7 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.


IMAGINATION OIL PAINTING STUDIES BY RUBENS AND VAN DYCK The juxtaposition of two oil painting studies and their completed large-format paintings offers us a glimpse into the creative imagination of the artists and allows us to follow the development of their ideas. Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, has left us countless studies in oil. Some of them are drafts made employing a fleeting painting technique, others are complete, well-presented and bursting with colours, submitted to the clients’ attention and then used as a starting point to create the largeformat works. More than one study was found for specific paintings. Indeed, numerous drafts would be needed sometimes until the artist reached a satisfying outcome. These may include changes made by Rubens himself or requested by the client. A huge demand for these drafts meant they could all be sold well, reaching the houses of private collectors. the consul’s battle stallion and the priests consecrating Decius Mus. He’s draped in a red toga, bowing his body forward in reverence to the priests and receiving the last rite before the fight where he will die. The space of both groups elevates the death ritual in the modello. Other changes in the modello can be seen in the priest, who’s accompanied by another person in the painting, as well as in the group accompanying the consul. In the modello, only the horse On 9 November 1616, Rubens signed a contract with carpet weavers Jan Raes, Frans Sweers and Italien merchant Franco Cattaneo to deliver templates for tapestries be used in a Cycle regarding the life of Roman Consul Decius Mus, as described by Titus Livy in his History of Rome. Rubens finished the drafts in oil, and his most gifted pupil, Anthony van Dyck, helped him with transposing them onto a larger format. Ultimately the drafts, als known as ‘carton’, were laterally reversed and completed for the weavers. In following years, numerous tapestries completed Decius Mus cycles. 160 In this example, depicting the painting in the version by the Gobelin family, we can compare the adaptation with its representation of the consecration of Roman Consul Decius Mus by the High Priest Marcus Valerius as a death offering for the battle to come. Luckily enough, a small modello was found in Dublin in the 1970s. It was painted on wood and only measured 21,2 x 61,3 cm. This modello is, however, slightly different from the completed painting. What really leaps out is the gap between the right group, accompanying

tender and the lictor are represented, the latter being a civil servant who carried the rods decorated with fasces, the symbol of power, for the consul. Another soldier is missing in the modello. We have therefore discovered yet another early idea of the artist and its development. We only have one oil study by Anthony van Dyck, 1599- 1641, where he goes through the motions of developing the ‘Saint Sebastian Bound for Martyrdom’ painting. It’s located in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. In the Alte Pinakothek in Munich we find a repetition of the same theme. The draft was painted by van Dyck in oil colours on paper, and this was then fitted onto a canvas. The study measures 63,7 x 56 cm and until now was titled ‘St. Sebastian; Andromeda und andere Studien’. A specialist paper on the undressed beauty of Andromeda is currently being prepared by art historians who want to put forward important research results which is why in this article we’re only assessing the drafts on the Sebastian painting in Edinburgh. painting. The study in oil at hand served the function of being an aid to his thought process which he kept to implement ideas at a later stage in time. I’ve always been interested in the sketches, drafts, and drawings of painters. I see their creative handwriting enclosed in such works. Many years ago, I talked with art historians Justus Müller Hofstede and Erik Larsen about the oil studies of Rubens and van Dyck, especially about the two works of this article. I received plenty of information during friendly conversations that have made it into this article. I would therefore like to thank both researchers and experts for allowing me to pass some of that knowledge on to the readers of the publication. Ludwig Geiger and Maximilian Krenn The right side of the study shows how Sebastian is tied. In the left side we see themes as prepared in the Edinburgh painting: a pale horse’s head, which in the finished painting has been placed right to the top right; the head of a black man, which is placed in the centre, to the left, in the finished painting; the heads of two soldiers wearing their helmets, recognisable in the right side of the finished Maximilian Krenn, Art Curator & Collector 161