Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Frans (1633–1678), Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp), Oil on wood

Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Frans (1633–1678)

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)
ca. 1635
Oil on wood
80 1/4 x 62 1/4 in. (203.8 x 158.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, in honor of Sir John Pope-Hennessy, 1981
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 628

The artist, his wife Helena, and one of their sons appear within an idealized version of the garden at Rubens’s mansion in Antwerp, which survives to this day. The leather strap across Rubens’s chest alludes to his right, as a nobleman, to carry a sword, while the rhyming ribbon tied across his son’s chest playfully positions him as his father’s heir. There was a nearly forty-year age gap between Rubens and his second wife, whom contemporaries widely recognized as his muse and the model for paintings such as the Venus and Adonis also in this gallery. The juxtaposition of her plump and pearlescent young hand with his ruddy and weathered one emphasizes both their physical disparities and their erotic connection.
#816. Kids: Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614-1673), and One of Their Children, Part 1
#817. Kids: Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614-1673), and One of Their Children, Part 2
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This magnificent and at the same time quite personal work was painted by Rubens in more than one campaign, probably during the mid-1630s. The artist himself is shown escorting his young second wife, Helena Fourment, through a formal garden reminiscent of the one behind Rubens’s house in Antwerp. His first wife, Isabella Brant, had died in 1626, and during the next four years the painter threw himself into large projects and diplomatic missions in England and Spain. On December 6, 1630, at the age of fifty-three, Rubens married Helena, who at sixteen was the youngest of eleven children born to the artist’s old friend Daniel Fourment, a prosperous silk and tapestry merchant in Antwerp. A sister (Clara) of Rubens’s first wife was married to one of Helena’s brothers, and her niece (another Clara), the only child of Helena’s sister Susanna—the woman seen in Rubens’s half-length portrait also in the Museum (1976.218)—married Albert Rubens, the artist’s eldest son from his first marriage.

There are numerous written and pictorial records testifying to the happiness of Rubens’s marriage to the beautiful Helena, who became the inspiration for goddesses and ideal women in many of his paintings dating from the 1630s. Five children were born to the couple, the last one (Constantina) eight months after Rubens died on May 30, 1640. Their firstborn was Clara Joanna, baptized on January 18, 1632, and she was followed by Frans (bap. July 12, 1633), Isabella Helena (bap. May 3, 1635), and Peter Paul (bap. March 1, 1637). Many writers (most recently Fahy 2005) have assumed that since only one child is shown in the Museum’s painting it must be Helena’s first, which—assuming that the child (with its "leading string" and bumper-hat) is no more than two years old—would date the painting to 1633–34. However, costume experts insist that the child’s attire is male; Marieke de Winkel (correspondence of 2008 in departmental files), for example, notes that the flat collar and diagonal sash are not only male attributes (as in many other Netherlandish portraits of children) but also deliberate analogies to the collar and baldric (sword belt) worn by Rubens in this portrait. The costumes and apparent ages of Rubens and Helena as well as the painting’s style point to a date in the mid-1630s. Thus the child would be Frans, and the date would be about 1635.

Rubens’s more personal portraits are so vivacious and, in the case of family members, heartfelt that even specialists overlook how carefully the artist conveyed specific messages about each figure’s role within the family or society. Here the essential subject is Helena as wife and mother, and her most important attribute is the fact that she has provided Rubens with a son. An analogous but less elaborate work is Rubens’s portrait of Helena with the naked Frans on her lap, of about 1635, in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

The focus on Helena is emphasized by the entire composition and by the deferential glances and gestures of Rubens and his son. Originally (as seen in radiographs) Rubens gestured to and glanced at the viewer; substantial repainting of his figure cast him in a more subordinate and supportive role. The setting is a "Garden of Love," which like the caryatid and fountain suggests fertility. Ivy to the left and right recalls the description in Psalm 128 of a wife as a fruitful vine at the side of a man’s house. The parrot was associated with the Virgin Mary and purity; Vlieghe (1987) notes that the parrot bites a thorny branch, symbolizing the pain and pleasure that come with love.

