« PreviousContinue »
so, in order that the removal of the other works of art might not be delayed, it was left unpacked as it was in the market-place. On account of its weight again it was not taken to Paris, and thus escaped the fate of the unfortunate Assumption in the Imperial Collection at Vienna, which to facilitate its transport was sawn into three pieces, by order of the French Deputy-Commissioner Denon. Besides this picture now in the Imperial Museum, which, after an absence of six years, was brought back to Vienna in 1815, there is yet another work of the master, — the most celebrated representation of this subject,— which adorns the high-altar of the Cathedral at Antwerp. Rubens was asked to paint this picture in 1619; but its execution was retarded, so that it was only placed in its position in 1626. We are told that he painted this work, — also a very large one, — in less than 16 days; but that probably only implies the time spent by the master himself over the work; since the collaboration of pupils, whose working days were not counted, can be clearly detected in it.
It was no doubt through Sir Dudley Carleton that Rubens became acquainted with a man, famous in his day as a great Maecenas, and unrivalled as a collector, especially of antique marbles: Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel. In 1620 the artist painted in one canvas portraits of this patron of the Arts and his wife; a sumptuous picture now in the Pinakothek at Munich. The group might perhaps be better designated as "Portraits of the Countess of Arundel and her suite". In an open hall with spiral marble columns, hung with heavy curtains wheron are richly embroidered the family coat of arms, the floor of which is covered with a magnificent carpet, is seated the Countess, attired in a gown of black silk. With her right hand she caresses a huge hound, who lays his head affectionately in her lap. To her left a small page in a gold-embroidered red dress carrying a falcon on his wrist, implies his mistress' devotion to the chase. She appears also to have kept a sort of jester in her train, for a dwarf dressed in yellow and green stands beside the hound. Behind the Countess' chair, and rather in the background, we may see the Earl of Arundel himself (Fig. 63).
The armistice during which the Netherlands enjoyed the blessings of peace came to an end in 1620. Religious warfare had broken out again in Germany, and the first battle had been decided in favour of the Emperor and the Catholics. The world was anxious to see the likeness of the socalled Victor of the White Mountain: and it was Rubens, who was commissioned to paint it — to be reproduced in numerous etchings. We see the victorious Count Boucquoy, Commander-in-Chief, arrayed in his armour and scarf, and with his baton in his hand, encircled by a wreath of bay and oakleaves, and surrounded by a number of allegorical figures. We may further perceive towns and rivers in chains beside the altar of Victory; a winged Nike is bearing trophies, whilst Hercules with his club,—Symbol of Power, — crushes to the ground the Hydra and Medusa. Angels holding aloft a chalice and the Popal double cross,— symbol of the Catholic Faith,— crown the Imperial eagle, to whom the genii of War and Victory offer the palm and the terrestrial globe (Fig. 64). Whilst Rubens designed this sketch (now at the Hermitage), intended for reproduction, most carefully in grey on grey, he was content on other occasions only to heighten similar
Fig. 64. Chaeles De Longuevai., Count Boucquoy. Painted for an engraving by Vorstermann.
In the Hermitage at St. Petersburg.
(To page 81.)
drawings with sepia; as, for instance, the cleverly executed design in the collection of Weimar, representing a warrior, whose name we may probably also seek among the heroes of the Thirty Years War (Fig. 65).
In 1621 the Archduke Albrecht died. Among the portraits by Rubens' own hand, which have come down to us, of his Prince-patron we must single out the superb equestrian one in the Royal collection at Windsor, of which there is a drawing in the Louvre. It appears that he^had^also commenced to paint for the Archduke a series of portraits of his ancestors, when the latter's death interrupted the work. At least we may in this way account for certain portraits, which were found among the artist's property
Fig. 65. Poeteait Of A Geneeal. For an engraving. Drawing in the Gallery at Weimar.
(To page 81.)
at his death: for instance, one over-life-size of Charles the Bold, and another of the Emperor Maximilian I. Moreover, a picture which probably also owes its existence to the same circumstance is the painting in the Museum at Madrid representing the mediaeval legend of Rudolf of Habsburg, commemorated in Schiller's famous Ballad. Rubens conceived this event with considerable sense of humour, depicting the priest, who was no horseman, crossing the surging torrent, mounted on a lively hunter. The picture is remarkable for its subject, since mediaeval representations as a rule were most unusual at that period. But Rubens, excelling in all directions, once even painted a grand tournament. This work, with its fascinating landscape, in which
appears a mediaeval castle with a tall watch-tower, is now in the Louvre (Fig. 66). The Imperial Museum at Vienna also possesses two very carefully executed scenes from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, and Boccaccio's
Decamerone. Thus the varied capabilities ot the artist appear to have been quite without limit. Most surprising is a sketch in the Liechtensteincollection which shows this painter of impetuous power and wanton extravagance in a sentimental mood. It is the seated figure of a veiled woman mourning over a battle-field. He is said to have specially appreciated those commissions, which gave him the greatest scope for variety of subject:
Fig. 67. Poeteait Of Baeon Hkineich Von Wicq. In the Louvre at Paris.
(To page 86.)
and he declared that he enjoyed most those works, which admitted ot execution in full sized proportions. With reference to the pictures ordered by the Prince of Wales, he writes on the 13'h of September 1621 to W. Trumbull, the English consul at Brussels, "I wished that the painting for the Gallery of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales were of larger dimensions, because it would give me much more courage to express my thoughts with greater freedom and accuracy ... I must confess that