Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Lot 57 / Sale 4915
<b>sir peter paul rubens (1577-1640)</b>

Price Realized £748,000
Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.

  • £500,000 - £700,000
  • ($778,900 - $1,090,460)

Sale Information Sale 4915
Old Master Pictures
11 December 1992
London, King Street

Lot Description Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

The Marriages of Constantine and Fausta and of Constantia and Licinius

on panel

18 5/8 x 25 3/8in. (47.3 x 64.4cm.)

Provenance Marc de Comans and François de la Planche (owners of the Paris Tapestry Works)
Hippolyte de Comans (Director of the Gobelins factory)
Henri de Valois
Philippe, Duc d'Orléans (le Régent), and by descent through
Louis, Duc d'Orléans to
Philippe (Egalité), Duc d'Orléans, by whom sold with all the Flemish, Dutch and German works from the Orléans collection to
Thomas Moore Slade and Associates, 1792
John Knight; Phillips, 23 March 1819, lot 67 (36gns.)
with P. J. Thys, Brussels
Désiré van den Schrieck, by whom purchased from the above in 1832; (+) sale, Le Roy, Louvain, 8-11 April 1861, lot 89 (to Henry Farrer)
Henry Farrer; (+) Christie's, 15-16 June 1866, lot 304
H. Bolckow; Christie's, 8 June 1868, lot 224 (23½ gns. to Rutley) with Rutley, London, 1950
Edward A. Leatham, Finchampstead; Christie's, 21 June 1968, lot 75 (49,000 gns. to Agnew's)

Literature Dubois de Saint-Gelais, Description des tableaux du Palais-Royale, Paris, 1727, p.409, no.VIII
J. Couché, La Galerie du Palais-Royale, gravée d'après les tableaux des différentes écoles qui la composent, I, 1786
W. Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting, etc., London, 1824, I, p.169
J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné, etc., II, London, 1830, p.202, no.733
G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, II, London, 1854, p.502, no.8
M. Rooses, L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens, III, Antwerp, 1890, p.210, no. 718
M. Rooses and C. Reulens, Correspondance de Rubens et documents épistolaires concernant sa vie et ses oeuvres, III, Antwerp, 1900, pp. 85-7
C. Stryienski, La Galerie du Régent Philippe, Duc D'Orléans, Paris, 1913, p.188, no.472
M. Fénaille, Etat général des tapisseries de la manufacture des Gobelins depuis son origin jusqu'à nos jours, 1600-1900, Paris, 1923, p.46ff, no.246
E. Keiser, Antikes im Werke des Rubens, Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, X, 1933, pp.126 and 131
J. S. Held, Rubens: Selected Drawings, London, 1959, I, pp.112 and 115, under nos.44 and 50
D. DuBon, Tapestries from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The History of Constantine the Great designed by Peter Paul Rubens and Pietro da Cortona, London, 1964, p.107, pl.57
L. van Puyvelde in the catalogue of the exhibition, Le Siècle de Rubens, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, 1965, p.213, under no.223
J. Coolidge, Louis XIII and Rubens, the Story of the Constantine Tapestries, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, LXV, 1966, pp.277-8
J. S. Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens, Princeton, 1980, I, pp.27, 67 and 69-72, no. 39; II, pl.40
M. Jaffé, Rubens, Milan, 1989, p.266, no.679, illustrated

Exhibited London, Wildenstein, A Loan Exhibition of Works by Peter Paul Rubens, Kt., 4 Oct.-11 Nov. 1950, pp.20-2, no.19, illustrated (catalogue by L. Burchard)
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Olieverfschetsen van Rubens, 1953, no.37 (catalogue by E. Haverkamp Begemann)
King's Lynn, Oil Sketches and Smaller Pictures by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, 1960, no.15
London, Agnew's, Oil Sketches and Smaller Pictures by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, 20 Feb.-11 March 1961, no.22
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Constantine the Great, 1 Oct.-1 Nov. 1964, no.1a and fig.9 (catalogue by D. DuBon)

Engraved Nicolas Henri Tardieu (C. G. Voorhelm Scheevoogt, Catalogue des Etampes gravées d'après Rubens, Haarlem, 1873, p. 219, 18, 1)
Godefroy, for J. Couché, op. cit.

Lot Notes This is the modello for the first of the Life of Constantine the Great series, the commission of which is considered above.

The text of Tardieu's print describes the subject as the marriages of Constantius Chlorus and Maximianus Galerius, the father and uncle of Constantine, in 292. Rooses proposed the identification as the marriages of Constantine and Fausta and Licinius and Constantia, Constantine's sister, which has been accepted by subsequent authorities. The marriages in fact took place in 307 and 313 respectively. Burchard convincingly argued that Rubens' intention was to evoke a parallel with the double marriage of King Louis XIII of France with the Archduchess Anne of Austria and his sister, Isabella, with her brother, King Philip XIV of Spain, on 9 November 1615.

Constantine and Fausta are on the right, with her father Maximianus Galerius joining them, Licinius and Constantia on the left. They are at an altar to Jupiter and Juno, deities appropriate for such an occasion, who are seen in the central niche. As Held observes, the gestures of the participants, with Maximianus presenting his daughter and Constantine gesturing to give his sister in marriage, are carefully calculated. Held also analyses the action of the attendants.

A black chalk study for the two women on the right is on the verso of a sheet in Antwerp (Held, 1959, no.44): the motif is also paralleled in a drawing in the Louvre (Held, 1959, no.50). Held does not accept Puyvelde's view that a panel of similar size once in the Flament collection, is also autograph, preceeding this modello, but regards it as a copy.

As Rubens did not intend to execute the final tapestry cartoons himself, this modello, and its companions, have the character of finished works of art rather than tentative sketches. There are, however, numerous pentimenti: in Constantine's extended right arm, the heads of the boys below this, the left shoulder of Constantia, the legs of Licinius and the head of the bearded man on the left.

A tapestry from the first edition of the series is at Philadelphia (DuBon, pls.1-6); it measures 327.7 x 439.4cm., and as Held observes, minor alterations from the design formulated in the modello prove that adjustments were made at the final cartoon stage. Jupiter does not hold the thunderbolt with his left (or right when reversed) hand as in the modello, but in his other hand: in the tapestry his right hand is empty. His expression is 'benign' in the tapestry, while in the sketch 'his countenance is grim', an allusion perhaps to the future events that pitted Constantine in a war first against his wife's father, Maximianus, and later against his sister's husband, Licinius.

The composition shows how brilliantly Rubens could respond to the challenge of creating an original design in sympathy with classical precedent. The altar exemplifies the artist's approach. Its detail is derived from antique examples, but the type is, as Held observes 'unknown in antiquity' (1980, p.27): Rubens had first used it in The Interpretation of the Victim of circa 1617 in the Reinhart collection of Winterthur (Held, 1980, no.2) and would subsequently employ it on three other occasions. DuBon suggested that the source is Raphael's Sacrifice at Lystra: the altar in this has, however, straight rather than concave sides. The use of other antiquities in the composition is thought to recall the Sacrifice of Lystra by Charles Scribner III, Rubens, New York, 1992, p.80. The Raphael Cartoons were an obvious source on which to draw for a tapestry commission of a Christian theme from Roman history. That Rubens did so is implied by the arrangement of the six figures on the right, Maximianus, Constantia and her attendants, seems to echo the grouping of the six Apostles standing behind the kneeling Saint in the Charge to Saint Peter

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