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Michele Desubleo (? Maubeuge c. 1601-1676 Parma)
Michele Desubleo (? Maubeuge c. 1601-1676 Parma)

The Rape of Europa

Michele Desubleo (? Maubeuge c. 1601-1676 Parma)
The Rape of Europa
oil on canvas
48 1/8 x 65 1/8 in. (122.3 x 165.4 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 30 May 1979, lot 291, as Circle of Guido Reni.
with David M. Koetser, New York, as Guido Reni.
M. Pulini, 'La passiflora di Michele Desubleo', Atti e memorie, 1995/6, p. 112, fig. 99.
A. Cottino, Michele Desubleo, Soncino, 2001, pp. 124-125, no. 59, fig. 32.

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Lot Essay

Little is known about the life of Michele Desubleo or ‘Michael de Sobleo Pictor Belgicus’ as he is mentioned in his will. His oeuvre has only recently been rediscovered, and studied by Alberto Cottino, after centuries of obscurity. It is possible that Desubleo was trained by Abraham Janssens in Antwerp, together with his half-brother Nicolas Regnier whom he may have followed to Rome. Desubleo was certainly in Bologna by the beginning of the 1630s, where he seems to have found work in Guido Reni’s flourishing studio. It was during these years that he developed his own style, which exhibits a distinctive and personal response to Reni’s powerful influence. Enriched by this Bolognese experience, he is thought to have travelled to Florence, where several of his paintings can still be found, including a Tancredi and Erminia (Uffizi), painted in 1641 for Lorenzo de’ Medici.
The demise of the Accademia, where he taught, in 1652, and the growing celebrity of Guercino, may have inspired Desubleo’s move to Venice, where Regnier was living and where he remained until around 1663. His classicism found little favor in the Laguna, however, and he worked mostly for provincial or old Emilian patrons. He was briefly in Milan after 1663, before settling in Parma, perhaps to be close to his niece, Lucrezia Regnier. His last ten years in Parma were fruitful and his work benefitted the renewed interest in Reni’s tradition, enriched by French influences that he probably absorbed in Venice.
Both the impact of Reni and of French painters such as Nicolas Regnier and Simon Vouet are abundantly evident in this newly rediscovered Rape of Europa, previously known only from old photographs. One of three versions of the subject published by Cottino, probably dating from the artist’s last decade, it is deeply indebted to Guido Reni’s two celebrated depictions of Ovid’s tale, one in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; a second formerly in the collection of Denis Mahon and now in The National Gallery, London. In Desubleo’s painting, Europa is shown at the moment when her disquiet at being abducted begins to turn to love, as the unusual presence of cupids – deriving from those first found in Reni’s paintings – underscores.

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