Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)
Oil on wood
28 x 19 in. (71.1 x 48.3 cm)
Bequest of Ogden Mills, 1929
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 630
This oil sketch is Rubens’s design for an altarpiece ensemble in the church of the Calced Carmelites in Antwerp, which was executed in 1637–38 by the painter Gerard Seghers and the sculptor Hans van Mildert. The risen Christ triumphs over sin and death (the snake and skeleton), and is flanked (left to right) by Melchizedek, Elijah, Saint Paul, and Saint Cyril of Alexandria, who were all associated with the Eucharist. In the columns and upper corners of the panel, which was later trimmed, Rubens offers the patron a choice of architectural motifs.
John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll (until d. 1770; his estate sale, Langford and Son, London, March 19–23, 1771, no. 71, as a sketch of the Ascension); ?John Pratt, Bayham Abbey, Lamberhurst, Kent (until d. 1797); John Jeffreys Pratt, 2nd Earl and 1st Marquess Camden, Bayham Abbey (until d. 1840; his estate sale, Christie's, London, June 12, 1841, no. 65, for £442, to Bredel); Charles A. Bredel, London (1841–d. 1851); his daughters, the Misses Bredel, London (1851–75; posthumous sale, Christie's, London, May 1, 1875, no. 123, for £430, to Grant); Leopold II, King of Belgium, Brussels (by 1879–1909; sold to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, Paris, 1909; sold to Ridder for Fr 150,000]; August de Ridder, Schönberg, Frankfurt (1909–d. 1911; his widow, Frau August de Ridder, 1911–at least 1913 [on loan to Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt]; cat., 1913, pl. 74; sale of his sequestered property, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 2, 1924, no. 57); [Pietro Stettiner, Rome, from 1924]; Ogden Mills, New York (until d. 1929; life interest to his son, Ogden L. Mills, 1929–d. 1937)
London. British Institution. June 1843, no. 98 (lent by Charles Bredel, Esq.).
Manchester. Art Treasures Palace. "Art Treasures of the United Kingdom," May 5–October 17, 1857, no. 567 (lent by the Misses Bredell [sic]).
Washington. Phillips Memorial Gallery. "Emotional Design in Painting," April 7–May 5, 1940, no. 60.
New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc. "A Loan Exhibition of Rubens," February 20–March 31, 1951, no. 20.
Cambridge, Mass. Fogg Art Museum. "Drawings & Oil Sketches by P. P. Rubens from American Collections," January 14–February 29, 1956, no. 38.
New York. Pierpont Morgan Library. "Drawings & Oil Sketches by P. P. Rubens from American Collections," March 20–April 28, 1956, no. 38.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Flemish Drawings and Prints," September 19–November 12, 1989, no catalogue.
Greenwich, Conn. Bruce Museum of Arts and Science. "Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens," October 2, 2004–January 30, 2005, no. 33.
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. "Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens," March 2–May 15, 2005, no. 33.
Cincinnati Art Museum. "Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens," June 11–September 11, 2005, no. 33.
François Mols. État des tableaux de Pierre Paul Rubens. 1775, p. 71 [Koninklijk Bibliotheek, Brussels, Handschriftenkabinet, nr. 5735; see Ref. Wieseman 2004].
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 9, Supplement. London, 1842, p. 245, no. 7.
[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 2, p. 292.
W. Burger [Théophile Thoré]. Trésors d'art exposés à Manchester en 1857. Paris, 1857, p. 197 [reprinted as "Trésors d'art en Angleterre," Brussels, 1860, with same pagination].
Charles Tardieu. "Le Cabinet de S. M. Léopold II, Roi des Belges." L'art 17 (1879), pp. 111–12, erroneously identifies it as having been brought from Spain by Joseph Bonaparte.
Max Rooses. L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens. Vol. 2, Antwerp, 1888, pp. 203–4, no. 380, dates it about 1615–20.
Georges Lafenestre and Eugène Richtenberger. La Peinture en Europe: La Belgique. Paris, , p. 134.
Max Rooses. Rubens. London, 1904, vol. 1, p. 252 [French ed., "Rubens, sa vie et ses oeuvres," (1900–1903), p. 251].
