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appear that he executed with his own hands entirely this portrait-group of his two boys twice over, since two copies exist. If the one at the Liechtenstein Gallery shows a special charm through its careful execution, the other at Dresden seems likewise so perfect that it is difficult to suppose that Rubens himself did not paint it the whole of it also. Albert, the elder boy, leaning against a pillar, is dressed in black; whilst a book under his right arm marks the studious tastes, through which he acquired at an
early age such remarkable knowledge that the King ot Spain chose him at the age of sixteen for a high appointment. His left arm and hand, in which he holds a furred glove is lightly passed around the shoulder of his younger brother, still a mere child, dressed in paler garments. The whole attention of the younger boy is concentrated on his plaything, a chained goldfinch. This group is one of the greatest master-pieces in the art of portraiture. The two boys literary live before us, and the artistic charm of the colour with its lights and shadows has been but rarely equalled in any other work of art (Figs. 92—93).
In the autumn of 1625, when the Duke of Buckingham in the name of Charles I. had come over to negotiate with the United Provinces of the Netherlands, he had seen in Antwerp Rubens' splendid Collection of Art, and had expressed a wish to acquire it. At that time the artist was unwilling
to part with his treasures. Later on, however, when his home had become desolate and he had lost his greatest jewel, he at length consented to meet the urgent wishes of the Duke, and allowed his agent, a certain Le Blond, to make a selection to the value of 100,000 florins among his Antique and Renaissance marbles, his alabaster, bronze and ivory statues, his gems, and his paintings by Leonardo, Raphael, Titian , Palma Vecchio, Tintoretto, Bassano, Paolo Veronese and himself. It was also agreed that the purchaser should at his own expense have a cast made of every individual statue that he removed to occupy its empty space. Thus in 1627 the greater part of Rubens' Collection came to England: but, when in 1649 Buckingham's possessions were confiscated and many
of the pictures came back for sale to Antwerp, they were bought by the Archduke Leopold of Austria, and thus they now form part of the Imperial Museum at Vienna.
The dilettante tastes of Buckingham gave Rubens a pretext for undertaking, without attracting attention, a journey to Holland, the object of which was really political. He had very much at heart the completion of that "beautiful masterwork" as he described it in a letter to Buckingham, the Reconciliation between Spain and England. After a conference at Brussels with the Abate della Scaglia, Ambassador of the Duke of Savoy, he wrote
a long letter to Gerbier, dated May 1627, in which proper names are indicated by numbers only, and which he desires his correspondents to show to Buckingham alone and then to burn immediately. Therein he writes that he hopes great things from personal interviews with Gerbier himself, with Scaglia and with Lord 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
Fig. 90. The Dukk Of Buckingham. In the Collection of Drawings in the Albertina at Vienna.
(To page 104.)
matters of State should only be sent to him under fictitious names. But 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,