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Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640): The Drawings

January 15–April 3, 2005

Drawings for Prints

Although Rubens hardly touched the etching needle or the engraving burin, his participation in printmaking set new standards, especially for book illustrations and reproductive prints. Rubens created (or supervised and corrected) the preparatory drawings, while his assistants made the prints, which were closely checked by the master.

The artist's involvement with prints was twofold. On the one hand, there were book illustrations and title pages, usually made for the distinguished Plantin Press in Antwerp. The most important member of the press, Balthasar Moretus, was a close friend of the artist. On the other hand, there were prints that Rubens had made after his paintings and published himself. Assistants usually made the preparatory drawings while a wide range of engravers, working on commission, translated them into print. The seriousness with which Rubens approached the process of transferring his paintings into prints is clear from his interventions, large and small, in the preparatory drawings.