F. M. "König Leopolds Verkäufe." Der Cicerone 1 (1909), p. 334.
W. Roberts. "The King of the Belgians' Collection of Old Masters." Connoisseur 24 (August 1909), pp. 204–5.
"Notes on Various Works of Art: Pictures Lately in the Collection of the King of the Belgians." Burlington Magazine 15 (July 1909), p. 238, ill. p. 242.
Wilhelm von Bode. The Collection of Pictures of the late Herr A. de Ridder in his Villa at Schönberg near Cronberg in the Taunus. Berlin, 1913, p. 17, pl. 74 [catalogue section unpaginated], dates it about 1618.
Rudolf Oldenbourg. P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde. 4th ed. [1st ed. 1905]. Stuttgart, 1921, p. 467, ill. p. 291.
Algernon Graves. Art Sales from Early in the Eighteenth Century to Early in the Twentieth Century. Vol. 3, Reynolds to Z. London, 1921, p. 120.
Josephine L. Allen. "The Paintings in the Ogden Mills Bequest." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 33 (February 1938), pp. 34–36, ill.
W. R. Valentiner. "Rubens' Paintings in America." Art Quarterly 9 (Spring 1946), p. 164, no. 103, dates it about 1625–28.
Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, p. 34, no. 56, pl. 51, as "The Glorification of the Eucharist".
Lillian Ross. "Profiles: How do you like it now, gentlemen?" New Yorker (May 13, 1950), p. 58 [reprinted as "Portrait of Hemingway," New York, 1961, p. 58], records Ernest Hemingway's comments on this painting during a visit to the Museum, noting that when his wife and son commented that it didn't look like the usual Rubens, Hemingway responded "Yeah, he did that all right. You can tell the real just as a bird dog can tell. Smell them. Or from having lived with very poor but very good painters.”.
Ludwig Burchard. A Loan Exhibition of Rubens. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, 1951, p. 20, no. 20, ill. p. 46, dates it between 1625 and 1628, and notes that "Rubens did at least two or three drawings of various parts of the picture as late as 1637, one of these being No. 79 of the 1933 Rubens Exhibition in Amsterdam [the ex-Burlet sketch]".
Ludwig Burchard. "On a Rubens Drawing after Mantegna." Burlington Magazine 98 (November 1956), p. 415, dates it between 1627 and 1630.
Agnes Mongan inDrawings & Oil Sketches by P. P. Rubens from American Collections. Exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum. Cambridge, Mass., 1956, pp. 33–34, no. 38, pl. XXX.
L[udwig]. Burchard and R[oger].-A. d'Hulst. Tekeningen van P. P. Rubens. Exh. cat., Rubenshuis. Antwerp, 1956, p. 115, under no. 142, connect three drawings they ascribe to Rubens to this work, two in the Albertina, Vienna, and one formerly in the Burlet collection, Berlin; date the three drawings about 1637–38 [on p. 128, under "Addenda et Corrigenda," change the dating to between 1625 and 1628].
L[udwig]. Burchard and R[oger].-A. d'Hulst. Rubens Drawings. Brussels, 1963, vol. 1, pp. 223–25, under nos. 143–44, revise their former opinion [see Ref. Burchard and Hulst 1956], dating the sketch and related drawings to 1627–30.
Justus Müller Hofstede. "L. Burchard and R.-A. d'Hulst: 'Rubens Drawings'." Master Drawings 4 (1966), p. 452, under nos. 143–44.
Jean de la Croix. "La Glorification de l'Eucharistie de Rubens et les Carmes." Metropolitan Museum Journal 2 (1969), pp. 179, 185–91, fig. 1, identifies the subject, figures, and all other details, and discusses the historical context of the commission.
Frans Baudouin. "Altars and Altarpieces before 1620." Rubens Before 1620. Ed. John Rupert Martin. Princeton, 1972, pp. 88–89 n. 80, dates it about 1625–28, and compares it to a study by Rubens for the upper part of the high altar of the Jesuit church in Antwerp.
Julius S. Held. "A Protestant Source for a Rubens Subject." Liber Amicorum Karel G. Boon. Amsterdam, 1974, p. 86 n. 8, dates it about 1630.
John B. Knipping. Iconography of the Counter Reformation in the Netherlands: Heaven on Earth. Nieuwkoop, The Netherlands, 1974, vol. 2, p. 303.
