg.
of Spain and France as to the defence of their respective kingdoms, to which negotiations Rubens very justly referred in the following terms: "We believe that this League will be like thunder without lightning, which makes a noise in the air without producing any effect. For it is an alliance of different temperaments brought together contrary to their respective natures and powers, and directed by passion rather than by reason." In spite of the strenuous efforts of the Belgian Court to bring about Peace, the whole matter seemed to collapse, and Gerbier was recalled to England.
Fig. 92. THE ARTIST'S SONS, ALBERT AND NICHOLAS. In the Liechtenstein Gallery at Vienna. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co. Dornach, Paris and New-York.
Rubens himself could only advise warlike operations, as the sole means of exerting pressure on Spain. He however, once more commenced diplomatic action when the Marquis Spinola went to Madrid in the beginning of 1628, and in the month of March of that year wrote to Buckingham in connection with a letter from Spinola at Madrid, that "Philip IV., who had no real confidence in France, would be very much inclined to make peace with those with whom he was at war". In May the artist was visited at Antwerp by the Earl of Carlisle, English Ambassador to the Hague, who was then on his way to Italy. In the course of their conversation, the painter assured the ambassador, that Spain was longing to make peace with England; and he, moreover, arranged an audience for Carlisle with the Archduchess.
The great talents shown by Rubens in this matter of securing peace were recognised and rewarded by the Archduchess Isabella, who in 1628 appointed him her chamberlain: whilst Philip IV. summoned him to Madrid in the same year to report personally on these long and wearisome negotiations. The skilful statesman and famous artist was received at the Spanish capital with great honour: Apartments were assigned to him in the Royal Palace; and he was visited daily by the King. Among the persons at court with whom he was on terms of friendly intercourse was Velasquez, the greatest portrait-painter of all time, then 29 years of age, and preparing to climb with giantstrides the topmost heights of his fame. Rubens remained eight months in Madrid; and there he again had time and opportunity to devote himself to his art. Philip IV. commissioned him to execute portraits, intended as presents for the Infanta Isabella: of all the members of the Royal Family, and he also repeatedly painted the King and Queen themselves. Two of these portraits in which, according to Spanish custom, both Philip and his Queen Elizabeth are dressed in black later on reached St. Petersburg. The stern gloom of Spanish pride is undeniably present in both of them. Philip, with the conspicuous underlip so characteristic of the Habsburgs, looks unimportant but the features of his still youthful Queen have a peculiar charm, and display an expression of vague melancholy, as if she did not feel very happy in her position as Queen of "Both the Indies" (Figs. 94 and 95). In another picture, now in the Louvre, ordered by Elizabeth, probably for Louis XIII., the French King's daughter is represented in a rich and fashionable dress although here also we find in her face, which is perhaps rather colder in expression, the same melancholy traits. In the rendering of her fair and delicate complexion, her transparent white ruff, her brilliant jewelry and splendid robe of gold coloured brocade; of the massed light encircling her head; and the pictorial effect which he was able to extract from an otherwise stiff-fashion of costume, Rubens displays a master hand (Fig. 96).
The King gave many other commissions to the artist, amongst which was the large and idealized equestrian portrait of Philip II., — who had died