Portrait of Nicolas Trigault in Chinese Costume

Artist: Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)

Date: 1617

Medium: Black, red, and white chalk, blue pastel, and pen and brown and black ink on light brown laid paper

Dimensions: 17 9/16 x 9 3/4 in. (44.6 x 24.8 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, Carl Selden Trust, several members of The Chairman's Council, Gail and Parker Gilbert, and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1999

Accession Number: 1999.222


This magnificent costume study is also an affecting portrait of Nicolas Trigault, a Flemish Jesuit missionary to China. Rubens, who had close ties to the Jesuit college of Antwerp, made the drawing when Trigault visited the city to raise funds and recruit new missionaries. The costume combines a Korean cap and the robe of a Chinese scholar, conveying the Jesuits’ desire to assimilate into Chinese culture while at the same time acknowledging and keeping a certain distance from it. Rubens beautifully captured the cut, texture, and weight of the robe but also elaborated on its colors in the Latin inscription.