Lot No. 528 #


Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens


Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens - Old Master Paintings

(Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)
The Holy Family with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist,
oil on canvas, 221 x 152 cm, framed

Current state of research:

Nils Büttner, who examined the painting in the original, judged it to be a work of superior quality by Peter Paul Rubens and his workshop. Professor Büttner is expected to publish the present painting in 2015. 

Fiona Healy, who also examined the painting in the original, considers it a very good work of high quality from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, executed around 1615/1620. Dr. Healy will publish the painting in the relevant volume of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, which will appear before 2020, under its own catalogue number.

Michael Jaffé judged the present painting in his most recent catalogue raisonné of 1989 as a work by Rubens and workshop (cat. no. 377).

Hans Vlieghe, who also examined the painting in the original, considers it a good work from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens.


Provenance:

Commissioned from Rubens in 1615/20 by Governor Archduke Albrecht for the chapel of Coudenberg Palace in Brussels or for the chapel of the Castle of Tervuren (cf. Puyvelde, see Literature);

1620: together with its pendant (Return from the Flight into Egypt, today Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Ct., inv. No. 1938.254) in the Castle of Tervuren near Brussels Archduke Albrecht VII, in the latter’s private chapel of St. John, near the altar, “du costel de lautel”; described in the inventory of 1620 (Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume ; Ouvrages de la cour, no. 421): “La chapelle de St Jean evangeliste: […] Une painture de ntre dame, ste anne et st joseph faict par Rubbens (the present painting); Une aultre de la mesme main estant ntre dame avecq st joseph allant de chemin (Return from the Flight in Hartford)”; and described even more precisely in another inventory of 1620 (Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365): La chapelle de st jeh(an) […]: “Une painture du costel de lautel de Rubbens avecq une vierge marie avecq le petit Jesus, ste anne, st jeh(an), s(ainc)t joseph. Une aultre painture de Nste Dame avecq st Jospeh allant de chemin”.

1651: Castle of Tervuren, Chapel of Albrecht VII: 1651 (Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 421): “A la chapelle […] Une aultre de Ntre Dame, le petit Jesus, St Jean et St Joseph”.

1667: Castle of Tervuren, Chapel of Archduke Albrecht VII, near Brussels, described in the inventory of 1667 (De Maeyer, see Literature, pp. 448–53): “En la capilla: […] Nustra Senora con el nino Jesus, San Juan y San Jusepo”. In another inventory of that year identified with its catalogue number for the first time: Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume: Chambres des comptes, no. 84/3: Kat 112: “notre dame avecq le petit Jesus dans le Berceau”.

1684: Ottone Enrico del Carretto, Marchese di Savona e di Grana, Conte di Millesimo, governor of the Spanish Netherlands; transferred to the Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels (Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365/4): “paintures du chasteau de la Vuren transportées audit lieu de la [court] d'année 1684: N 112 Notre Dame avec le petit Jesus dans un berceau”.

1687: Fray Antonio de Agurto, Marquis von Castagna, governor of the Spanish Netherlands; transferred back to the Castle of Tervuren: Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/3): “112: notre dame avecq le petit Jesus dans le Berceau”. In the storage at the Castle of Tervuren (Grenier).

1701: Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and his wife, Theresa Kunegunda Sobieska, Castle of Tervuren, third parlour of her apartment: Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/2): “112. notre dame avec le petit Jesus dans le Berceau sur lequel Ste Anne s'appuye; au chasteau de la vuren en la 3e chambre de SA” (this identification becoming clear through the localisation of the Hartford pendant, which in 1701 is mentioned to have been in the same room: “103: en la 3chambre de mad. l’elect. sur la cheminée”).

