Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)
Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Scipio Africanus welcomed outside the gates of Rome, after Giulio Romano

Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)
Scipio Africanus welcomed outside the gates of Rome, after Giulio Romano
black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, grey, cream, white and green bodycolor with heightening in oil
16½ x 22½ in. (41.9 x 57.3 cm.)
Anthonius Triest, Bishop of Ghent (according to P.-J. Mariette in the Crozat catalogue).
Possibly Cornelis Vermeulen.
P. Crozat (his number ‘24’, L.3612); Paris, 10 April-13 May 1741, part of lot 814.
Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Lebrun; Paris, 29 September 1806, lot 160.
M. Brunet (according to Woodburn's 1835 catalogue).
Bought by Samuel Woodburn for Sir Thomas Lawrence (L.2445); unsold at the 1835 exhibition of his collection by Samuel Woodburn.
Samuel Woodburn; Christie's, London, 4-8 June 1860, lot 801 (28 gns. to Nieuwenhuys).
John Charles Robinson, London; Christie’s, London, 12-14 May 1902, lot 345 (£10 to Peters);
Clifford Duits, London, thence by descent to
Brenda Brod.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 9 July 2008, lot 16, where acquired by the present owner.
J. Richardson Sr. and Jr., An account of some of the Statues, Bas-reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy, & sc. with remarks, London, 1722, p. 12.
M. Rooses, ‘Œuvre de Rubens. Addenda et corrigenda’, Bulletin-Rubens/ Rubens-Bulletijn, V, 1900, p. 198.
M. Rooses, Rubens' leven en werken, Amsterdam, 1903, I, p. 32, ill.
M. Rooses, Rubens, Philadelphia, 1904, I, p. 32, ill.
F. Lugt, Musée du Louvre. Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du Nord publié sous les auspices du Cabinet des dessins. Ecole flamande, Paris, 1949, II, p. 29, under no. 1081.
M. Jaffé, 'Rubens and Giulio Romano at Mantua', The Art Bulletin, XL, 1958, p. 326, note 7.
J. Bouchot-Saupique, Dessins de Pierre-Paul Rubens, exh. cat. Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1959, p. 22, under no. 40.
J.G. van Gelder, ‘The Triumph of Scipio by Rubens. P. Crozat sale (1741), lot 814’, Duits Quarterly, VIII, 1965, pp. 5, 9-13, 16-18, ill.
D. Rosand, 'Rubens Drawings', The Art Bulletin, XLVIII, 1966, p. 242.
M. Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, Oxford, 1977, p. 43, fig. 113.
N. De Poorter, The Eucharist Series (Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, II), Brussels, London and Philadelphia, 1978, I, p. 204, note 136.
D. Freedberg, 'L'année Rubens, manifestations et publications en 1977', Revue de l'Art, no. 39, 1978, p. 84.
B. Jestaz with R. Bacou, Jules Romain. L'Histoire de Scipion, exh. cat., Paris, Grand Palais, 1978, p. 137, under no. XXII.2.
A.-M. Logan, 'Rubens Exhibitions, 1977-78', Master Drawings, XVI, 1978, p. 447.
A.-M. Logan, 'Publication received [Review of B. Jestaz and R. Bacou, Jules Romain. L'Histoire de Scipion, tapisseries et dessins, Paris 1978], Master Drawings, XVIII, 1980, p. 60.
H. Macandrew, Italian Schools: Supplement (Ashmolean Museum Oxford, Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings, III), Oxford, 1980, p. 263.
R. Bacou, Autour de Raphael. Dessins et peintures du Musée du Louvre, exh. cat. Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1983, p. 55, under no. 59
J. Wood, Copies and Adaptations from Renaissance and Later Artists: Italian Artists: I. Raphael and his school (Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, XXVI (2)), London and Turnhout, 2010, I, no. 75, pls. 11, 16 and fig. 189.
A.T. Woollett, ‘Faith and Glory. The Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia and the Triumph of the Eucharist’, in Alejandro Vergara and Anne T. Woollett, eds., Spectacular Rubens. The Triumph of the Eucharist, exhib. cat., Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, and Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, Prado, 2014-2015, p. 28, note 77
London, The Lawrence Gallery, First Exhibition. A Catalogue of One Hundred Original Drawings by Sir P.P. Rubens, Collected by Sir Thomas Lawrence, late President of the Royal Academy, 1835, no. 9 (catalogue by S. Woodburn).
London, The New Gallery, Exhibition of Pictures by Masters of the Flemish and British Schools including a Selection from the Works of Sir Peter Paul Rubens, 1899-1900, no. 154.
Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland and Nottingham, Djanogly Art Gallery, Rubens. Drawing on Italy, 2002, no. 36 (catalogue by J. Wood), p. 16, no. 36, fig. 4.

