« PreviousContinue »
(Fig. 85). There is also the famous portrait known by the name of Chapeau de Paille,- a mistake for chapeau de poil — in the National Gallery in London, which represents a Fräulein Lunden of Antwerp; who gazes with bright expressive eyes from under her broad hat. Legends state her to have been a sweet-heart of the artist.
Fig. 77. PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG LADY OF THE COURT OF THE INFANTA ISABELLA.
In the Hermitage at St. Petersburg.
(To page 92.)
On the other hand it has been said by some authorities that portrait-painting was really the weakest side of Rubens’ Art, and it has even been asserted that his conception of the personages painted by him was only a superficial one, resembling rather a photograph; — since they only convey the expression worn during the time of the sitting, and do not penetrate into the inner life of the sitter : in fact that they are lacking in the very thing which would alone make them great works of art. This opinion may perhaps
Fig. 78. Portrait of a Marquis (name illegible) OF THE Court of MARIA DE MEDICI.
Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
(To page 92.)
be applied to a few of them, but it is certainly not applicable in general. To name one example only out of many, let us take the portrait painted in 1624 of Rubens' learned friend Dr. van Thulden, now in the Pinakothek at Munich. This portrait clearly shows that Rubens thoroughly understood the representation of the spiritual as well as of the physical aspect of a sitter (Fig. 86). Among the portraits of historical personages of the period between 162 1–1625 we should mention first that of the Spanish Commander-in-chief, Ambrose Spinola, with whom the artist was on terms of personal friendship, although he once stated to a friend that “Spinola had no more comprehension of Art than a common domestic”. This portrait is now in the Gallery at Brunswick, where there is besides another portrait by the artist, of an unknown personage, and an early work representing Judith with the head of Holophernes. There is also in the Picture-Gallery at Cassel a remarkable life-size portrait, painted about the year 1624. It is of a stout man, with common features and rough hands, arrayed in rich oriental attire (Fig. 87). The original of this portrait was probably however not a Turk, but one of those Christian Levantine merchants who had it painted to send to his relations in his native land. The picture itself gives us a clue to the place from whence this man came, for we may see on the handle of a big palm-leaf in the background the arms of the Christian City of Constantinople, which date back to Latin times. These are unfortunately not visible in the small illustration.
Rubens again made use of this same bizarre personality for the figure of the Moorish King in an Adoration of the Magi, painted as an altarpiece for the Abbey-Church of St. Michael. This painting, now in the Museum at Antwerp is 6 ft. high by 3 ft. 20 wide and was painted by the master himself in 1624 in the short space of 13 days. It may be inferior in some respects to his other representations of the same subject : but it is unsurpassed in its fascinating charm of glowing colour.
The most productive and brilliant period of the artist's career was perhaps, between the years 1620 and 1625; for, notwithstanding the pressure of work, which those two vast undertakings: the frescoes for the Jesuit Church at Antwerp and the completion of the Medici Gallery in Paris: must have involved — not to mention other commissions of greater or lesser importance undertaken by him,Rubens seems yet to have found time to paint pictures for his own personal pleasure. Thus most of the artist's Mythological subjects: — Judgments oj Paris, Rapes of Helen, or of Nymphs, representations of the Three Graces, of Venus, of Diana, and of Satyrs, &c. - appear to belong to this period.
Fig. 79. PORTRAIT OF A MAN. In the Pinakothek at Munich.
After a photograph from the original by Franz Hanfstäng), Munich. Since the master always
(To page 94.) KNACKFUSS, Rubens.
courted the chance of painting from the nude, it is easy to understand why, when he worked for his own pleasure, he usually chose subjects from Classical Legends.
But History also often afforded him stimulating subjects. Thus in the Louvre we find a representation of the Scythian Queen, Tomyris, ordering the head of Cyrus to be dipped in blood : a painting, the rich colours of which
Fig. 80. PORTRAIT OF A MAN. In the Dresden Gallery.
(To page 94.)
bear no unfavourable comparison with Paolo Veronese's Marriage in Cana of Galilee. In Munich there is a Death of Seneca, a gloomy composition in accordance with the spirit of the subject, and at Buckingham Palace a Pythagoras lecturing to his pupils. Besides these scenes taken from profane History, there are also some drawn from the Old Testament, such as, for example, the impressive painting, at Munich, of the Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau (Fig. 88). This last-named picture offers once more a curious instance of those repetitions, which it pleased the artist to introduce;- not however as a whole, but in the separate groups. Among the women placed by Jacob at the head of his train to inspire the pity of his brother's approaching host, in the foreground we may notice a graceful woman on her knees beside her two children. This group similarly arranged but with a different expression appears again, as Latona with her twins Apollo and Diana fleeing from the jealous wrath of Tuno, by magic art transforming into frogs, the
Fig. 81. PORTRAIT OF A Lady. In the Dresden Gallery.
(To page 94.)
Lycian peasants who had maliciously defiled the water, wherewith she desired to quench her thirst (Fig. 89). The fine landscape in this picture is not by Rubens himself, but is probably by Lucas van Uden, a young landscapepainter, who placed his talents at the service of the great master; as Snyders did in the case of animals and Breughel of flowers. It was again though only as a saving of time that he thus sought the help of other artists: for it is well known that he himself was a first rate painter of landscapes. It was apparently also during these years that he began to paint pictures