Exhibitions/ Art Object

Wolf and Fox Hunt

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp) and Workshop
ca. 1616
Oil on canvas
96 5/8 x 148 1/8 in. (245.4 x 376.2 cm)
Credit Line:
John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1910
Accession Number:
This very large hunting scene by Rubens and his workshop was painted in 1616, as the first of the great hunting pictures that the artist produced in this period. It was soon followed in about 1617 by a set of four large hunting scenes for the Duke of Bavaria. One of these, the Hippopotamus and Crocodile Hunt, remains in Munich (Alte Pinakothek); another three went to the museums in Rennes, Marseilles, and Bordeaux in the wake of the Napoleonic wars; and the last was destroyed by fire in 1870. Rubens was well aware of the watercolor cartoons that were painted as full-scale models for tapestries of hunting scenes during the 1500s; canvas copies of important tapestries are also known. With the Wolf and Fox Hunt, however, Rubens effectively introduced a modern replacement for tapestries, which had long been a form of princely decoration requiring much greater expenditures of time and money.

The canvas was originally much larger, about 11 or 12 x 18 feet rather than the present 8 x 12 1/3 feet. It was cut down mainly at the top and left; the two wolves were approximately central in the composition. The circumstances are uncertain, but it appears likely that the painting was cut down in Rubens’s own studio after a few possible clients—including Archduke Albert, governor of the Spanish Netherlands—found its scale unmanageably grand. In a letter dated December 30, 1616, Toby Matthew wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton, a distinguished collector and English ambassador at The Hague, that Rubens was making a second version on a smaller scale (probably the workshop replica at Corsham Court) because this one was "so very bigge, that none but great Princes have houses fitt to hange it up in." Finally, Matthew reported to Carleton on April 24, 1617, that "the great peece of hunting" had been sold for a hundred pounds. The buyer was almost certainly the Duke of Aarschot, whose collection was sold after his death in Madrid in 1640. This painting and five others from Aarschot’s collection were acquired by the Marquis of Leganés; the Wolf and Fox Hunt is listed in the 1642 inventory of the marquis’s collection (no. 1126, "Una pintura de caça de lobos y çorras") and in the 1655 inventory of his estate (no. 1125, the number painted on the canvas to the lower left).

In canvases of this size Rubens used workshop assistants for the initial laying in of the design, the background and subordinate details. He would then go over the surface, strengthening contours, adding highlights and shadows, and textural effects to fabrics, fur, hair and so on. Rubens insisted to Carleton (through Matthew) on his own responsibility for the execution of the wolves and foxes, after the name of his sometime assistant Frans Snyders had come up.

In the picture’s composition the artist managed to bring together such diverse sources as Flemish tapestries (from which the unexpected falcon to the right ultimately derives), equestrian illustrations, Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari (after which Rubens made a famous drawing), and for the horse and rider to the left his own dramatically foreshortened Equestrian Portrait of Giancarlo Doria, of about 1606 (Palazzo Spinola, Genoa). As usual, however, Rubens’s artistic learning is subsumed within overwhelming impressions of energy, rhythm, color, and vivid passages of observation, so that his noble patrons—only large landowners had hunting privileges— must have looked upon paintings like this one as if they were scenes from the most exciting days of their own lives.

[2011; based on Liedtke 1984 and Bauman and Liedtke 1992]
Inscription: Inscribed (lower left): 1125
Philippe Charles d'Arenberg, duc d'Aarschot (purchased from the artist; 1616/17–d. 1640; sold from his estate to Leganés); Diego Messía Felípez de Guzman, marques de Leganés, Madrid (1640/41– d. 1655; inv., 1642, no. 1126; inv., 1655, no. 1125); ?marqueses de Leganés (1655–1711); by descent to condes de Altamira, Madrid (1711–1816; sequestered by Joseph Bonaparte and taken to Paris, 1814–15); Vicente Isabel Osorio de Moscoso, 14th conde de Altamira, Madrid (1816–20; sold in Paris for Fr 50,000 to Smith); [John Smith, London, 1820–24; sold for £2200 to Baring]; Alexander Baring, 1st Baron Ashburton, The Grange, Alresford, Hampshire (1824–d. 1848); his son, William Bingham Baring, 2nd Baron Ashburton, The Grange (1848–d. 1864); his widow, Louisa, Lady Ashburton, Kent House, London (1864–d. 1903; her estate, 1903–at least 1907); [Sulley and Co., London, by 1908–10; sold to MMA]
Paris. Musée Royal. "Tableaux des écoles primitives . . .," July 25–?, 1814, no. 102.

