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Peter Paul Rubens
Lot No. 51 
Peter Paul Rubens
  • Peter Paul Rubens
  • Peter Paul Rubens
  • Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens

(Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)
The Entombment,
oil on panel, 74.5 x 106 cm, framed

probably collection of Graf von Werschowitz (1654–1720);
probably by whom sold in Prague, 1723 (as by Rubens after Titian);
private collection, England;
Leonard Koetser Gallery, London (as by Rubens);
Sir Ian Rankin, Baronet;
Michael Simpson Gallery, London (as by Rubens);
Dodie Rosekrans collection, San Francisco;
sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 26th January 2012, lot 148 (as Studio of Peter Paul Rubens)

H. E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian, The Religious Paintings, I, London, 1969, pp. 89/90, under no. 36 copies, no. 4 (as a free copy by Rubens after Titian);
M. Jaffe, Rubens, Catalogo Completo, Milan, 1989, p. 173, no. 129 (as by Rubens);
C. Brown, Van Dyck Drawings, New York, 1991, p. 63, fig. 5, note 3 (as ‘the attribution to Rubens seems correct’);
J. Wood, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, XXVI, Copies and Adaptations from Renaissance and later Artists, London/Turnhout, 2010, I: Italian artists, II: Titian and Northern Italian Art, p. 440, no. R23 (as Flemish artist after Titian)

We are grateful to Professor Christopher Brown and Ben van Beneden for their assistance in cataloguing this lot and for each independently confirming the attribution after inspection of the original. They both give a date of execution of circa 1612–15.

The present painting is a fine example by Peter Paul Rubens of a work that was inspired by one of the great 16th century Italian Renaissance masters. The artist was first confronted with the work of Titian in May 1600, when he arrived in Venice. Rubens would ultimately stay in Italy for eight years with his first appointment at the court of the Gonzagas in September 1600 in Mantua. It was in this city that he must have first seen the famous Entombment by Titian (oil on canvas, 148 x 212 cm, Musée du Louvre, see fig. 1), which was in the Gonzaga collection at the time.

It was Michael Jaffé, in his well-known ‘Catalogo Completo’ of 1989, who suggested that the painting was executed by Rubens after his return from Italy in 1608. This is further supported by a recent dendrochronological report on the panel (available on request), which indicates that the youngest tree ring dates to 1598, suggesting a felling date of circa 1606 onwards. In addition, Dr. Peter Klein has also shown that a study on panel by Rubens of a monk (Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig) comes from the same tree as the present lot. These reports are available on request.

Christopher Brown first recognized the painting as autograph in his catalogue of van Dyck’s drawings which he published in 1991. In a private letter, dated 15th July 2015, following its revelatory cleaning and the removal of old over-paint which previously had completely obscured the original sky, Christopher Brown writes: ‘The palette of colours too is entirely characteristic of these years. The evidence of the dendrochronology also supports the argument that it was painted around 1610. My own suggestion is 1612-15.’

The fact that Rubens used an oak support for this Entombment led Ben van Beneden to conclude the following in a private written communication, dated 7th February 2016: ‘…it is not likely that he would have used an oak support for a painting when in Italy, which has led to the suggestion that it must have been painted on his return to Antwerp, perhaps from a drawing./…/ It is consistent with his style of the early 1610s. Like Dr Christopher Brown, I would date ‘The Entombment’ to circa 1612–15.’

Christopher Brown continues: ‘The figure of Joseph of Arimathea, most strikingly, can be found again and again in his work from the years around 1610.’ A good example where the same model re-appears can be seen in Rubens’ The Four Evangelists of circa 1614 in the Bildergalerie, Alte Meister, Sanssouci, Potsdam.

The present panel is considerably smaller in its dimensions than Titian’s picture and Rubens rendered the composition with fluid brushstrokes of thinly applied paint making the painting more akin to a sketch than a fully worked out painting. This freedom of execution is certainly an indicator of how Rubens was not just interested in making direct copies of the earlier Masters, but also wanted to interact with them to give his own version full expression.

After Rubens’ death in 1640, an inventory was made of his private collection, which listed a number of copies after Italian Masters including Titian. This is further testament to the idea that the present work was probably made for the artist’s own study and enjoyment and kept in his private collection until the very end. This last point is made by Michael Jaffé in a letter, dated 7th February 1989 (available on request).

Additional image:
Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian, The Entombment of Christ, Musée du Grand Palais, Paris
© bpk | RMN - Grand Palais | Stéphane Maréchalle

Specialist: Damian Brenninkmeyer

Peter Paul Rubens
Convert currency
  • realized price**
    EUR 234,800
    USD 270,500
  • estimate
    EUR 200,000 to 300,000
    USD 230,500 to 345,500

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Old Master Paintings
Date: 18.10.2016, 17:00
Location: Palais Dorotheum Vienna
Exhibition: 08.10. - 18.10.2016

**Purchase price incl. all charges, commissions and taxes

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