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STUDY OF HEADS. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
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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
STUDY OF A Head. Drawing in red chalk in the Uffizi at Florence. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York.
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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.
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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 (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.
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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.
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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 1621-1625 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