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1871, no. 110 (lent by Lord Ashburton).

London. Grosvenor Gallery. "Works of Art Illustrative of and Connected with Sport," 1890, no. 32 (lent by Lord Ashburton) [see Liedtke 1984].

London. Sulley and Co. 1908, no. ? [see Liedtke 1984].

Toby Matthew. Letter to Sir Dudley Carleton. October 9, 1616 [published in Ref. Sainsbury 1859], mentions a "peece of huntinge," probably this work, for sale in Rubens's studio; notes his attempt, with George Gage, to purchase it for Carleton in exchange for a diamond chain.

Toby Matthew. Letter to Sir Dudley Carleton. December 30, 1616 [published in Ref. Sainsbury 1859], notes Rubens's refusal to exchange it for a diamond chain [see letter of October 9, 1616]; mentions that the Duke of Ariscott [Aarschot] is also interested in buying the picture.

Toby Matthew. Letter to Sir Dudley Carleton. February 6, 1617 [published in Ref. Sainsbury 1859], writes that he believes the work has been bought by the Duke of Arscot [Aarschot] for £100; mentions another, presumably smaller, hunting scene being produced for Carleton by Rubens.

Toby Matthew. Letter to Sir Dudley Carleton. April 24, 1617 [published in Ref. Sainsbury 1859], states that the "great peece of huntinge," probably this work, has been sold by Rubens for £100.

George Gage. Letter to Sir Dudley Carleton. November 1, 1617 [published in Ref. Sainsbury 1859], notes that the hunting scene painted for Carleton is "perhaps preferable" to the original version, probably this work.

Inventory of the collection of Diego Messía Felípez de Guzmán, marques de Leganés. March 30, 1642, no. 1126 [Archivo Histórico de Protocolos, Madrid, leg. 6210, fol. 1186; see Balis 1986; Getty no. E-857], appears without the artist's name; notes that six paintings in the collection [probably including this work] come from the Duke of Aarschot's house.

Inventory of the estate of Diego Messía Felípez de Guzmán, marques de Leganés. April 6, 1655, no. 1125 [published in Jose López Navío, "La gran colección de pinturas del Marqués de Leganés," n.d., p. 316].

Notice des tableaux des écoles primitives . . . Exh. cat., Musée Royal. Paris, 1814, p. 85, no. 102, states that it has been engraved by Soutman, and notes a claim that the three mounted figures are portraits of Rubens, his wife, and his son Albert.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 2, London, 1830, pp. 273–74, no. 925, describes it as by Rubens, with the exception of a landscape by Wildens and possible contribution from Snyders, and identifies the figures at right as portraits of Rubens and his wife, Elizabeth [sic for Isabella] Brant; reports that it was painted for Leganés in 1612, then was owned by the Altamira family, taken to Paris during the Napoleonic Wars, returned to the Altamira family in 1815, and sent to Paris for sale, where Smith bought it in 1824 for 50,000 francs; calls the Corsham picture "a duplicate . . . in which the animals are by Snyders and the figures finished by Rubens"; states that it was engraved by Soutman and Vander Leuw [van der Leeuw].

G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Works of Art and Artists in England. London, 1838, vol. 2, pp. 271–72; vol. 3, p. 102.

G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris. Vol. 2, Kunstwerke und Künstler in England. Berlin, 1838, pp. 84–85, 312.

André van Hasselt. Histoire de P.-P. Rubens. Brussels, 1840, p. 359, no. 1288, ascribes the animals to Rubens.

William Hazlitt. Criticisms on Art. London, 1844, appendix IV, no. 37.

[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 2, p. 102.

[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain. London, 1857, p. 395.

W. Noël Sainsbury. Original Unpublished Papers Illustrative of the Life of Sir Peter Paul Rubens. London, 1859, pp. 14–17, 21, 24, publishes correspondence regarding negotiations for its purchase by Sir Dudley Carleton, Rubens's refusal to exchange it for a diamond chain offered by Carleton's agents, and the picture's subsequent sale to the Duke of Aarschot; identifies the work, however, as the one belonging to the King [Elector Maximilian] of Bavaria.

