Exhibitions/ Art Object

The Triumph of Henry IV

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)
ca. 1630
Oil on wood
19 1/2 x 32 7/8 in. (49.5 x 83.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1942
Accession Number:
This energetic oil sketch of about 1630 is the last of four painted by Rubens in preparation for his monumental canvas, The Triumph of Henry IV, of 1630 (380 x 692 cm; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence). That painting was intended for the end wall of the east gallery of the Palais du Luxembourg, Paris, as the climactic scene in a cycle of twenty-four canvases depicting the Life of Henry IV. The pendant Life of Marie de’ Medici, also consisting of twenty-four canvases (Musée du Louvre, Paris), was completed and installed in the west gallery of the palace by February 1625. Rubens had signed the contract for all forty-eight canvases on February 24, 1622. However, work on the Henry cycle was not begun before late 1627, and was then interrupted by the seven months Rubens spent in Madrid (1628–29) and nine months in London (1629–30). In the end, the decoration of the second gallery in the Queen Mother’s residence was never completed, due to political opposition and Marie’s exile to Brussels in 1631. In Rubens’s estate inventory, six large, unfinished paintings depicting triumphs or battles of Henry IV are recorded, of which five are known today (two are in the Uffizi; the others are in the museums of Göteborg and Munich, and in the Rubenshuis, Antwerp). Also known are four oil sketches for the Henry cycle that do not correspond to surviving canvases.

The primary importance of the Triumph in the Henry cycle is underscored by its unusual extent of preparatory material. In what must be Rubens’s first oil sketch, of 1627–28 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), the king rides a trotting horse as he would in a modern triumphal entry, although the contract of 1622 specified that the subject would be treated "in the manner of the triumphs of the Romans." Ancient models are first employed in an oil sketch probably dating from early 1628 (Wallace Collection, London), where Henry stands in a chariot surging to the left, amidst figures bearing trophies and followed by captives. This composition is revised in an oil sketch painted in early 1630 (Musée Bonnat, Bayonne), where the artist adds cheering figures in the foreground and more space. The New York sketch defines in detail the generalized ideas of the previous sketch and adds a triumphal arch in the left background. By inserting a type of architecture that commemorated triumphal entries into ancient Rome, Rubens not only glorified Henry but also prepared his intended viewers for the arched bridge that fills the right half of The Capture of Paris (as known from the oil sketch in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin), which was to have been installed to the left on the adjacent wall.

Rubens’s work on this composition illustrates his extraordinary ability to synthesize visual and symbolic ideas. The final composition is at once a representation of the king’s actual victories in the 1590s and a grand classical metaphor which sums up in a single glance the scenes that the viewer would then have seen sequentially in the long gallery devoted to the Life of Henry IV. The failure of the project, through no fault of his own, was probably Rubens’s greatest disappointment in a career distinguished by several successes on a similarly ambitious scale.

[2011; adapted from Liedtke 1984]
John Bligh, 4th Earl of Darnley, Cobham Hall, Kent (by 1815–d. 1831); the Earls of Darnley, Cobham Hall (1831–1900; inv., 1833, no. 21); Ivo Francis Walter Bligh, 8th Earl of Darnley, Cobham Hall (1900–at least 1909); [Colnaghi, London, until 1910; sold for £2,100 to Knoedler]; [Knoedler, New York, 1910–11; sold for $30,000 to Simpson]; John W. Simpson, New York (1911–d. 1920); his widow, Mrs. John W. (Kate Seney) Simpson, New York (1920–42; sold through Knoedler to MMA)
London. British Institution. 1815, no. 5 (as "A Triumphal Procession," lent by the Earl of Darnley).

Manchester. Art Treasures Palace. "Art Treasures of the United Kingdom," May 5–October 17, 1857, no. 538 (as "Triumphal Procession of Henry IV., after the battle of Ivry," lent by the Earl of Darnley).

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 7–March 16, 1895, no. 65 (as "The Triumphal Procession of Henri IV, after the Battle of Ivry," lent by the Earl of Darnley).

London. New Gallery. "Exhibition of Pictures by Masters of the Flemish and British Schools," 1899–1900, no. 121 (lent by the Earl of Darnley).

New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Masterpieces by Old and Modern Painters," April 6–24, 1915, no. 15 (as "The Triumphal Entry of Henry IV into Paris After the Battle of Ivry").

Detroit Institute of Arts. "An Exhibition of Sixty Paintings and Some Drawings by Peter Paul Rubens," February 13–March 15, 1936, no. 48 (as "Triumphal Entry of Henry IV into Paris after the Battle of Ivry," lent by Mrs. John W. Simpson, New York).

Brussels. Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. "Esquisses de Rubens," August–September 1937, no. 83 (lent by Mrs. John W. Simpson).

New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 334 (as "Triumphal Entry of Henry IV into Paris after the Battle of Ivry," lent by Mrs. John W. Simpson).

Art Gallery of Toronto. "Loan Exhibition of Great Paintings in Aid of Allied Merchant Seamen," February 4–March 5, 1944, no. 63.

