« PreviousContinue »
in her later years. Sometimes it is just the realistic appearance of this one head, which gives it so great a prominence amid the surrounding idealized figures; since we can have no doubt that this is the leading personage, in spite of the others who occupy so much of the surrounding space. This is specially evident in the Conclusion of Peace, where Her Majesty, haressed fruitlessly by the demons of Envy and Hatred enters the Temple of Peace(Fig71). It is true that a great many of these allegories are conceived rather superficially; but there are traits which unquestionably testify power of observation and deep sentiment: as, for instance, where the King examines for the first
time the portrait of Fig. 72. STUDY FROM THE NUDE. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, his Bride; or when the Paris and New-York. (To page 92.)
Queen is overcome by
the sight of her firstborn, and where at the Reconciliation she smiles at him through her tears. The whole work is one great thought, executed according to the spirit of the period, and is a creation which fully illustrates the power of Rubens, justly styled “the artist-prince of his time”. Maria de Medici was so charmed with these works that, as soon as he had completed them, she commissioned him to execute four more paintings, to adorn the same Gallery. One was a representation of herself as Minerva: two more were portraits of her parents, the Grand-Duke and Grand-Duchess of Tuscany: whilst the fourth was to be a likeness of the artist himself. We ought also to relate here a pleasing anecdote: how She once assembled into the artist's presence all her court-ladies to obtain his opinion on
their respective beauty; and how the lady who seemed to him most worthy of the prize was the Duchess of Guéménée. The Queen would much have liked to bind so famous an artist exclusively to her side: but Rubens wrote to a friend that he was “tired of that court”. He was dissatisfied besides, because Her Majesty seemed inclined to withhold the well deserved payment for so great an undertaking and was not even willing to reimburse him for the repeated journeys and expenses consequent on his stay in Paris. Soon after the completion of this work, he therefore returned to Antwerp.
There still exists a letter from him, addressed to Paris. It is without date, so that we do not know whether it refers to his first visit there, or to a second, which he undertook in order to finish the paintings: or perhaps to a subsequent stay in the summer of 1623. In this letter he desires that the sisters Capaio and their niece Louise should be ready for him to make life-size studies from them, for the SeaNymphs, which “were to accompany the ship in the picture of the Arrival of the Queen of France". "It was not easy for him to find so beautiful a black,”— he adds, — "of raven hair”: though he seems after all to have preferred his favourite blonde types when he finally executed the painting. It is somewhat strange that an artist, who could master the drawing of his figures with such consummate knowledge and who probably painted most of his allegorical subjects without models, should have thought it necessary sometimes to make studies from life with such very great care. Among these latter the drawings now pre
Fig. 73. STUDY OF A HEAD. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, served in the Albertina
Paris and New-York. (To page 92.)
Fig. 74. STUDY OF HEADS. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna,
(To page 92.)
Collection, furnish most perfect examples. They are chiefly sketches of heads (Figs. 72, 73, 74 and 75); probably made for subsequent paintings in order to avoid long sittings. Perhaps also he may have entered them in his sketchbook so as to secure a record of certain persons, whom he had met. This certainly seems to have been the case with a drawing of one of the Archduchess Isabella's fascinating ladies-in-waiting; a sketch which belongs to the artist's early period (Fig. 76): and also with another of a French Marquis, whose name, though attached to the drawing, is illegible. This latter probably dates from one of his lengthened sojourns at Paris (Fig. 78). The picture for which the first-named drawing was a preparatory study is now in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg: and, in spite of the fact that it has been only grounded and has remained unfinished, it nevertheless clearly shows the charm that this great master of colour could attain when he exchanged the pen for the brush (Fig. 77).
Portrait-painting was always Rubens' best opportunity for refreshing his soul at the undefiled source of natural inspiration. In less ambitious
Fig. 75. STUDY OF A HEAD. Drawing in red chalk in the Uffizi at Florence.
(To page 92.)
tasks of such a nature, he set aside the exuberant tendencies of his genius, and with the same artistic joy, with which at other times he gave free scope to his boundless imagination, devoted himself to pure and simple realism. There exist portraits, dating from every period of his artistic career, of persons, whose very names are now forgotten, which have come down to us merely as likenesses executed with his own masterful hand. It is in these
Fig. 76. PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG LADY OF THE COURT OF THE INFANTA ISABELLA AT BRUSSELS.
Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
(To page 92.)
works especially that Rubens shows, how faithfully he could, where necessary, adhere to nature, as she presented herself to him, without indulging in any additional accessories (Figs. 79—84). Some of his female portraits, the originals of which are known, have in this way become very famous. Among these there is in the Museum at Brussels, a portrait of Jakelyne de Caestre, the refined and delicate looking wife of a sturdy country gentleman, painted in 1618; and another in the Louvre of a youthful lady, a member of the Boonen family, who fascinates the spectator by her dark mysterious eyes