Gustav Friedrich Waagen. Kleine Schriften. Stuttgart, 1875, p. 291 [see Ref. Balis 1986].

Herman Riegel. Beiträge zur niederländischen Kunstgeschichte. Berlin, 1882, vol. 1, p. 286.

Max Rooses. L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens. Vol. 4, Antwerp, 1890, pp. 340–41, no. 1156, pl. 324 (engraving), states that it is by Rubens and assistants, dating from about 1617, and refers to Aarschot's picture as lost and the Corsham picture as a repetition made for Carleton.

William Stirling-Maxwell. Annals of the Artists of Spain. 2nd rev. ed. [1st ed. 1848]. London, 1891, vol. 2, p. 642, as "Lion Hunt".

Max Rooses and Ch[arles]. Ruelens, ed. Correspondance de Rubens et documents épistolaires concernant sa vie et ses oeuvres. Vol. 2, Antwerp, 1898, pp. 85–87, 90, 93–94, 96–98, 107–8, 119–21, publish letters from Toby Matthew and George Gage to Dudley Carleton mentioning this picture, but state that the Museum's work cannot be the one bought by Aarschot.

Max Rooses. Rubens. London, 1904, vol. 1, pp. 258–59 [French ed., "Rubens, sa vie et ses oeuvres," (1900–1903)].

A. Edith Hewett. "Two Pictures from the Ashburton Collection." Burlington Magazine 12 (February 1908), pp. 303–4, ill. p. 302, cites Rubens's dependence on Leonardo.

Edward Dillon. Rubens. London, [1909], pp. 116–17, 230, pl. CXIV.

B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Principal Accessions." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 5 (May 1910), pp. 120–22, ill. (overall and detail), as probably finished in 1617.

"Sammlungen." Der Cicerone 2 (1910), pp. 407–8, ill.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "Gemälde des Rubens in Amerika." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 23, no. 11 (1912), pp. 184, 186, fig. 8 (detail), considers it likely that the Museum's picture is the one bought by Aarschot, suggests that it was cut down, and supports this view by comparing Soutman's print; excludes Wildens and Snyders as possible collaborators, suggesting that the painting was executed by assistants and reworked by Rubens.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Art of the Low Countries. English ed. Garden City, N.Y., 1914, pp. 180–82, ill.

Rudolf Oldenbourg. P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde. 4th ed. [1st ed. 1905]. Stuttgart, 1921, p. 459, ill. p. 112, as entirely by Rubens, probably his first Hunt, of about 1615.

R[udolf]. Oldenbourg. Die Flämische Malerei des XVII. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, 1922, pp. 38, 190, 192.

Rudolf Oldenbourg. Peter Paul Rubens. Ed. Wilhelm von Bode. Munich, 1922, p. 10.

Thomas H. Benton. "Mechanics of Form, Organization in Painting." Arts 11 (March 1927), p. 147, fig. 28.

Otto Grossmann. Das Reiterbild im Malerei und Plastik. Berlin, 1931, p. 90, reproduces on pl. XXIII a sketch of the mounted figure at right in the MMA canvas.

Pedro Beroqui. "Apuntes para la historia del Museo del Prado." Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones 40 (1932), p. 96, lists it among paintings returned to Spain after the Napoleonic Wars.

Jacob Burckhardt. Rubens. Vienna, [1937], p. 136, dates it 1612.

Jacob Burckhardt. Rubens. Vienna, 1938, p. 184, pl. 87 [same text as Ref. Burckhardt 1937].

Tancred Borenius. A Catalogue of the Pictures at Corsham Court. London, [1939], p. 74, under no. 128, describes the Corsham picture as a studio replica of the MMA painting.

Hans Gerhard Evers. Rubens und sein Werk: Neue Forschungen. Brussels, 1943, p. 174.

[Charles] Rogers Bordley. Frans Snyders: An Essay. [New York?], [1943], p. 31.

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

Aimée Crane, ed. A Gallery of Great Paintings. New York, 1944, ill. p. 23 (color).

Margaretta [M.] Salinger. "Rubens's 'Atalanta and Meleager'." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 3 (Summer 1944), p. 13, ill. (detail).

