Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 15771640)
Oil on wood; 24 1/4 x 35 1/2 in. (61.5 x 90.2 cm)
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation, Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, Michel David–Weill, The Dillon Fund, Henry J. and Drue Heinz Foundation, Lola Kramarsky, Annette de la Renta, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, The Vincent Astor Foundation, and Peter J. Sharp Gifts; special funds, gifts, and other gifts and bequests, by exchange, 1990 (1990.196)
Rubens painted about three dozen landscapes during his busy career; like his portraits of family members, they represent a more personal side of his activity. This dramatic picture of about 1635 was listed in the inventory of Rubens's estate. It was later owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the marquess of Lansdowne, and Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn (17721840), whose descendants kept the picture at the family seat, Llangedwyn Hall in North Wales, until 1989. Rubens drew upon the imaginary current in Flemish landscape painting to give his essentially realistic views the look of myth and metaphor. In this case, a familiar theme embodies elemental forces such as light and darkness, life and death, growth and decay.