« PreviousContinue »
Fig. 108. THE CAPTIVES. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New York. (To page 140.)
the pictures sustained some injury by remaining too long packed in rolls they had to be worked over again by the master before they were finally forwarded to their destination. Rubens wished very much to go over to England himself to see them finally set up in position; but gout, which now often confined him to his bed for weeks together, prevented him.
The winter of 1634–1635 brought him a commission hardly less extensive, but intended, however, as no permanent memorial but rather to give additional splendour to one of those festivals which Antwerp better than any other town knew to arrange. The King of Spain had chosen his only brother the Infant Ferdinand, Cardinal - Archbishop of Toledo as successor to the Archduchess Infanta Isabella : and on the 17th of April 1635, amid the acclamations of the populace, the new Governor celebrated his State Entry into the proud city of Antwerp with unprecedented splendour. The cost of the display is said to have amounted to 78,000 florins which reckoned in English money would be about £ 5000. All the artistic elements of the first rank which this Art-City could command were employed to erect a number of temporary buildings, adorned with sculpture and painting. The entire direction of this vast enterprise was given to Rubens: and he executed numberless sketches of marvellous freshness and unabated imaginative power, although whilst composing them, he was not unfrequently bound down by gout to his chair. There were in all eleven colossal compositions, five triumphal arches, four stands, one state coach and a gallery of twelve portraits, representing the Emperors of the House of Habsburg. Some of the pictorial representations in these decorations were designed to offer special honour to the Archducal couple, Albrecht and Isabella; while others did homage to the new Governor, celebrated as the Victor of Nördlingen, a battle fought by him in company with King Ferdinand of Hungary against the Swedes. He had also inflicted heavy loss on the Dutch at Caloo, from which date they had to lament the destruction of their trade by the blockade of the Scheldt: and hopes were expressed that the new ruler would ameliorate this condition of affairs. Some of the representations were in entirely mythological form, others were allegories in which history and mythology were combined, to explain which Gevaerts composed Latin Poems. The architecture was a rich baroque, a style into which in the hands of Rubens that of the Italian Renaissance usually developed.
Unfortunately on account of his ailment the artist could not be present at the festivities on the day of the State Entry, but the Cardinal Infant paid him a visit the very next day to express his personal gratitude, and the admiration inspired in him by this great and most successful work. We hear further that he conversed with Rubens for some time, evidently taking great pleasure in his society.
These temporary architectural decorations remained in position but a few weeks: but the most important of the paintings were subsequently restored and presented by the Cardinal Infant as a gift from the town of Antwerp to the city of Brussels, together with the portrait-busts of the Emperors. The remainder were put up to auction, but as the first portion of them realised but a very small amount, the Municipality decided to keep the rest to serve again on future occasions. It is not known exactly what became of them, but probably the greater part were lost. One of the larger compositions, however, has been preserved, and fortunately one of which, not
Fig. 109. PORTRAIT OF A Man of LETTERS. In the Pinakothek at Munich.
only the design, but also the execution is due to Rubens himself. This is is now in the Dresden Gallery. It served to decorate an erection near St. George's Church : in it Neptune the God of the Sea is represented calming the waves during the voyage of the Cardinal Infant. This canvas is known under the title of Virgil's well known words “ Quos ego". The portraits of King Ferdinand and the Infant his namesake, now in the Royal Museum at Vienna, it seems also, adorned the same erection. They were however not painted by Rubens himself, although his masterly influence show their expressive countenances. The same statement applies to the great picture the Meeting of the two Ferdinands before the battle of Nördlingen, also the work of a pupil. By the master himself are the two splendidly decorative portraits of Albrecht and Isabella now in the Museum at Brussels, which were designed for a Triumphal Arch. Of the sketches there are many more still in existence, although they represent but a small part of the whole work. In the Collection at Windsor there is a sketch for the picture of the Battle of Nördlingen, whilst three architectural sketches are in the Museum at Antwerp and six at the Hermitage. Among the latter there is the sketch for the above mentioned Neptune and another for a painting which adorning another erection at St. John's Bridge, symbolized the Languishing State of Trade through the Departure of Mercury; whilst yet another designed to decorate the Old Cornmarket represents the new Governor, attended by Victory, comforting a kneeling woman, intended to personify the
After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York. (To page 142.)
Fig. 110. THE BOAR-HUNT, In the Dresden Gallery.
Netherlands (Fig. 107). Besides these sketches for Decorations and triumphal arches, there are in the St. Petersburg Gallery also five of the portrait busts executed in stone, whilst various remnants are dispersed in other collections. The fine drawing in the Albertina of Chained and Conquered Warriors, which we reproduce in Fig. 108, formed no doubt also a part of the great series of compositions created by the genius of Rubens for this Festival. The entire work was subsequently etched on copper by his favourite pupil, Theodor van Thulden:- a commission given to him by the town of Antwerp soon after the entry of Ferdinand, and published in 1641–42, in forty separate plates with elaborately descriptive letterpress by Gevaerts.
Fig. 111. LANDSCAPE WITH A RAINBOW. In the Pinakothek at Munich. After a photograph from the original by Franz Hanfstäng!, Munich. (To page 144.)
One sheet, which was missing in this publication, was subsequently etched by Schelte a Bolswert.
Whilst Rubens for this work drew largely from the inexhaustible sources of his unequalled imaginative power, displaying his great talent in designing and display of gorgeous decorations, he, on the other hand, during the same period showed an ever-increasing affection for simpler compositions