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The Artistic Heritage of Modena: Wounded Art


The Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth, Saint John, and a Dove

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)

ca. 1608–9
Oil on wood
26 x 20 1/4 in. (66 x 51.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Ada Small Moore, 1955
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This panel was probably painted shortly after Rubens returned to Antwerp from Rome, where he had become one of the leading masters of the Early Baroque movement. The motif of a roughly handled dove (symbol of the Holy Spirit) is found in several contemporary Italian works and refers to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. A larger version of the composition, by Rubens and his workshop, is in the Los Angeles County Museum.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    William Walter Legge, 5th Earl of Dartmouth (by 1886–d. 1891); his son, William Heneage Legge, 6th Earl of Dartmouth (1891–at least 1893); [A. L. Nicholson, London, in about 1925]; [P. Jackson Higgs Gallery, New York, 1927–28; sold for $35,000 to Moore]; Mrs. William H. (Ada Small) Moore, New York (1928–d. 1955)

  • Exhibition History

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1886, no. 84 (lent by the Earl of Dartmouth).

    New York. P. Jackson Higgs Gallery. "Exhibition Commemorating the 350th Anniversary of Peter Paul Rubens," 1927, unnumbered cat.

    Detroit Institute of Arts. "An Exhibition of Sixty Paintings and Some Drawings by Peter Paul Rubens," February 13–March 15, 1936, no. 36 (lent by Mrs. William N. [sic] Moore).

    Cleveland Museum of Art. "Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition," June 26–October 4, 1936, no. 237 (lent by Mrs. William H. Moore, New York).

    Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. "Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)," March 20–April 16, 1940, no. 1 (lent by Mrs. William H. Moore, New York).

    New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 71 (lent by Mrs. William H. Moore, New York).

    London. National Gallery. "Rubens: A Master in the Making," October 26, 2005–January 15, 2006, no. 47.

  • References

    Henri Hymans. "Zur neuesten Rubensforschung." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 4 (1893), p. 15, as in the collection of Lord Dartmouth; cites it as the original painting after which the anonymous engraving published by Rooses was made [see Notes]; dates it to shortly after Rubens returned to Antwerp, and states that it depends on Raphael.

    Frank E. Washburn Freund. "Eine Rubens-Ausstellung in New York." Der Cicerone 19 (1927), pp. 408–9, ill. p. 407.

    Ella S. Siple. "Art in America: New York as a Centre." Burlington Magazine 51 (July 1927), p. 49.

    Ludwig Burchard in Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. 1, London, 1930, unpaginated, under no. 41, identifies it as a "complete sketch" for the Los Angeles picture, which he dates about 1609.

    Ella S. Siple. "Art in America—The Rubens Exhibition at Detroit." Burlington Magazine 68 (May 1936), p. 243, as a modello, noting that the Van den Enden engraving follows the MMA work more closely than it does the Los Angeles picture.

    Wilhelm R. Valentiner. An Exhibition of Sixty Paintings and Some Drawings by Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1936, unpaginated, no. 36 and under no. 1, as a carefully executed study for the Los Angeles picture, which he dates about 1609.

    P. R. A. Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. "Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)." Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts Monthly Bulletin 10 (March 1940), unpaginated, no. 1, as a modello or detailed smaller version of the Los Angeles picture; dates it 1609.

    Lili M. Nash. Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Schaeffer & Brandt. New York, 1942, unpaginated, under no. 1, as a modello for the Los Angeles panel.

    W. R. Valentiner. "Rubens' Paintings in America." Art Quarterly 9 (Spring 1946), p. 155, no. 14, dates it about 1609–10, during Rubens's second period of activity in Antwerp.

    Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, p. 32, no. 44, pl. 34, identify it as the smaller and presumably earlier version of the subject, painted either at the end of Rubens's Italian period or shortly after his return to Antwerp; cite the influence of Raphael and Parmigianino.

    Erik Larsen. P. P. Rubens. Antwerp, 1952, p. 215, no. 15a, as a modello for the Los Angeles picture.

    Otto Benesch. "Review of Ref. Goris and Held 1947." Kunstchronik 7 (March 1954), p. 77, suggests that the composition was inspired by Borgianni's painting in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome.