The early history of the picture is unknown, and it is somewhat uncertain how it entered the collection of its first known owner, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (d. 1722). The painting remained at the family seat, Blenheim Palace, until 1884 when the eighth duke sold it to Baron Alphonse de Rothschild, Paris. It descended in the Rothschild family until the death of Baronne Germaine de Rothschild in 1975; in 1978 the portrait was acquired from her estate (through Wildenstein) by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman. Their gift to the Museum in 1981 greatly enhanced the most important collection of paintings by Rubens outside Europe.

[2011; adapted from Liedtke 1992 and Fahy 2005]
Governor General of the Low Countries; Château of Tervueren, Brussels (until 1704?); John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire (1704?–d. 1722); the Dukes of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace (1722–1883; inv., 1740); George Charles Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace (1883–84); baron Mayer Alphonse de Rothschild, Paris (1884–d. 1905); his son, baron Édouard de Rothschild, Paris (1905–d. 1949); his widow, baronne Germaine de Rothschild, Paris (1949–d. 1975; her estate, 1975–76); [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, 1976–78; sold to Wrightsman]; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1978–81)
London. British Institution. June 1865, no. 52 (lent by the Duke of Marlborough).

Paris. Musée de l'Orangerie. "Les chefs-d'oeuvre des collections privées françaises retrouvés en Allemagne par la Commission de récupération artistique et les services alliés," June–August 1946, no. 69.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.


Hans Vlieghe in Rubens in Private: The Master Portrays his Family. Ed. Ben van Beneden. Exh. cat., Rubenshuis, Antwerp. London, , p. 29, fig. 11 (color), believes the child to be Clara Johanna.

Marlborough Jewels and Pictures. [1718?], fol. 7v [British Museum, Add. mss. 9125; Coxe Papers, XLVIII; see Ref. Vlieghe 1987].

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. An Account of the Furniture Belonging to the Executors of the Late Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim House in 1740. October 22, 1740 [British Library, Add MS 61473: 1740–1741; published in Tessa Murdoch, ed., "Noble Households: Eighteenth-Century Inventories of Great English Houses," Cambridge, 2006, p. 275], lists it as hanging in the Grand Cabinet.

Mrs. Philip Lybbe Powys. Diary entry. August 1759 [published in Emily J. Climenson, ed., "Passages from the Diaries of Mrs. Philip J. Lybbe Powys of Hardwick House, Oxon., A.D. 1756–1808," London, 1899, p. 43], describes a visit to Blenheim Palace and mentions that "in the third apartment is that charming picture of Rubens' family by himself".

[Thomas Martyn]. The English Connoisseur: Containing an Account of Whatever is Curious in Painting, Sculpture, &c. in the Palaces and Seats of the Nobility and Principal Gentry of England, Both in Town and Country. London, 1766, vol. 1, p. 17.

A Tour from Stow to Blenheim and Ditchley . . . London, [1770?], p. 6 [see Ref. Vlieghe 1987].

Horace Walpole. Anecdotes of Painting in England. 4th ed. London, 1786, vol. 2, p. 144.

[William Fordyce Mavor]. New Description of Blenheim. London, [1789], p. 58 [see Ref. Vlieghe 1987].

J. Ferington. The Ferington Diary. [1801] [1922 ed. by J. Greig, London, vol. 1, p. 311; see Ref. Vlieghe 1987].

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 2, London, 1830, pp. 243–44, no. 831, states that it was presented by the city of Brussels to John, Duke of Marlborough, and was worth 3,000 guineas; mentions an engraving by MacArdell [McArdell] and three chalk studies by Rubens, one for each of the portraits, in the Louvre.

M. Passavant. Tour of a German Artist in England. London, 1836, vol. 2, p. 8.

G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Works of Art and Artists in England. London, 1838, vol. 2, pp. 233–34.