New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc. "A Loan Exhibition of Rubens," February 20–March 31, 1951, no. 23.

Cambridge, Mass. Fogg Art Museum. "Drawings & Oil Sketches by P. P. Rubens from American Collections," January 14–February 29, 1956, no. 39.

New York. Pierpont Morgan Library. "Drawings & Oil Sketches by P. P. Rubens from American Collections," March 20–April 28, 1956, no. 39.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 275.

Canberra. Australian National Gallery. "Esso presents Rubens and the Italian Renaissance," March 28–June 8, 1992, no. 46.

Melbourne. National Gallery of Victoria. "Esso presents Rubens and the Italian Renaissance," June 20–August 30, 1992, no. 46.

New York. Gagosian Gallery. "Peter Paul Rubens, Oil Paintings and Oil Sketches," March 30–May 19, 1995, unnumbered cat. (pp. 85–89, ill.).

Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Velázquez, Rubens y Van Dyck: Pintores cortesanos del siglo XVII," December 17, 1999–March 5, 2000, no. 27.

Brussels. Palais des Beaux-Arts. "Rubens and His Legacy: From Van Dyck to Cézanne," September 25, 2014–January 4, 2015, no. 37.

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Rubens and His Legacy: From Van Dyck to Cézanne," January 24–April 10, 2015, no. 37.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 2, London, 1830, p. 260, no. 879, as "apparently the first idea for the picture at Florence".

G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Works of Art and Artists in England. London, 1838, vol. 3, p. 381.

G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris. Vol. 2, Kunstwerke und Künstler in England. Berlin, 1838, p. 588.

André van Hasselt. Histoire de P.-P. Rubens. Brussels, 1840, p. 287, no. 614.

[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 3, pp. 23–24, as depicting the triumphal entry of Henry IV, after the battle of Ivry; describes it as derived from Mantegna.

W. Burger [Théophile Thoré]. Trésors d'art exposés à Manchester en 1857. Paris, 1857, p. 196 [reprinted as "Trésors d'art en Angleterre," Brussels, 1860, with same pagination].

Max Rooses. L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens. Vol. 3, Antwerp, 1890, p. 272, under no. 759, erroneously notes that it is on canvas, and very possibly authentic.

Claude Phillipps [sic]. "Correspondance d'Angleterre." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 13 (1895), p. 350, as the final study for the Uffizi canvas.

"Exposition de maîtres anciens à Londres." Bulletin-Rubens 4 (1896), p. 288.

Émile Michel. Rubens: His Life, His Work, and His Time. London, 1899, vol. 2, p. 155, sees it as a variant of the oil sketch in the Wallace Collection.

Provisional Catalogue of the Oil Paintings and Water Colours in the Wallace Collection. London, 1900, p. 96, under no. 522.

Edward Dillon. Rubens. London, [1909], pp. 158, 232, dates it about 1630.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "Gemälde des Rubens in Amerika." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 23, no. 11 (1912), pp. 266, 271, no. 21, fig. 4.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Art of the Low Countries. English ed. Garden City, N.Y., 1914, pp. 191–92.

Wallace Collection Catalogues: Pictures and Drawings. 15th ed. London, 1928, p. 266, under no. 522, p. 267 n. 4.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. An Exhibition of Sixty Paintings and Some Drawings by Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1936, unpaginated, no. 48, ill., dates it about 1628.

Leo van Puyvelde. Les esquisses de Rubens. Basel, 1940, pp. 34, 56, 59, 84–85, no. 64, fig. 64 [English ed., "The Sketches of Rubens," London, 1947, pp. 36, 58, 61, 86–87, no. 64, fig. 64], dates it 1627–31.

Hans Gerhard Evers. Rubens und sein Werk: Neue Forschungen. Brussels, 1943, pp. 312–13, proposes a development of the composition that begins with the Wallace sketch and proceeds to the Bayonne sketch, the MMA sketch, and, finally, the Uffizi canvas.

Harry B. Wehle. "The Triumph of Henri IV by Rubens." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (March 1943), pp. 213–18, ill. (overall and details), color detail on cover.

"A Rubens Sketch." Art News 42 (April 15–30, 1943), p. 25, ill.

Margaret Breuning. "Metropolitan Re-Installs Its Treasures in Attractive Settings." Art Digest 18 (June 1, 1944), p. 6.

W. R. Valentiner. "Rubens' Paintings in America." Art Quarterly 9 (Spring 1946), p. 164, no. 104, dates it about 1628–31.

Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, p. 39, no. 84, pl. 87, place it following the London and Bayonne sketches and immediately preceding the Uffizi canvas.

Erik Larsen. P. P. Rubens. Antwerp, 1952, p. 218, no. 81, states that it is the last oil sketch of this subject, dating from about 1628–30.

[Count Antoine Seilern]. Flemish Paintings & Drawings at 56 Princes Gate London SW7. London, 1955, p. 63 n. 1, under no. 34, publishes a sketch which he believes predates the Wallace, Musée Bonnat, and MMA versions.

