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Fig. 7. STUDY OF HEADS AND HANDS. In the Albertina at Vienna.
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A perfect courtier, he was much esteemed by the Prince of Parma, whose court-painter he became. He produced some rather clever works in imitation of the then prevalent manneristic style of Italian art at that time.
In 1598 Peter Paul Rubens was admitted into the guild of St. Luke. We do not know however much about his early work; although the Holy Trinity in the Museum at Antwerp is generally regarded as one of his first paintings. It represents the Dead Christ, supported by two angels and holding the symbols of his Passion, in the arms of God the Father above whom hovers the Holy Spirit. It must be admitted, that this picture taken as a whole, is neithe satisfactory nor beautiful, but it certainly shows an original masterhand, an overwhelming and exuberant power, tending to create exaggerated form and bold fore-shortening; an inclination to fill empty space with sumptuos ; objects; a display of harmonious colouring and pictorial effect: and a strong task for soft and shining flesh-tints, the shadows in which graduate almost to the red of the blood. Another early work is the Annunciation with figures over life-size in the Museum of Art-History at Vienna. A portrait bust of a Young Man in the old Pinakothek at Munich also shows his method of executing portraits (Fig. 3) at this early period. In the same collection is a sketch in oil of an Old Lady in a Black Veil, conceived apparently with an expression of tenderness. This painting, if tradition is to be believed, represents his mother (Fig. 1) and we may therefore conclude that it was painted before he went to Italy.
A lengthy stay in Italy was regarded at that time as an indispensable factor in the education of a painter. Rubens started on the 9th of May 1600 on his Italian travels. He first went to Venice where the works of the masters of glowing colour no doubt specially attracted him. Through the medium of a Mantuan nobleman, whose acquaintance he made in Venice he was invited to the court of Mantua during that same year. Among all the numerous art-loving princes of his time, Vincenzo Gonzaga, then Duke of Mantua, was perhaps the most zealous. He appointed the young Fleming his court-painter
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Fig. 8. HEAD OF A BISHOP. In the Dresden Gallery.
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with a salary of 400 ducats per annum: and we know that Rubens painted for him a number of fine portraits, besides various other pictures. In the year 1601 he was sent to Rome to copy some of the celebrated old masters. Whilst there he also received a commission from his own country. Archduke Albrecht of Austria, who had married Isabella, daughter of Philip II. of Spain, had just before the death of that monarch in 1598 been appointed Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. The title of Cardinal of the church of Sta. Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome had also been conferred upon him. He availed himself therefore of the opportunity afforded him by the presence in the Eternal City of so artistically gifted a subject, with whom he no doubt became acquainted through Otho van Veen, to present to his titular church three altar-pieces. The “Crowning with Thorns”, the “Crucifixion" and the “Invention of the Cross" were the three pictures painted by Rubens on this occasion for this purpose. They remained in situ until 1811, when
Fig. 9. Christ, from a series of drawings: Christ and the twelve Apostles.
In Albertina at
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they were brought to England, only to be sold again the following year, since when they have disappeared. A few years ago there was a rumour that they had been rediscovered in the South of France.
Rubens must have already possessed that marvellous productive power for which he remained unrivalled throughout his artistic career. From the 20th of April 1602 we find him back again in Mantua, having carried out, not only the commissions of the Archduke, but also those of the Duke of Mantua.
It stands to reason that Rubens during his Fig. 10. PORTRAIT OF A FRANCISCAN MONK In the Pinakothek at Munich. stay in Rome studied After a photopraph from the original by Franz Hanfstäng), Munich.
(To page 18.) antique art as well as the works of the great Masters of the Renaissance, and he had also an opportunity of continuing these studies, in the rich collections of Painting and Sculpture belonging to his patron Vincenzo Gonzaga himself. At the Louvre we find excellent drawings made by Rubens after Michelangelo's Prophets in the Sixtine Chapel. His attempts to impart to his own creations something of the Titanic grandeur of the great Florentine are clearly visible in a drawing in the Albertina collection in Vienna (Fig. 2), representing his two patrons, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It is most interesting to examine closely the manner in which Rubens set to work when copying Italian Masters. His copies of the portrait of Isabella d'Este, now in the Museum of ArtHistory at Vienna: and of a young Venetian lady at Dresden, both after Titian, clearly show how minutely Rubens had studied that great colourist, and how at the same time he never lost his own individuality. For his works are not merely copies, but rather faithful translations into his own language of colour and form; especially the Dresden picture, where one may even detect in the fair Venetian something of his own Flemish ideals of beauty.
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On other occasions Rubens treated his subject even more freely; as for instance in his Triumph of Julius Caesar in the National Gallery: a sketch intended to be a free interpretation of a portion of the fine cartoons by Andrea Mantegna, now at Hampton Court. The young artist seems to have been also attracted by antique marbles and especially by old Greek and
Fig. 11 After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York. (To page 22.)
ABRAHAM AND MELCHISEDEK. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
Roman portrait-busts. It was as if the cold marble awoke to life before his soul: and it was under such impressions that he executed those translations of ancient portraits which in 1638 were multiplied by Vosterman, P. Pontius, H. Witdoek and Schelte a Bolswert (Figs. 4-5). The thorough grasp that Rubens acquired of the classical beauty of old marbles is best proved by the profiles of a Roman couple, now in the collection of Prince Liechtenstein in Vienna (Fig. 6). There are also in the Albertina fine