This impressive sheet demonstrates Rubens' understanding of the human body and his commitment to rigorous anatomical study of the sort pioneered in the Italian Renaissance. The same powerful left arm and hand appears in two positions; each view exposes in detail the structure of the underlying muscles, bones, and blood vessels. A right arm and hand is partly concealed beneath one bulky arm, and views of the left shoulder seen from above are drawn in different degrees of finish. Rubens (1577–1640), one of the definitive masters of Baroque painting, had a humanist education and a deep admiration for the accomplishments of Michelangelo and other Italian artists. Like them, he used his command of anatomy to design figures in dramatic poses seen from unusual angles. Evidence suggests that Rubens planned a book of anatomical lessons with illustrations engraved after his designs. Although the project was never completed, this drawing may have been made for it, and several other sheets have been associated with it. In order to impart a sense of energy and immediacy to his paintings, Rubens sought to master the representation of the human figure in all its actions. To achieve this end, he drew anatomy studies in the tradition of Italian Renaissance artists while in Italy between 1600 and 1608. In these drawings, Rubens used cross-hatching in pen to define the muscles and sinews of the flayed body parts that he studied from casts, a technique Leonardo also used for his own anatomy drawings, which Rubens knew. Unlike Leonardo, however, Rubens was interested in more than anatomical accuracy and clear presentation. He also created dynamic compositions, as is so masterfully demonstrated in this drawing, by studying the contorted arms from unusual angles, by inventing details, and by placing the models in a highly complex spatial relationship.
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Title:Anatomical Studies: a left forearm in two positions and a right forearm
Artist:Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)
Medium:Pen and brown ink
Dimensions:sheet: 10 15/16 x 7 5/16 in. (27.8 x 18.6 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1996
Sir Rodger Newegate (British), until 1987; Vendor: Christie's, London , sale, London, Christie's, July 6-7, 1987, no. 66 ill.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," May 6–July 28, 1996.
Art Gallery of New South Wales. "Drawing the Figure: From Leonardo da Vinci to Lucian Freud," November 19, 1999–February 27, 2000.
Vienna. Graphische Sammlung Albertina. "Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640): The Drawings," September 15–December 5, 2004.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640): The Drawings," January 14–April 3, 2005.
Musée du Louvre-Lens. "Rubens and Europe," May 22, 2013–September 23, 2013.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum. "Rubens: The Power of Transformation," October 17, 2017–January 21, 2018.
Frankfurt. Städel Museum. "Rubens: The Power of Transformation," February 8–May 21, 2018.
Michael Jaffé Rubens's Anatomy Book. in Sale cat., London, Christie's, July 6-7, 1987. 1987, fig. no. 66, pp. 59-61, 80-81, ill.
Jan Garff, Eva de la Fuente Pedersen Rubens Cantoor. The Drawings of Willem Panneels. vol. 1, Copenhagen, 1988, pp. 78-81.
Paul Huvenne, Iris Kockelbergh Rubens Cantoor. Een verzameling tekeningen ontstaan in Rubens' atelier. Ex. cat. 1993, fig. no. pl. 1, pp. 79, 95, ill.
Anne Marie Logan Flemish Drawings in the Age of Rubens, Selected Works from American Collections. 1993, cat. no. 37, pp. 177-178.
George R. Goldner, Colta Ives, Carolyn Logan, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1996-1997." in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.s., vol. 55, no. 2, Autumn 1997, p. 36, ill.
Anne Marie Logan, Michiel C. Plomp, Dr. Klaus Albrecht Schröder, Heinz Widauer Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Albertina, Vienna, Sept. 15 - Dec. 5, 2004 (also see New York, 2005). Dr. Klaus Albrecht Schröder, Heinz Widauer, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, 2004, pp. 50, 57, 68, cat. no. 9, pp. 150-153, ill.
Anne Marie Logan, Michiel C. Plomp Peter Paul Rubens: The Drawings. Exh. cat.: January 15 - April 3, 2005; also Albertina, Vienna, 2004. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005, pp. 19, 27, 56, 98-100; rejoined with Two Anatomical Studies of a Left Arm (Private Collection), 98, 100, cat. no. 16, pp. 98-100, ill.
Nadine Orenstein, Jeff L. Rosenheim "A Centennial Album: Drawings, Prints and Photographs." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. LXXIV, no. 3, Winter 2017, p. 5, ill.
Anne-Marie S. Logan, Kristin Lohse Belkin The Drawings of Peter Paul Rubens: A Critical Catalogue. 2 vols., Turnhout, 2021, vol. 1, no. 141, pp. 195-96, ill. vol. 2, p. 158, figs. 193 and 194.
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