Lot Essay

The present drawing corresponds closely to a composition by Giulio Romano (1499-1546) for a tapestry from a set dated to the 1530s, illustrating the life and triumphs of the Roman general Scipio Africanus. While the tapestries themselves are lost, Giulio’s designs are still known from surviving drawings, including the present sheet. Far from being a marginal part of his œuvre, Rubens’ copies after and retouched drawings by earlier artists were central to his art and his working method. Among them, the drawing offered here counts as ‘one of the most visually coherent, elaborately worked, and pictorially brilliant’ (Wood, op. cit., 2010, I, p. 351-352). With a second retouched drawing after Giulio, now in the Fritz Lugt Collection, Paris (inv. 1044), the drawing exhibits ‘those qualities of relief and of rich contrast in light and shade which Rubens could infuse with his pen and brush onto old copies of another’s drawings’ (Jaffé, op. cit., 1977, p. 43). Writing in the Crozat sale catalogue, the great 18th Century collector and connoisseur Pierre-Jean Mariette found the drawings to demonstrate ‘an intelligence of which only [Rubens] was capable’ (‘une intelligence dont il n’y avoit que lui qui en fût capable’). He recorded that both sheets once belonged to Bishop Anthonius Triest of Ghent (1576-1657), a contemporary of Rubens who may have acquired them directly from the artist, or from his heirs after his death. The drawing passed through several prestigious collections, and was recognized early on as a ‘capital drawing and of the greatest beauty’ (‘dessin capital & de première beauté’; Brunet sale, 1806) and as ‘magnificent’ (Woodburn sale, 1861).

As Mariette already appears to have understood, Rubens worked on top of an earlier drawing, probably a workshop replica of Giulio’s autograph model (petit patron), preserved at the Louvre, Paris (inv. 3536), while an earlier preparatory sketch is at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (inv. WA1947.1). Without changing much in the layout and the details of the triumphal scene, Rubens completely transformed the 16th Century drawing, covering it almost entirely with bodycolor of different hues, and giving the classical, linear style of the original the vigorous and three-dimensional appearance of a Baroque masterpiece. Two other retouched replicas of Giulio’s designs for the Triumphs of Scipio are known: one at the Louvre (inv. 20250), the other at the Museum Heylshoff, Worms (inv. 3). Undeniably, the present drawing is the most energetic and attractive composition, as well as the more dazzling display of Rubens’ ability to infuse new life into an earlier design.

Giulio took his subject from Appian’s Roman history (book 8, chapter 9, paragraph 66), which describes the triumphal entry of Scipio in Rome after defeating Hannibal in 201 B.C. in the Second Punic War. The general is seated on an elaborate chariot, a double quadriga led by a boisterous crowd of men and women. Winged figures filling much of the upper half of the drawing crown him with laurel wreaths. At left, the larger-than-life personification of Rome welcomes the hero at her gates. At lower right, a river god refers to the Tiber and the she-wolf and Romulus and Remus to the city itself. From a comparison with Giulio’s original drawing at the Louvre, it is clear that Rubens changed little in the Italian’s composition, but minor modifications subtly add to the updated feel of the drawing, such as the rustication of the city gates at left, and the elaboration of the scroll decorating the chariot and the cornucopia held by the Tiber.

Rubens’ intervention on the earlier drawing has been dated by Wood to the mid-1620s based in part on a comparison with the style of the artist’s oil sketches from that decade. It is also in works from that period that the most direct influence of Giulio’s compositions on Rubens can be found. This is evident from his large unfinished canvas of the Triumph of Henri IV at the Uffizi, dated around 1630, and related oil sketches, including one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. 42.187). Even closer in its general movement and numerous details is Rubens’s Triumph of the Church, a tapestry design from circa 1625, for which the oil sketch survives at the Museum del Prado, Madrid (Fig. 1, inv. P01698). Rubens, whose knowledge of and admiration for the work of illustrious predecessors such as Giulio was unparalleled by any artist of his time, must have been keen to ennoble his own tapestry design by drawing inspiration from one dated nearly a century before.

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