M. R. "Was the Fabulous Rubens an Art Pirate?" Art Digest 18 (September 1, 1944), ill. p. 10.

W. R. Valentiner. "Rubens' Paintings in America." Art Quarterly 9 (Spring 1946), p. 159, no. 47, dates it about 1615, calling it "pupil work to a great extent," with animals by Snyders.

Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, p. 41, no. 94, pl. 76, attribute it to Rubens, and reject Valentiner's [see Ref. 1912] identification of the picture as the one bought by Aarschot.

Hans E. Bühler. Reiterbilder in der europäischen Malerei. Zürich, 1949, p. 92, no. 29, pl. 29.

Yvonne Thiery. "La Chasse d'Atalante de Pierre-Paul Rubens aux Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles." Miscellanea Leo van Puyvelde. Brussels, 1949, p. 140.

Jacob Burckhardt. Recollections of Rubens. English ed. New York, 1950, p. 186 n. 159, pl. 33, dates it about 1616.

Erik Larsen. P. P. Rubens. Antwerp, 1952, p. 216, no. 30, as painted in or shortly before 1615, noting that studio assistance is apparent in some parts.

Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), p. 4.

Charles-Rogers Bordley. Rubens ou Snyders? Paris, [1955?], pp. 81, 86, fig. 29.

S. Speth-Holterhoff. Les peintres flamands de cabinets d'amateurs au XVIIe siècle. [Brussels], 1957, p. 205 n. 55.

H[orst]. Gerson and E. H. ter Kuile. Art and Architecture in Belgium 1600 to 1800. Baltimore, [1960], p. 82.

Jean Claparède. Dessins de la collection Alfred Bruyas . . . Paris, 1962, unpaginated, under no. 60, catalogues a sketch by Delacroix after this composition.

L[udwig]. Burchard and R[oger].-A. d'Hulst. Rubens Drawings. Brussels, 1963, vol. 1, p. 87, under no. 50.

Julius S. Held. "'Prometheus Bound'." Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 59, no. 279 (1963), p. 20, suggests that it may be Carleton's Hunt.

Christian Adolf Isermeyer. Peter Paul Rubens. Hamburg, 1965, pp. 12–15, 27–28, pl. 4, suggests that the Wolf and Fox Hunt is the earliest of Rubens's hunting scenes, the MMA picture the third version of the composition.

Weltkunst aus Privatbesitz. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Köln. Cologne, 1968, unpaginated, under no. F28.

James Byam Shaw. Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1969, p. 44, under no. 98, describes the drawing at Chatsworth as a copy after the MMA painting and suggests that the drawing may be by Van Dyck.

David Rosand. "Rubens's Munich 'Lion Hunt': Its Sources and Significance." Art Bulletin 51 (March 1969), pp. 36–37, fig. 23.

Hella Robels. "Frans Snyders' Entwicklung als Stillebenmaler." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 31 (1969), p. 54, compares the mounted couple at right with that of Rubens's and Snyders's "Falconer and Fruit Seller" (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff) of 1615–16.

Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 169 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].

Frank Anderson Trapp. The Attainment of Delacroix. Baltimore, [1970], p. 212 n. 14.

Gregory Martin. The Flemish School, circa 1600–circa 1900. London, 1970, pp. 184, 186 n. 16.

Ilse Hempel Lipschutz. Spanish Painting and the French Romantics. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, p. 318.

John Rupert Martin. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. part 16, The Decorations for the Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi. London, 1972, p. 214, under no. 55.

E. Haverkamp-Begemann in European Paintings in the Collection of the Worcester Art Museum. Worcester, Mass., 1974, pp. 211–12 n. 10.

Kathleen Ann Roy and Susan Danly Walther in Rubenism. Exh. cat., Brown University. Providence, 1975, pp. 15, 18.

Didier Bodart. Rubens e l'incisione nelle collezioni del Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe. Exh. cat., Villa della Farnesina. Rome, 1977, p. 100, under no. 208.

Anne-Marie [S.] Logan. "Rubens Exhibitions 1977." Master Drawings 15 (Winter 1977), p. 412.

Hella Robels in Peter Paul Rubens, 1577–1640. Exh. cat., Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Vol. 2, "Maler mit dem Grabstichel, Rubens und die Druckgraphik."Cologne, 1977, p. 81, discusses Soutman's print after this picture.

John Rowlands. Rubens: Drawings and Sketches. Exh. cat., British Museum. London, 1977, p. 63, under no. 58, notes studies for the picture on the verso of a drawing at Windsor.

