Copy after Peter Paul Rubens (probably 18th century)
Oil on wood
18 x 17 1/2 in. (45.7 x 44.5 cm)
Gift of William E. Dodge, 1900
Not on view
J. L. Menke, Antwerp (until 1900); William E. Dodge, New York (1900)
Huntington, W.Va. Huntington Galleries. "Baroque Paintings," October 17–November 7, 1954, no catalogue?
Rudolf Oldenbourg. P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde. 4th ed. [1st ed. 1905]. Stuttgart, 1921, p. 463, ill. p. 220, as a sketch for the painting in the Brussels town hall (destroyed 1695).
Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, pp. 54–55, no. A88, as a copy, clearly not by Rubens.
Edward Gans. "The Cambyses Justice Medal." Art Bulletin 29 (June 1947), p. 122 n. 3, fig. 6, as a copy, perhaps by Rubens himself, of the Brussels town hall painting.
William S. Heckscher. Rembrandt's 'Anatomy of Dr. Nicolaas Tulp': An Iconological Study. New York, 1958, p. 161 n. 163, pl. XXIII-29, erroneously attributes it to the engraver Rombout Eynhoudts and describes it as a copy after a picture by Rubens formerly in the town hall of Bruges.
Michael Jaffé. "Reflections on the Jordaens Exhibition." National Gallery of Canada Bulletin 13 (1969), p. 30, under no. 168, describes it as a copy.
Margaretta M. Salinger. Unpublished catalogue entry. 1973, compares the man on the right in the Museum's picture to the principal figure in "The Hero Crowned by Victory" in Munich, and notes the similar composition of the "Gaius Mucius Scaevola before Porsenna" in Budapest; observes an allusion to the Judgment of Solomon by the placement of Solomonic columns to the side of Otanes' chair.
A. Pigler. Barockthemen: Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. 2nd ed. [first ed. 1956]. Budapest, 1974, vol. 2, p. 328.
Julius S. Held. The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens. Princeton, 1980, vol. 1, p. 373, under no. 276, calls it certainly later than copies in the Fleischman and Sanssouci collections, and notes that it is "coloristically suggestive of French origin, done perhaps as late as the eighteenth century".
Beatrijs Brenninkmeyer-de Rooij in "To Behold is to be Aware: History Painting in Public Buildings and the Residences of the Stadtholders." Gods, Saints & Heroes: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1980, p. 75 n. 11, as a sketch for the Brussels town hall painting.
Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 233–36; vol. 2, pl. 89, believes that it is most likely a copy of a finished picture, rather than an oil sketch; observes that the bright coloring and "spirited facility" of the copyist's technique suggest a date no earlier than the late seventeenth century.
The subject is probably based on the earliest known account of the story, the "Historiae" of Herodotus (b. 484 B.C.), V, 25. Sisamnes, a royal judge of Persia, had judged a case unjustly for financial gain. The Emperor Cambyses ordered him to be flayed, and his skin stretched across the seat of the judge's chair. Cambyses then appointed Sisamnes' son, Otanes, to the bench, and enjoined him to bear in mind his peculiar position. In Rubens's composition, Otanes accepts the ceremonial rod of justice (a thorny branch) from a man who, at the same time, is arranging Sisamnes' skin across the chair back. The new judge bows in obeisance to the emperor. This picture is one of five [see Ref. Liedtke 1984] that are known to relate to a large painting by Rubens, of 1622–23, made for the town hall of Brussels. The original work was burned in the bombardment of 1695.