« PreviousContinue »
Fig. 27. THE PICTURE OF CERES. In the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York.
more than any other work, a landmark in the History of Art. From the date of its completion Dutch and Flemish painters realized that it was no longer necessary to go to Italy to see first rate works of art. On the two wings are painted the Visitation and Presentation in the Temple: and on
their outer side St. Christopher. This latter subject Rubens repeated again in a picture now at Munich (Fig. 19). The idea of Christ being thus carried is the binding link in all four representations: and the one main thought that runs through the whole altar-piece: First, as the Incarnate Son of God in the Visitation; again, in the Presentation in the Temple; then, in the Descent from the Cross; and, lastly, as Ruler of the World on the shoulder
of St. Christopher. Tradition tells us that the Rifle - corps - Guild only commissioned the artist to paint a St. Christopher as the bearer of Christ, but that he of his own accord thus dilated on the subject.
Both these pictures, the Elevation and the Descent from the Cross, have only occupied their present positions since 1816; for they were carried
THE RAPE OF THE DAUGHTERS OF LEUCIPPOS BY CASTOR AND POLLUX. In the Pinakothek at Munich.
off to Paris in 1794. A replica of the latter picture with certain variations is in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg (Fig. 20). Although as a whole it is inferior to the picture at Antwerp, it has nevertheless great merit. Great attention is bestowed upon the figure of St. Mary Magdalen, for whom the artist having a predilection, created a special type. This attractive figure,
a maiden with a fine complexion and very fair hair which we encounter for the first time in the Descent from the Cross at Antwerp, frequently recurs in his paintings and not invariably as Mary Magdalen. It has often been stated that this very Flemish type of beauty is that of the artist's first wife; but, setting aside some national Flemish peculiarities, it has no resemblance whatever to the darkhaired Isabella Brant. It cannot be assumed however, that this favourite type of the master, in spite of its pronounced personality, is the actual likeness of any one model. Through decades of years this same attractive figure reappears unchanged; no matter whether freely created from his imagination, or whether recalling an image transfigured by remembrance, it certainly seems to have been Rubens' ideal of female beauty.
During the first years of his married life the painter lived with his father in law: but in 1611 he took a house of his own, reconstructed at great expense by altering a large mansion that he had acquired in 1610. He fashioned a sumptuous Palace in the late Renaissance style, which he further furnished with princely splendour; and in the garden erected a richly adorned circular building to contain his own art-treasures and antique marbles. His studio also was arranged with great magnificence. The building situated near the broad street, called Place de Meir, shows now but few traces of its famous occupant. The only well-preserved piece being a garden-pavilion with a triumphal arch where on two inscriptions can still be traced, both very characteristic of Rubens' philosophy of life. On one side we read the lines from Juvenal:
"Trust to the gods to care for us and our prosperity;
On the other, the following from the same poet:
"Pray that in your healthy body may live a healthy mind;
Contemporary artists have often depicted Rubens' establishment. Even Van Dyck did not think it unworthy of his genius to illustrate his masters' dining room; a painting now in the Museum at Stockholm.
The master's endeavour to introduce Italian Renaissance taste into his native town was not wholly unsuccessful, and many of the 17th century buildings in Antwerp show this influence in their elaborate architecture. The stately façade of the Jesuit Church built between 1611-1621 was certainly inspired by him. It was natural that many pupils should flock to him as soon as he had settled in that city. In fact there were such a number desirous of studying under him that he was obliged to pass them on to other painters; and, indeed, as he wrote to a friend of his, an engraver, he had to reject hundreds of pupils, amongst whom were even acquaintances of his own and his wife's. His nephew Philip has given us interesting accounts of his habits and his daily life. He used to rise, summer and winter, at five o'clock, and went every morning to hear early mass. In his later years he was only prevented
from doing this by gout. Returning from church he at once commenced his painting; and whilst so employed he had books, such as Plutarch and Seneca, read aloud to him; for he possessed the gift of listening without diverting his attention from his work. It is also said that he was very moderate in eating and drinking and that his regular relaxation after his day's work, interrupted only by one short and simple meal, was towards evening to take a ride on one of his fine Spanish horses. The evenings
were devoted to his friends; for he kept an open and hospitable house and specially enjoyed intercourse with learned men. According to one of his biographers his house was regulated with the strictness almost of a convent.
Rubens painted in 1612 a picture of the Resurrection, with figures of Saints and Angels on the side wings, for his friend Balthasar Moretus. This work was intended to be placed over the tomb of Moretus' father in the Antwerp Cathedral, and it hangs there still. At that time the artist was mainly occupied in painting sacred subjects; but nevertheless found time for a number of other works: and it is evident also that some of these were portraits. Fig. 21 is the likeness