Cecile Kruyhooft and Simone Buys. P. P. Rubens et la peinture animaliere. [Antwerp], [1977], pp. 47–49, ill. [Dutch ed., Antwerp, 1977].

Giuliana Biavati et al. Rubens e Genova. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale. Genoa, 1977, p. 213, under no. 2.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 308, 317, figs. 547 (color detail), 568.

Julius S. Held. The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens. Princeton, 1980, vol. 1, p. 247, under no. 166.

Kristin Lohse Belkin. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. part 24, The Costume Book. Brussels, 1980, pp. 103, 132.

Joseph J. Rishel in Richard Ormond. Sir Edwin Landseer. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1981, pp. 26–27, fig. 27.

"Wolf and Fox Hunt." National Sporting Library Newsletter no. 12 (June 1981), p. 3, ill.

Arnout Balis. Letters to Walter Liedtke. February 1 and July 31, 1981, identifies it with the picture bought from Rubens by Philippe-Charles d'Arenberg, duc d'Aarschot, and suggests that it may have been cut down.

Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum—I: Rubens." Tableau 6 (November/December 1983), pp. 85, 87–88, fig. 13.

Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 198–209; vol. 2, colorpl. XV, pls. 77–78 (overall and detail), as painted with the help of assistants in about 1616; notes Balis's hypothesis [see Ref. 1981] that the picture was cut down, but states that technical analysis reveals that it was not significantly trimmed; refers to the Aarschot picture as "presumably now lost".

David Freedberg. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. part 7, The Life of Christ after the Passion. London, 1984, p. 128 n. 13, under no. 31.

Arnout Balis. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. part 18, vol. 2, Landscapes and Hunting Scenes. London, 1986, pp. 95–104, no. 2, fig. 33, publishes his identification of this picture with the one bought by Aarschot, and suggests that it was cut down.

Walter Liedtke. The Royal Horse and Rider: Painting, Sculpture, and Horsemanship, 1500–1800. New York, 1989, p. 233, no. 100, ill.

Michael Jaffé. Rubens: catalogo completo. Milan, 1989, pp. 213–14, no. 345, ill.

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. 11, 24, 193–96, no. 59, ill. (color, overall and detail).

Peter C. Sutton. The Age of Rubens. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 1993, pp. 30, 92.

Susan Koslow. "Law and Order in Rubens's 'Wolf and Fox Hunt'." CAA: 81st Annual Conference. February 4, 1993 [published and expanded in Ref. Koslow 1996].

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. 132–33, fig. 3.

Toshiharu Nakamura. "'The Flight of Lot and his Family from Sodom': Rubens and his Studio." 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. 27–29, 31, fig. 1.

Susan Koslow. "Law and Order in Rubens's 'Wolf and Fox Hunt'." Art Bulletin 78 (December 1996), pp. 681–706, figs. 1 (color), 3, 6, 26 (details).

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, p. 128, fig. 5-9.

Kristi Nelson. Jacob Jordaens: Design for Tapestry. [Turnhout, Belgium], 1998, pp. 88, 180 n. 11, under no. 17.

Hans Vlieghe. Flemish Art and Architecture, 1585–1700. New Haven, 1998, p. 225.

Alexander Vergara. Rubens and His Spanish Patrons. Cambridge, 1999, pp. 113–14, 136, 138, 171–72, 227 n. 2, p. 243 nn. 142, 147, fig. 50.

Deborah L. Roldán in Gary Tinterow and Geneviève Lacambre. Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay, Paris. New York, 2003, p. 367, fig. 14.23 [French ed., "Manet/Velázquez: La manière espagnole au XIXe siècle," Paris, 2002, p. 295].

Kristin Lohse Belkin in A House of Art: Rubens as Collector. Exh. cat., Rubenshuis, Antwerp. Schoten, Belgium, 2004, p. 320.

Anne-Marie S. Logan and Michiel C. Plomp in Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Vienna, 2004, p. 237 [English ed., "Peter Paul Rubens: The Drawings," New York, 2005, p. 134].

Anne T. Woollett in Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2006, p. 173 n. 38, under no. 22.

Christopher White. The Later Flemish Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen. London, 2007, pp. 254–55, under no. 69.

Old Masters: Evening Sale. Christie's, London. December 8, 2016, p. 85, fig. 2 (color), under no. 26.

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