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Sir Peter Paul Rubens Lot 36
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)
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Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Figure studies (recto and verso)

Details
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)
Figure studies (recto and verso)
with inscription 'Rubens' (verso) (by Sir Joshua Reynolds according to Jaffé, 1996, p. 459)
pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash on buff paper (recto); red and black chalk, brown ink, brown wash heightened with white (verso)
9 3/8 x 15 ½ in. (23.7 x 39.3 cm.)
Provenance
Sir Joshua Reynolds (L. 2364).
with Schaeffer Galleries, New York, 1953 (as van Dyck).
Michael Jaffé, and by descent.
Literature
M. Jaffé, 'Rubens as a Draughtsman: Some Fresh Examples', in Essays in Northern European Art: Presented to Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann on his sixtieth birthday, Groningen, 1983, pp. 117-8, figs. 1-2, note 1.
M. Jaffé, Catalogo completo: Rubens, Milan, 1989, p. 170, under no. 116.
M. Jaffé, 'Seven unpublished drawings by Rubens', in Ars naturam adiuvans: Festschrift für Matthias Winner, Mainz am Rhein, 1996, pp. 457, 459, figs. 4-5.

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Lot Essay

This sheet of studies offers a fascinating insight into Rubens's working method. The figures on the recto, except the female on the left, are connected to his circa 1609-10 oil sketch representing The blinding of Samson, today in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid (Fig. 1; R.A. d'Hulst and M. Vandenven, Rubens. The Old Testament (Corpus Rubenianum, III), London, 1989, no. 33).The figure of Delilah studied twice at the right of the recto is reused with almost no differences in the Madrid picture, while the male torso on the extreme right is for the figure of Samson, with differences. The figure is actually closer to that of Samson in The capture of Samson another oil sketch, now in the Art Institute, Chicago (d'Hulst and Vandenven, op. cit., no. 32) which was executed by Rubens shortly after The blinding of Samson. As Michael Jaffé recognised, 'the male figures tearing their way across the sheet, one helmeted and another brandishing a mace, are trials for the Philistine warriors who crowd the background of the [Madrid] and Chicago oil sketches' (Jaffé, op. cit., 1983). The female nude at the left, with its characteristic hatching, appears to anticipate, particularly in the lower part of body and legs, the position of Delilah in the Chicago sketch of The capture of Samson and in the later full-scale treatment of the subject in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich (exh. cat. Rubens. A Master in the Making, London, National Gallery, 2005-06, no. 75).

The energetic penwork and the use of wash are characteristic of Rubens's drawings from circa 1608-15 when he had returned to Antwerp from his second sojourn in Italy. Especially comparable is a sheet of studies of circa 1612-14 showing Silenus and Aegle, and other figures in the Royal Library, Windsor (exh. cat. Peter Paul Rubens. The Drawings, New York, The Metropolitan Museum, 2005, no. 31) which can be connected to several paintings. Incidentally, the female figure at the centre of that sheet is close to that of Delilah at the left of the present drawing and shows Rubens's habit of reusing and re-exploring figures in different drawings and paintings, sometimes many years apart. The figures in the present drawing, notably those of the woman on the left and of the soldiers at the centre, seem to anticipate those in the Rape of Hippodameia that Rubens painted circa 1634-36 for the Torre della Parada decorations, now at the Prado.

Michael Jaffé suggested that the figures on the verso were first ideas for a Fall of the damned or a Last Judgment. He compared them to a double-sided drawing of Samson slaying a Philistine in the Fodor Museum, Amsterdam (L. Burchard and R.-A. d'Hulst, Rubens drawings, Brussels, 1963, no. 48). Jeremy Wood, who has confirmed the attribution of the recto and who we thank for his help in cataloguing this lot, relates the verso to a few sheets drawn with brush over chalk, using fluid outlines to give the figures a disconcertingly soft appearance, unlike Rubens's more usual crisp manner. Other drawings in that group are in Stockholm, Berlin and in Vienna (see, for example, J.S. Held, Rubens. Selected Drawings, Oxford, 1986, nos. 171 and 177 and exh. cat. Die Rubenszeichnungen der Albertina, Vienna, Albertina, 1977, nos. 47 and 48). Most of these drawings are studies for paintings by Rubens from circa 1628-30, but the artist's authorship is not certain and they could be by one of his associates, like Jan Boeckhorst (1604-1668). If the verso of the present drawing is by the same hand as the sheets from that group it must have been executed about fifteen years later than the recto.

We thank Anne-Marie Logan for having confirmed the attribution of the recto to Rubens, based on a digital image. She thinks that the verso might be by another hand or that the wash and white heightening have been added later while the sketch in red chalk is by Rubens.

Fig. 1. Peter Paul Rubens, The blinding of Samson, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

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