E[lisabeth]. Dhanens. "Jean Boulogne en P. P. Rubens." Gentse bijdragen tot de Kunstgeschiedenis 16 (1955–56), p. 245, suggests that it was influenced by Giambologna's relief on the base of the equestrian monument of Cosimo I in Florence.

Agnes Mongan in Drawings & Oil Sketches by P. P. Rubens from American Collections. Exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum. Cambridge, Mass., 1956, pp. 34–35, no. 39, pl. XXVI, dates it about 1628–31.

Helen Comstock. "The Connoisseur in America: Rubens' Drawings and Sketches." Connoisseur 137 (April 1956), p. 145.

Alfred [M.] Franfurter. "Rubens' Drawings and Oil Sketches." Art News 55 (April 1956), p. 79.

Jakob Rosenberg. "Rubens' Oil Sketches and Drawings in the Fogg Museum." Art Quarterly 19 (Summer 1956), p. 141.

Günter Aust. "Entwurf und Ausführung bei Rubens." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 20 (1958), p. 187.

Ingrid Jost. "Bemerkungen zur Heinrichsgalerie des P. P. Rubens." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 15 (1964), pp. 205–7, 215, 217, fig. 14.

Howard D. Rodee. "Rubens' Treatment of Antique Armor." Art Bulletin 49 (September 1967), pp. 229–30, states that the antique armor and accessories of the Wallace sketch are replaced in the MMA work by contemporary forms, and finds antique reliefs such as those on the Arch of Titus a more likely source than Mantegna's "Triumph of Julius Caesar" at Hampton Court [see Ref. Waagen 1854].

Jacques Thuillier and Jacques Foucart. Rubens' Life of Marie de' Medici. New York, n.d., p. 72 [Italian ed., 1967], call it "the latest of the bozzetti and the one most like the [Uffizi] painting".

Philippe de Montebello. Rubens. New York, 1968, p. 41, no. 8, ill. and color slide, describes the procession as "shown here entering the Porte Neuve".

Julius S. Held. "On the Date and Function of Some Allegorical Sketches by Rubens." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 38 (1975), p. 227.

Didier Bodart. Rubens e la pittura fiamminga del Seicento nelle collezioni pubbliche fiorentine. Exh. cat., Palazzo Pitti. Florence, 1977, p. 222, under no. 94.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 308–9, 318, fig. 572.

Julius S. Held. The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens. Princeton, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 124–25, 130–32, no. 85; vol. 2, pl. 88, dates it to spring of 1630.

Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum—I: Rubens." Tableau 6 (November/December 1983), pp. 85, 87–88 n. 33.

Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 156–63; vol. 2, pl. 62.

Charles Scribner III. Peter Paul Rubens. New York, 1989, p. 37, fig. 60.

Michael Jaffé. Rubens: catalogo completo. Milan, 1989, pp. 80, 311–12, no. 958, ill. pp. 78 (color) and 311, dates it spring 1630.

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, p. 363, no. 418, ill.

Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. Ed. Nicholas H. J. Hall. New York, 1992, p. 131.

David Jaffé in Esso presents Rubens and the Italian Renaissance. Exh. cat., Australian National Gallery. Canberra, 1992, pp. 27, 144, 148, 156, 158, 198, no. 46, ill. p. 159 (color).

David Freedberg. Peter Paul Rubens: Oil Paintings and Oil Sketches. Exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery. New York, 1995, pp. 85–89, ill. (color).

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. 197.

Alejandro Vergara in Velázquez, Rubens y Van Dyck: Pintores cortesanos del siglo XVII. Ed. Jonathan Brown. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 1999, pp. 198–200, no. 27, ill. (color).

Nico van Hout in "Henry IV valait bien une Galerie! Rubens' unfinished Luxembourg project." Rubens agli Uffizi: il restauro delle 'Storie di Enrico IV'. Florence, 2001, pp. 29, 39 n. 42.

Giovanni Agosti. "Su Mantegna, 7* (Nell'Europa del Seicento)." Prospettiva nos. 115–16 (July–October 2004), p. 157 n. 72.

Kristin Lohse Belkin in A House of Art: Rubens as Collector. Exh. cat., Rubenshuis, Antwerp. Schoten, Belgium, 2004, p. 226.

Elizabeth A. Pergam. "From Manchester to Manhattan: The Transatlantic Art Trade After 1857." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 87, no. 2 (2005), pp. 86, 89.

Nicholas Penny. The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings. Vol. 2, Venice 1540–1600. London, 2008, p. 449.

Antonio Mazzotta. "A 'gentiluomo da Ca' Barbarigo' by Titian in the National Gallery, London." Burlington Magazine 154 (January 2012), p. 19.

The frame is from France and dates to about 1650 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–4). This handsome Louis XIII period carved molding is made of oak and constructed with mitred corners secured with tapered keys. The sight edge is ornamented with scrolling volutes and husks. An inner and outer sand frieze flanks an astragal top edge which is ornamented with acanthus corners and clasped leafy centers connected by inventive arrow-form strapwork framing paterae in panels. The back edge is carved in stepped dentils after a narrow fillet. Though reduced in length on both sides and with a compromised gilded surface the frame retains its textured variety and bold exuberance.

[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
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