G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris. Vol. 2, Kunstwerke und Künstler in England. Berlin, 1838, pp. 47–48.

André van Hasselt. Histoire de P.-P. Rubens. Brussels, 1840, p. 346, no. 1172.

[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 3, p. 129.

George Scharf. Catalogue Raisonné; or, A List of the Pictures in Blenheim Palace. London, 1861, p. 23, identifies it as hanging to the right of the fireplace in the dining room at Blenheim.

Théophile Silvestre in Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles: École flamande. Paris, 1864, p. 30.

"Rubens, His Wife, and Child." Illustrated London News 47 (September 30, 1865), pp. 308, 310, ill. (engraving).

C. G. Voorhelm Schneevoogt. Catalogue des estampes gravées d'après P. P. Rubens. Haarlem, 1873, p. 163, under no. 84, ill. (engraving), publishes McArdell's engraving.

Léon Gauchez. "Blenheim Palace." L'art 33 (1883), pp. 214, 216.

"Correspondance de Londres." Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, supplément à la Gazette des beaux-arts no. 30 (September 20, 1884), p. 423.

Paul Mantz. "Rubens." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 32 (1885), p. 102.

W[ilhelm]. B[ode]. "Die Versteigerung der Galerie Blenheim in London." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 10 (1887), p. 59.

"Nouvelles des ventes." Bulletin-Rubens 3 (1888), p. 94.

Émile Michel in Pierre Paul Rubens, sa vie et ses oeuvres. Ed. Eugène Véron. Paris, [1889], p. 71 n. 3.

Léon Gauchez in Pierre Paul Rubens, sa vie et ses oeuvres. Ed. Eugène Véron. Paris, [1889], p. 170.

Max Rooses. L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens. Vol. 4, Antwerp, 1890, pp. 263–64, no. 1052, pl. 251 (engraving), states that it is entirely by Rubens and dates it about 1633; notes problems of condition.

Charles W[illiam]. Kett. Rubens. London, 1892, ill. opp. p. 100 (engraving).

H[ermann]. Knackfuss. Rubens. 4th ed. Bielefeld, 1897, p. 118 [English ed., 1904, pp. 135–36], dates it about 1632 and identifies the child as Clara Joanna, eldest child of Rubens and Helena Fourment.

Émile Michel. Rubens: His Life, His Work, and His Time. London, 1899, vol. 2, pp. 173–75, 313, ill. (frontispiece) [French ed., "Rubens," Paris, 1900, pp. 440, 465–67, 605 n. 1, ill. opp. p. 466].

Max Rooses. Rubens. London, 1904, vol. 1, pp. 505, 608–9 [French ed., "Rubens, sa vie et ses oeuvres," (1900–1903), pp. 505, 608], identifies the child as Frans, eldest son of Rubens and Helena Fourment.

Adolf Rosenberg. P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde. 1st ed. Stuttgart, 1905, pp. 482, 487, ill. p. 341 [4th ed. by Rudolf Oldenbourg, 1921, p. 472, ill. p. 447], identifies the child as the firstborn [Clara Joanna] of Rubens and Helena Fourment.

"Le Baron Alphonse." L'art 64 (1905), pp. 281–82, ill. p. 277 (engraving).

Claude Phillips. "Dramatic Portraiture." Burlington Magazine 8 (February 1906), p. 307.

Edward Dillon. Rubens. London, [1909], pp. 163–64, pl. 349.

Bulletin-Rubens 5 (1910), p. 79.

Louis Hourticq. Rubens. New York, 1918, pp. 139–40, 181 [French ed., Paris, n.d., pp. 125–26, 163], identifies the child as Clara Joanna.

Gustav Glück. "Rubens' Liebesgarten." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien 35 (1920/21), p. 80, fig. 23.

John Thomas Smith. Nollekens and His Times. Ed. Wilfred Whitten. London, 1920, vol. 1, p. 197 [1st ed., 1828].

