Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)
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Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Moses adopted by Pharao's daughter

Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)
Moses adopted by Pharao's daughter
oil on canvas
48¾ x 61½ in. (123.8 x 156.2 cm.)
(Possibly) Samuel Woodburn (1780-1853), dealer, collector and celebrated connoisseur, sold as part of his stock after his deat; (+), Christie's, London, 15-20 May 1854, lot 102, as 'Rubens School. Pharao's daughter, with attendants, rescuing the infant moses' (1 gn. to Watson).
William Angerstein (1811-1847), the great-grandson of John Julius Angerstein, by 1857; William Angerstein's picture collection was dispersed at a series of sales 1876-1897.
(Possibly) Anderson Collection, from which possibly acquired for £400, by Sir Francis Cook, first Bt. (1817-1901), and by descent to his son, Sir Frederick Cook, 2nd Bt., in whose collection recorded in 1903, listed in 1914 as no. 169 in the Long Gallery at Doughty House, Richmond, as 'Rubens no. 336. Finding of Moses...A school work, the subject is doubtfull. From the Anderson Collection. Bought for £400', and by descent to Sir Herbert Cook, one of the founders of The Burlington Magazine, and to Sir Francis Cook, Bt., by whom, with Trustees of the Cook Collection, sold; Sotheby's, 25 June 1958, lot 119 as 'Rubens. The Finding of Moses'
with W. Hallsborough Gallery, London, by 1959.
G.F. Waagen, MS annotation to his copy of the provisional catalogue of the exhibition Art Treasures of the United Kingdom, Manchester, 1857, MS, Library of the Berlin Museum, as 'zu schwach. Schule'.
A. Lavice, Revue des Musées d' Angleterre , Paris, 1867, p. 130, as Rubens.
W. Bürger [T. Thoré], Trésor d'Art en Angleterre, Paris, 1869, p. 194, as Rubens.
M. Rooses, L'oeuvre de P.P. Rubens: Histoire et description de ses tableaux et dessins, Antwerp, 1887-1909, IV, p. 173.
Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, London, 1903, p. 38, No. 220, as Rubens.
J. O. Kronig, A Catalogue of the Paintings of Doughty House, Richmond and elsewhere in the Collection of Sir Frederick Cook, London, II, 1914, no. 336, as 'School Work'.
Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook, London 1932, p. 48, no. 336, as 'School of Rubens'.
L. Burchard and R.-A. d'Hulst, Rubens Drawings, Brussels, 1963, pp. 77-8, under no. 44 and p. 164, under no. 99, as Rubens.
E. Mitsch, Die Rubenszeichnungen der Albertina: Zum 400. Geburtstag , Vienna, 1977, p. 62, under No.26.
[D.Bodart P.P. Rubens, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo-Yamaguchi-Tsu-Kyoto, 1985-1986, p. 52, no. 56, illustrated.
R.-A. d'Hulst and M. Vandenven, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, III: The Old Testament, no. 19, fig. 46, pp. 80-2.
Manchester, Art Treasures of the United Kingdom , 1857, no. 594, as 'Rubens. The Wife, Sister and Child of the Painter', definitive catalogue no. 576.
Tokyo, Yamaguchi, Tsu and Kyoto, P.P. Rubens, 1985-1986, no. 56.
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Lot Essay

The subject is explicitly from Exodus 2:9, which follows the account of Pharaoh's edict that all new-born male Jews be cast in the Nile. Pharaoh's daughter having found Moses in a wicker cradle, confides it to Jochebed, Moses's mother, who had had to abandon him, as Miriam, Jochebed's daughter and Moses's sister, looks on.

This picture was accepted by Ludwig Burchard as an autograph work by Rubens following its sale in 1958 and subsequent cleaning. Burchard was persuaded that this was a work by the master in his last years of his career, perhaps chiefly by the pentimenti which were revealed notably in the costume of the kneeling princess and the placement of Miriam on the left. In the posthumously published volume on Rubens's Drawings, which he had written with R.- A. d'Hulst , he stated, 'it turned out to be an original'. This opinion was disavowed by d'Hulst himself in his Corpus Rubenianum volume on Old Testament subjects by Rubens, written with Marc Vandenven and published in 1989.

In rejecting it, d'Hulst made some sharp, pertinent criticisms, yet in the painting's defence it may be observed that it had sufficient impact to stimulate three copies (listed by d'Hulst and Vandenven, loc. cit.); and while our knowledge of Rubens's studio in the 1630s remains not much more than rudimentary, the present painting does throw interesting light on what may well have been the studio practice that then obtained.

As far as is known, Rubens never painted this episode of Moses's life (though he considered it in a drawing, as shall be discussed); and the present artist - perhaps better described as a pupil - was perhaps guided by Rubens to place an emphasis on the role of the princess, following the example of Orazio Gentileschi's treatment of the subject while in England. He may have then sorted through the master's collection of drawings - again perhaps under supervision - to select the aforementioned drawing, now in the Albertina, Vienna, as offering a suitable pose for Pharoah's daughter. This drawn study had been made about fifteen years previously and had first been used by the studio in the execution of the Achilles among the daughters of Lycomedes in the Museo Nacional del Prado (see Burchard/d'Hulst, Rubens Drawings , I, 1963, no. 99). It was evidently decided that some alterations had to made to this early formulation, most notably in the costume, and two attempts were made at finding a satisfactory outcome, as is evidenced by the pentimenti.

D'Hulst in his 1989 publication points to figural connections, very probably earlier observed by Burchard, with motifs in other paintings by Rubens mainly devised in the 1630s. And the great artist's late landscape style also proved influential; as d'Hulst states 'The landscape is conceived in Rubens's late style'.

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