Anthony Blunt. "Rubens and Architecture." Burlington Magazine 119 (September 1977), p. 613, fig. 19, discusses the arch.
Anne-Marie [S.] Logan. "Rubens Exhibitions 1977." Master Drawings 15 (Winter 1977), p. 404, questions the authorship of the four related drawings.
Börje Magnusson in "Rubens som tecknare." Rubens i Sverige. Stockholm, 1977, pp. 117, 155, fig. 94, relates a drawing of Christ in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, to the two drawings in Vienna, stating that all three seem to come from a single sheet; links them to the MMA work and also tentatively to a series of tapestries for a Carmelite monastery near Madrid.
Börje Magnusson. "Some Drawings by Rubens in Nationalmuseum." Nationalmuseum Bulletin 1, no. 2 (1977), pp. 81–82, fig. 12.
Erwin Mitsch. Die Rubenszeichnungen der Albertina. Exh. cat., Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Vienna, 1977, p. 76, under no. 32, p. 110, under no. 47, p. 114, under no. 48, ill. p. 113, calls the two Vienna drawings studies for the MMA work.
Arlette Sérullaz. Rubens, ses maîtres, ses élèves. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1978, p. 85, under no. 81.
Nora de Poorter. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. part 2, 2 vols., The Eucharist Series. London, 1978, vol. 1, pp. 195, 303 n. 4; vol. 2, fig. 55.
Julius S. Held. The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens. Princeton, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 149, 529–31, 534, no. 392; vol. 2, pl. 383, colorpl. 19, tentatively dates it 1630; questions the authorship of the four related drawings.
Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum—I: Rubens." Tableau 6 (November/December 1983), pp. 87–88 n. 33.
Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 146–51; vol. 2, pl. 60, supports a date about 1630–32; finds persuasive Logan's and Held's arguments [see Refs. 1977, 1980] that the four related drawings are not by Rubens.
David Freedberg. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. part 7, The Life of Christ after the Passion. London, 1984, pp. 72–81, no. 17a, fig. 40.
Joost Vander Auwera. "Conservatieve tendensen in de contrareformatorische kunst—Het geval Abraham Janssen." De Zeventiende eeuw 5, no. 1 (1989), p. 37, fig. 4.
Michael Jaffé. Rubens: catalogo completo. Milan, 1989, p. 310, no. 949, ill., dates it about 1630.
Frans Baudouin. "Het door Rubens Ontworpen Hoogaltaar in de Kerk der Geschoeide Karmelieten te Antwerpen." Academiae Analecta 51, no. 1 (1991), pp. 25–27, 29 n. 26, pp. 30, 38, 49–53, 58–59, fig. 2, dates it about 1633–35.
Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke inFlemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 25, 362, no. 413, ill.
Marjorie E. Wieseman inDrawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Bruce Museum of Arts and Science. New Haven, 2004, pp. 46, 117, 226–29, no. 33, ill. (color).
Elizabeth A. Pergam. "From Manchester to Manhattan: The Transatlantic Art Trade After 1857." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 87, no. 2 (2005), pp. 86, 90.
Per Bjurström inRubens & Van Dyck. Exh. cat., Nationalmuseum. Stockholm, , p. 362, under no. 114.
This oil sketch is Rubens's design for the altarpiece ensemble formerly on the high altar of the Carmelite church in Antwerp. The altar was erected by the sculptor Hans van Mildert shortly before his death in 1638, and the altarpiece was painted by Gerard Seghers in 1637–38. The date of our oil sketch has been the subject of much conjecture, but a date between 1630 and 1632 seems most acceptable. The iconography is discussed by Father John de la Croix [see Ref. 1969, and Ref. Liedtke 1984]. The four figures flanking Christ are, from left to right, the high priest Melchizedek, the prophet Elijah, Saint Paul, and Saint Cyril of Alexandria.
Four drawings (two in the Albertina, Vienna; one in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; and one formerly in the de Burlet collection, Berlin [exhibited in Amsterdam in 1933]) have been considered as preparatory studies for the figures in the present picture. It has been persuasively argued, however, that the drawings are not by Rubens [see Refs. Logan 1977 and Held 1980].
The panel has been cradled. It has also been cut down on all sides.