Rudolf Oldenbourg. P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde. 4th ed. [1st ed. 1905]. Stuttgart, 1921, p. 472, ill. p. 447 [1st ed. by Adolf Rosenberg, 1905, pp. 482, 487, ill. p. 341], attributes it to Boeckhorst.

Hans Tietze. "Ein neues Helene-Fourment-Bildnis von Rubens." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 32 (1921), p. 18.

M. Bayet. Rubens. Paris, 1928, ill. p. 47.

Ludwig Burchard, ed. Rubens, Van Dyck und ihr Kreis.. By Gustav Glück. Vienna, 1933, p. 387 n. n, notes that no scholars have supported Oldenbourg's attribution [see Ref. 1921] to Boeckhorst.

Gustav Glück. Rubens, Van Dyck und ihr Kreis. Ed. Ludwig Burchard. Vienna, 1933, p. 122, fig. 73, reprints Ref. Glück 1920.

Catalogus der Rubens-Tentoonstelling ten bate van de Vereeniging 'Rembrandt'. Exh. cat., Kunsthandel J. Goudstikker. Amsterdam, 1933, unpaginated, under no. 53.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. An Exhibition of Sixty Paintings and Some Drawings by Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1936, unpaginated, under no. 34.

H. Verne. Rubens. Paris, 1936, p. 51, ill. [see Ref. Liedtke 1984].

Leo van Puyvelde. "Les portraits des femmes de Rubens." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 71 (1937), p. 19, ill.

Hans Gerhard Evers. Peter Paul Rubens. Munich, 1942, pp. 468, 470, 472, 508 n. 481, figs. 267, 269 (overall and detail), dates it 1638 and identifies the child as Peter Paul, second son of Rubens and Helena Fourment.

Hans Gerhard Evers. Rubens und sein Werk: Neue Forschungen. Brussels, 1943, pp. 330, 340, 383, no. 409.

Leo van Puyvelde. "A Self-portrait by the Young Rubens." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 25 (January 1944), p. 31, fig. 6 (detail), in the caption, erroneously locates it in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, p. 45, under no. A7, notes that it has been considered doubtful.

Frits Lugt. Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du Nord: école flamande. Paris, 1949, vol. 2, p. 17, under no. 1023, p. 18, under no. 1026.

Jacob Burckhardt. Recollections of Rubens. English ed. New York, 1950, pp. 134, 183 n. 141, p. 373 [German ed., "Erinnerungen aus Rubens," Basel, 1898, p. 245].

Leo van Puyvelde. Rubens. Paris, 1952, p. 155.

Marie de Miserey. Rubens. Paris, 1956, p. 119.

Julius S. Held. Rubens: Selected Drawings. London, [1959], vol. 1, p. 144, under no. 128.

Dessins de Pierre-Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des dessins. Paris, 1959, p. 8, under no. 12.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, The Bust Portrait of Helene Fourment. Brussels, 1964, unpaginated, ill., identifies the child as Claire-Jeanne [Clara Joanna].

Leo van Puyvelde. "Un important Portrait d'Hélène Fourment par Rubens." Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art 34 (1965), pp. 5, 8, ill. p. 6.

Wolf-Dieter Dube. The Pinakothek, Munich. New York, [1970], p. 208.

Ursula R. Köhler-Lutterbeck. "P. P. Rubens und das Familienportrait Kommentare zum Thema der Familie im Werk des Malers." PhD diss., Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, 1975, pp. 62–73.

Hans Kauffmann. Peter Paul Rubens: Bildgedanke und künstlerische Form. Berlin, 1976, p. 40, identifies the child as Peter Paul.

Frances P. Daugherty. "The Self-portraits of Peter Paul Rubens: Some Problems in Iconography." PhD diss., University of North Carolina, 1976, pp. 303–8, no. I-6, fig. 103.

Didier Bodart. Rubens e l'incisione nelle collezioni del Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe. Exh. cat., Villa della Farnesina. Rome, 1977, p. 180, under no. 399, identifies the child as probably Isabella Helena.

