Seen with the artist and dealer, Balthasar Beschey in Antwerp in 1771 (Mount, ed., cited below) and offered by him for sale, Antwerp, 19 June 1776, lot 1 (unsold); bought from Beschey by
Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), for £300 against an asking price of £500, in the summer of 1785 (‘I have bought a very capital picture of Rubens of Hercules and Omphale...’, letter to the Duke of Rutland, 22 August 1785, quoted by Mount, ed.); (†) Christie’s, London, 16 March 1795 (=3rd day), lot 93, as Rubens, ‘Rubens in taste and elegance here surpassed himself; the colouring has all that splendid richness, which no painter but himself ever yet acquired’ (160 gns. to Angerstein; a copy of the sale catalogue has a handwritten annotation, ‘...this picture was never esteemed by Rubens but as a study by his Pupils’, quoted by Broun, work cited below, who established the provenance until 1870 given below).
Anonymous sale [The Property of Persons of High Distinction] (presumably offered by John Julius Angerstein, according to a handwritten note on a copy of the sale catalogue); Coxe, Burrell and Fosters, London, 13 May 1802, lot 56, as Rubens, ‘A grand and capital performance of this great master, the story of Hercules and Omphale: a picture highly valued by that great judge, Sir Joshua Reynolds’ (sold? 85 or 95 gns.).
with Philip Panné, London; (†) Christie’s, London, 29 March (=3rd day) 1819, lot 93 (123 gns. to Thomas Emmerson).
with Thomas Emmerson, London (cited by Smith, see below).
Inserted as an extra, unnumbered lot, presumably on behalf of Emmerson, at the end of the Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. (1769-1830) sale; Christie’s, London, 19 June 1830 (153 gns. to Gilmore).
Allan Gilmore, Portland Place, London; (†) Phillips, London, 31 May 1842 (=1st day ), lot 57, as Rubens.
Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, 1st duc de Morny (1811-1865); Phillips, London, 21 June 1848, lot 106 (unsold at £307).
Anonymous sale [duc de Morny]; Ridel, Paris, 24 May 1852, lot 20, as P.P. Rubens (unsold; a copy of the sale catalogue has a handwritten annotation, ‘douteux’).
Duc de Morny; (†) Pillet and Escribe, Paris, 31 May-12 June 1865, lot 72, as Pierre-Paul Rubens (3,500 francs to Horsin Déon for the Marquis du Blaisel; a copy of the sale catalogue has a handwritten record of it as a copy).
Marquis du Blaisel; (†) Pillet, Paris, 16-17 March 1870, lot 112, as Pierre-Paul Rubens, ‘Oeuvre capitale. Personnages de grandeur naturelle’ (8,050 francs to Paridie).
(Possibly) Anonymous sale; Heilbron, Berlin, 19-20 May 1914, lot 137.
(Possibly) Anonymous sale; Galerie Fievez, Brussels, 26 July 1930, lot 27 (listed by C. Sterling in the publication mentioned below, the measurements in the catalogue presumably inverted to read 172 x 242 cm.).
Acquired in England or France by the great-great-uncle of the present owner, possibly in the 1930s.
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION (LOTS 7 & 8)
J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné etc., II, Rubens, 1830, no. 720.
M. Rooses, L’Oeuvre de P.P. Rubens, Antwerp, 1890, III, under no. 620.
C. Sterling, ‘La Découverte et L’Histoire d’une oeuvre inconnue de Rubens’, L’Amour de L’Art, 1937, p. 290, under no. 2.
F. Broun, Sir Joshua Reynolds’ collection of paintings, I, dissertation presented to the Faculty of Princeton University, Ann Arbor, 1987, pp. 158-60.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, A Journey to Flanders and Holland, H. Mount, ed., Cambridge, 1996, p. 207 and notes.
London, 28 Haymarket, Ralph's Exhibition of Pictures, April 1791, no. 71.