    "Flemish, German, Dutch and English Paintings, XV–XVIII Century." Catalogue of Paintings. 2, Los Angeles, 1954, p. 17, under no. 12, as a modello for the Los Angeles panel.

    W. R. Valentiner. "'Holy Family with the Dove' by Rubens." Los Angeles County Museum Bulletin 6 (Winter 1954), p. 4, as a modello for the Los Angeles picture.

    "Eighty-sixth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1955–1956." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (October 1956), p. 42, as by Rubens.

    H[orst]. Gerson and E. H. ter Kuile. Art and Architecture in Belgium 1600 to 1800. Baltimore, [1960], p. 80, pl. 66B, as based on a composition by Borgianni.

    Christopher Norris. "Rubens' 'Adoration of the Kings' of 1609." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 14 (1963), p. 135 n. 19, as a reduced copy of the Los Angeles picture.

    Dutch and Flemish Paintings of the Northern Renaissance. Exh. cat., La Jolla Museum of Art. La Jolla, 1964, unpaginated, under no. 26, as a modello for the Los Angeles picture.

    Michael Jaffé. Rubens and Italy. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977, pp. 102, 120 n. 17, considers both the New York and Los Angeles versions autograph, the MMA work earlier.

    Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann and Martha Wolff. Unpublished catalogue entry. n.d., call it a seventeenth-century copy after Rubens, and suggest Willem Key's "Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth and the Infant John" as the source for this work.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 308, 320, fig. 576.

    Julius S. Held. Letter to Walter Liedtke. January 27, 1982, repeats his confidence that the work is by Rubens, but retracts his former opinion that it is a modello for the Los Angeles picture [see Ref. Goris and Held 1947]; considers it a second, reduced version.

    Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum—I: Rubens." Tableau 6 (November/December 1983), pp. 85, 87, fig. 11.

    Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 209–13; vol. 2, pls. 79–80 (overall and detail), observes that although the quality of the picture is inconsistent, there is no indication of more than one hand having produced it, and that there is "an energetic freedom in the handling that one would not ascribe to a copyist"; calls it either a replica of the Los Angeles picture, or a modello in which Rubens worked out the composition in a more finished form than usual.

    Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke in Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 181–83, no. 55, ill. in color (overall and detail).

    Walter Liedtke. "Rubens, His Patrons, and Style." Rembrandt, Rubens, and the Art of Their Time: Recent Perspectives. University Park, Pa., 1997, pp. 126, 130 n. 16.

    David Jaffé et al. in Rubens: A Master in the Making. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2005, pp. 78, 116–17, 166, no. 47, ill. (color, overall and detail).

    Marcus Burke in The Arts in Latin America: 1492–1820. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 2006, pp. 76, 84 n. 27, fig. G-5, notes that Schelte à Bolswert's engraving after this composition was the source for the "Holy Family of the Bird" by José Juárez, which he tentatively dates about 1660 (Museo Universitario, Puebla, Mexico).

    Walter Liedtke. "Toward a New Edition of Flemish Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Munuscula Amicorum: Contributions on Rubens and His Colleagues in Honour of Hans Vlieghe. 2, Turnhout, Belgium, 2006, p. 676.

  • Notes

    A larger version of this composition (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) has been presumed to be an autograph work by Rubens since its cleaning. Earlier scholars tended to view the MMA panel as Rubens's modello for the Los Angeles painting, while more recent scholarship is inclined to see it as a workshop replica. Although its quality is not consistent, the coarse impression imparted by some passages is not unlike youthful works Rubens produced in Antwerp about 1609–10. The painting maybe a replica of the Los Angeles picture or a modello in which Rubens worked out the composition in a more finished form than usual. Alternatively, it may have been used as a modello for more than one studio version, as indicated by a recently discovered copy (private collection, Rome) probably from Rubens's workshop [see Ref. Liedtke 1996].

    An anonymous engraving of this composition published by Martinus van den Enden [see Max Rooses, "L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens," Antwerp, 1886, vol. 1, no. 232, pl. 79] probably follows the Los Angeles picture.

    The panel has been cradled.

  • See also