Michael Jaffé. "Pietro Pauolo Rubens, dessinateur de sa famille." L'Oeil no. 266 (September 1977), p. 19.

Jacques Foucart. "Un nouveau Rubens au Louvre: Hélène Fourment au carrosse." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 27, nos. 5–6 (1977), pp. 343–44, 346–47, 352 nn. 8, 19, 27, 28, p. 353 n. 31, fig. 1.

John Cornforth. "The Cowles-Lewis House, Farmington." Country Life 163 (April 27, 1978), p. 1152, reproduces a painting by John Eccardt of Charles and Mary Churchill that is based on this picture.

Michael Jaffé. "Ripeness is All: Rubens and Hélène Fourment." Apollo 107 (April 1978), pp. 290–93, colorpl. XXVII, suggests a date of 1639.

Alan McNairn. The Young Van Dyck. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, 1980, p. 154, under no. 71.

Jacques Foucart in Cinq années d'enrichissement du Patrimoine national 1975–1980. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1980, p. 45, under no. 31, erroneously states that there are two children in the picture.

Drawings from the Collection of Louis C. G. Clarke, LL.D. Exh. cat., Fitzwilliam Museum. Cambridge, 1981, p. 9.

Walter A. Liedtke in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1981–1982. New York, [1982], pp. 39–40, ill. p. 40 and in color on cover (cropped), identifies the child as Peter Paul and dates it about 1639.

Gabrielle Kopelman Columbia University. The Evolution of a Late Rubens Family Portrait. September 24, 1982 [published in Tableau 5 (Summer 1983), pp. 380–86, ill. (overall, details, and x-radiograph details; German translation in Du, no. 509 (July 1983), pp. 6–15, 93, ill.], hypothetically reconstructs the first and second stages of the composition, suggesting that Helena and her son were originally depicted alone.

Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum—I: Rubens." Tableau 6 (November/December 1983), pp. 83–88, nn. figs. 1 (overall, color), 2 (x-radiograph), 3 (cross section of paint layers, color), rejects Kopelman's [see Ref. 1983] hypothetical reconstruction of the earlier stages of the composition.

Michael Jaffé. "Rubens's Aeneas Cartoons at Cardiff." Burlington Magazine 125 (March 1983), p. 149, figs. 13 (detail), 14 (x-radiograph detail).

Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 176–87, figs. 37–38 (x-radiographs); vol. 2, colorpl. XIII, pls. 66–72 (overall and details), discusses the development of the composition and related works.

Theodor Hetzer. Rubens und Rembrandt. Mittenwald, 1984, pp. 223, 388.

Anne-Marie Logan. "Bernard Lens the Younger and the Marlborough Collection." Essays in Honor of Paul Mellon, Collector and Benefactor. Ed. John Wilmerding. Washington, 1986, pp. 206, 210–12, 215 n. 32, fig. 6, publishes a watercolor after this painting by Bernard Lens III (MMA, 1984.442).

Hans Vlieghe. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. pt. 19, vol. 2, Rubens Portraits of Identified Sitters Painted in Antwerp. London, [1987], pp. 170–73, no. 141, figs. 195–97 (overall, detail, and x-radiograph), identifies the child as Clara-Johanna, stating that he cannot see why Peter Paul, the third child of Rubens and Helena Fourment, should be represented without his two elder siblings as suggested by Evers [see Ref. 1942] and supported by later authors.

Zirka Zaremba Filipczak. Picturing Art in Antwerp, 1550–1700. Princeton, 1987, pp. 99, 223 n. 8, calls the repainted figure of Rubens "not . . . fully convincing as autograph work".

Charles Scribner III. Peter Paul Rubens. New York, 1989, p. 45, ill., observes that the child's appearance suggests that Rubens began the painting in early 1639.

Michael Jaffé. Rubens: catalogo completo. Milan, 1989, pp. 62, 64, 375, no. 1401, ill. (overall and color details).

Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. rev., enl. ed. New York, 1989, p. 390.

Susan J. Barnes in Anthony van Dyck. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1990, p. 127, under no. 18.

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. 12, 26, 214, 216, no. 66, fig. 1 (detail), and ill. pp. 214 (x-radiograph detail) and 215 (color).

Justus Müller Hofstede in Von Bruegel bis Rubens: Das goldene Jahrhundert der flämischen Malerei. Exh. cat., Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Cologne, 1992, pp. 113, 115, 119 nn. 118, 120, fig. 8 (color).

Walter Liedtke. "'Everything is not the same': Style and Expression in Some Religious Paintings by Rubens." Rubens and his Workshop: "The Flight of Lot and his Family from Sodom". Ed. Toshiharu Nakamura. Exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art. Tokyo, 1994, pp. 138–40 n. 25, figs. 10–11 (overall and x-radiograph), discusses changes made to the composition.

Aileen Ribeiro. The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820. New Haven, 1995, pp. 195, 243 n. 42, mentions a copy after this picture by J. G. Eccardt formerly at Strawberry Hill where the figures have been replaced by Charles Churchill, his wife, Lady Maria Walpole, and their eldest won, Charles (Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, New Hampshire); adds that the Rubens painting also inspired Romney's portrait of Sir Christopher and Lady Sykes (1786–93; Sir Tatton Sykes, Bt.).

Hans Vlieghe in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 27, New York, 1996, p. 297, dates it about 1633.

Lisa Rosenthal. "Paternal and Painterly Authority in Rubens's 'Self Portrait with Wife and Child'." CAA: 84th Annual Conference. February 21–24, 1996 [published in Erin Griffey, ed., "Envisioning Self and Status: Self-Representation in the Low Countries 1400–1700," Hull, 1999, pp. 131–62, figs. 1 (overall), 2 (x-radiograph detail)].

Walter Liedtke. "Rubens, His Patrons, and Style." Rembrandt, Rubens, and the Art of Their Time: Recent Perspectives. Ed. Roland E. Fleischer and Susan Clare Scott. University Park, Pa., 1997, pp. 123, 130 n. 2, fig. 5-12 and frontispiece (color).

Hans Vlieghe in La pittura nei Paesi Bassi. Ed. Bert W. Meijer. Milan, 1997, vol. 2, pp. 349–50.

Hans Vlieghe in Christopher Brown and Hans Vlieghe. Van Dyck, 1599–1641. Exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp. London, 1999, pp. 108, 206, as "The Walk in the Garden".

Jonathan Brown in Velázquez, Rubens y Van Dyck: Pintores cortesanos del siglo XVII. Ed. Jonathan Brown. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, [1999], p. 47.

Paul Oppenheimer. Rubens, A Portrait: Beauty and the Angelic. London, 1999, pp. 339–40, 347, colorpl. XVII.

Alejandro Vergara in Velázquez, Rubens y Van Dyck: Pintores cortesanos del siglo XVII. Ed. Jonathan Brown. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 1999, p. 124.

Important British Art. Christie's, London. June 10, 1999, p. 30, under no. 9, fig. 2.

Walter Liedtke et al. Vermeer and the Delft School. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2001, p. 274, under no. 27, p. 277 n. 2.

Anne-Marie S. Logan and Michiel C. Plomp in Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Vienna, 2004, pp. 87, 113 n. 20, pp. 351, 451, figs. 1 (color), 2 (x-radiograph detail) [English ed., "Peter Paul Rubens: The Drawings," New York, 2005, pp. 39, 239, 255, figs. 135–36 (overall and x-radiograph detail)].

Everett Fahy in The Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 117–22, no. 34, ill. (color) and fig. 1 (composite radiographs), identifies the child as Clara Joanna, and dates the picture to the early 1630s.

Katharine Baetjer in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 23–24, fig. 14 [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, p. 20, fig. 14].

