‘Spellbinding’ — A Rubens masterpiece up close

Art critic Alastair Sooke and Christie’s specialist Clementine Sinclair discuss the ‘extraordinary’ Lot and His Daughters — the most important painting by the artist remaining in private hands that’s ever likely to be sold on the open market

‘It feels very special to be in front of this extraordinary painting by Rubens,’ says art critic Alastair Sooke, discussing Lot and His Daughters — a masterpiece by the artist that is touring internationally before being offered in Christie’s Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale in London on 7 July.

Remarkable in size, at more than two metres across, the painting was influenced by great works Rubens saw on travels through Italy. ‘He transforms those sources into something that’s really spectacular and quite spellbinding,’ Sooke observes. ‘Everywhere you look, there’s something to involve the eye — from different hues, to the shadows in its creases and folds.’ 

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Seigen 1577-1640 Antwerp), Lot and His Daughters, circa 1613-1614. Oil on canvas, 74 x 88½ in. (190 x 225 cm). From a distinguished private collection. Sold for £44,882,500 in the Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale on 7 July at Christie’s London

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Seigen 1577-1640 Antwerp), Lot and His Daughters, circa 1613-1614. Oil on canvas, 74 x 88½ in. (190 x 225 cm). From a distinguished private collection. Sold for: £44,882,500 in the Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale on 7 July at Christie’s London

As captivating are the expressions of Rubens’ subjects, rendered in thick impasto: ‘If you spend any time with this picture, it quickly becomes apparent that one of its richest elements is the great sense of psychological complexity within each of its characters,’ Sooke continues. ‘It makes the work feel grand and substantial, and makes it the masterpiece it clearly is.’

Painted at the height of the artist's career (circa 1613-1614), Lot and His Daughters was unseen for over a century. ‘This is,’ states Christie’s Deputy Chairman Paul Raison, ‘the greatest and most important painting by the artist remaining in private hands that’s ever likely to be sold on the open market.’