Ben van Beneden. "Rubens's House Revealed." Apollo 169 (March 2009), pp. 107–8 n. 23, identifies it as the source for the figures in the "View of the Courtyard and Garden of the Former House of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp" (Buckinghamshire County Museum, Aylesbury) attributed to an Antwerp painter of the seventeenth century.

Keith Christiansen in Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 35.

Everett Fahy in Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 32, fig. 42 (color).

Walter A. Liedtke. "It's a Boy! Rubens's 'Family' Portrait in the Metropolitan Museum." Face Book: Studies on Dutch and Flemish Portraiture of the 16th–18th Centuries, Liber Amicorum Presented to Rudolf E. O. Ekkart on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday. Leiden, 2012, pp. 235–42, fig. 1 (color), dates it about 1635, and identifies the child as Frans.

Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset in L'Europe de Rubens. Ed. Blaise Ducos. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre-Lens. Paris, 2013, p. 156, fig. 14 (color), ill. p. 154 (color detail), dates it to the late 1630s and identifies the child as Peter Paul.

Stijn Alsteens in Stijn Alsteens and Adam Eaker. Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture. Exh. cat., Frick Collection. New York, 2016, p. 33 n. 27.

Francis Russell in Old Master & British Paintings: Evening Sale. Christie's, London. July 7, 2016, pp. 76, 78, fig. 23 (color), calls the child Clara-Johanna.

Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, pp. 287–88, 297, no. 231, ill. pp. 226, 287 (color).

Dianne Dwyer Modestini based on a manuscript by Mario Modestini. Masterpieces. Fiesole, 2018, pp. 344–48, 487 n. 7, figs. 115 (x-ray detail), 116 (detail of cleaned state), 117 (color), relates Mario Modestini’s recollections of his role in the cleaning and sale of the picture to The Met.

The frame is from Paris and dates to about 1710 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–4). This very fine Louis XIV carved and gilded frame is made of oak and constructed with mitred corners secured with tapered keys. The acanthus and husk ornamented sight edge lies within a sand textured frieze flanked with delicate astragal moldings. The ovolu shaped molding rises to an inward curving astragal top edge which falls back to hollow sides, terminating in an acanthus and shield ornamented back edge. The dynamic carved and undercut corners and centers in the form of cartouches with shell and scrolling cauliculi lie within the top edge molding. Water gilded overall on dark red bole, punchwork on the gesso field gives further interest to the gilded surface. Related to frames made about 1700 in the Liechtenstein collection in Vienna which have applied gilt carving on ebonized molding, this frame has been extended in height and width to accommodate this painting.

[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
Radiographs reveal that the figure of Rubens was originally shorter; the head was nearly frontal and was inclined to the left, the eyes probably directed toward Helena; the right arm was raised to the chest. The first self-portrait in this picture was very similar to the earlier self-portrait in the Rubenshuis, Antwerp, to a drawing at Windsor, to the head in the panel of Rubens and Helena Fourment Walking in Their Garden (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), and to the male figure on the left in The Garden of Love (Prado, Madrid). The radiographs and an inspection of the painting's surface also indicate that the composition (not the support) was arched above at some earlier stage in its execution. A drawing of a young woman with an ostrich fan (Musée du Louvre, Paris), generally recognized as a study for one of the principal figures in The Garden of Love, except for the position of the hands more closely resembles the figure of Helena in the present picture. A portrait drawing at Windsor is probably a study for the self-portrait that was painted out of the Museum's picture. Three chalk studies, one for each of the portraits, are in the Louvre. When at Blenheim, the picture was engraved in mezzotint by Charles Phillips and by James McArdell. John Eccardt closely followed the composition of the MMA picture when he painted the portrait of Charles and Mary Churchill, dated 1750 (Lewis-Walpole Library, Farmington, Connecticut). Bernard Lens also copied the MMA work it in a miniature of 1721 (MMA 1984.442).

The panel has been cradled.