1708: Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels (shipped there from Tervuren on 15 Mai 1708 under the supervision of the ‘controleur des ouvrages de la cour’, M. Anthonine, cf. Gachard 1885, see Literature);

1708: Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels, 16 May 1708, as one of two paintings (the other being the pendant) by Rubens selected there by the 1st Duke of Marlborough for Blenheim Palace;

1708: Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels, 28 May, 1708, handed over together with Return from the Flight (now Hartford, Connecticut, see fig. 3) by ‘M. le Baron Le Roy, surintendant des bâtiments de la cour de Bruxelles’ and received by General Cadogan, adjutant of the Duke of Marlborough; cat. no. 112: “Notre Dame, l’enfant Jesus au Berceau sur lequel Sainte Anne est appuyé”; transport to England;

until 1722: in the collection of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, London and Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire;

before 1766: 5th apartment, the ‘Grand Cabinet’, south-eastern corner salon on the garden front of Blenheim Palace (described there by Martyn);

1789–97: ‘Grand Cabinet‘, Blenheim Palace (described there by Mayor);

1830–42: Blenheim Palace (described there by Smith);

1854: Blenheim Palace (described there by Waagen);

1862: Blenheim Palace, ‘Grand Cabinet’ (described there and drawn by Scharf);

1883: by inheritance to George Charles Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough;

Sale 26 June 1886: Christie’s, London, The Marlborough Collection, lot 66 (sale postponed to 24 July 1886);

1886: acquired by Charles Fairfax Murray, London and Florence, on behalf of Charles Buttler;

1886 – before 1908: collection of Charles Buttler, Warren Wood, Hatfield, England;

before 1908 – 1934: collection of Lawrence Currie, Minley Manor, Hampshire, England (see fig. 7);

1934–37: collection of Bertram Currie, Minley Manor, Hampshire, England;

sale Christie’s, London, 16 April 1937, lot 115;

1937: Durlacher Brothers, New York and London;

1942: Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Art Gallery, London and Ontario, Canada (according to the data sheet of the Rubenianum, Antwerp);

before 1949: collection of Thomas Harris, London (described by Ludwig Burchard as still having been owned by the former in 1949; see Literature);

1951: Paul Drey Gallery, New York;

after 1951: (according to Michael Jaffé) Canadian art market (see Literature);

documented since 1989 in the collection of Banca Español de Credito, Madrid (until 2013)


Exhibited:
Palacio de Exposiciones de Bellas Artes, Parque de Retiro, Madrid, as Rubens, Collection Banco Español de Crédito (according to a label on the reverse)


Literature:
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 421, 1620: “La chapelle de St Jean evangeliste: […] Une painture de ntre dame, ste anne et st joseph faict par Rubbens”
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365, 1620: “La chapelle de st jeh(an) […]: Une painture du costel de lautel de Rubbens avecq une vierge marie avecq le petit Jesus, ste anne, st jeh(an), s(ainc)t joseph”;
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 421, 1642: “A la chapelle […] Une aultre de Ntre Dame, le petit Jesus, St Jean et St Joseph”;
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/3, 1667: “Kat 112: notre dame avecq le petit Jesus dans le Berceau”;
Another inventory of 1667, quoted by Marcel de Maeyer (see below): 1667: “En la capilla: […] Nustra Senora con el nino Jesus, San Juan y San Jusepo”;
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365/4, 1684: “paintures du chasteau de la Vuren transportées audit lieu de la [court] d’année 1684: N 112 Notre Dame avec le petit Jesus dans un berceau”;
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/3, 1687: “112. notre dame avecq le petit Jesus dans le Berceau (Grenier)
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/2, 1701: “112. notre dame avec le petit Jesus dans le Berceau sur lequel Ste Anne s'appuye; au chasteau de la vuren en la 3e chambre de SA”;
Letter of 9 July 1721 from M. Anthonine, controleur des ouvrages de la cour, to the treasurer in Brussels regarding the handing over of the painting to General Cadogan, (quoted by Gachard, 1885, p. 281);

T. Martyn, The English Connoisseur, containing an Account of whatever is curious in Painting, Sculpture etc. in the Palaces and Seats of the Nobility and Principal Gentry of England, both in Town and Country, London, 1766, vol. 1, p. 19, no. 1;

R. Griffiths, “A Six Weeks Tour through England and Wales”, in: The Monthly Review or Literary Journal, vol. 38, London, 1768, p. 223;

W. Fordyce Mayor, New Description of Blenheim, London, 1789, p. 60;

W. Fordyce Mayor, New Description of Blenheim, London, 1797, p. 46;

J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters,vol. II, London, 1830, p. 246, cat. no. 837, (as Rubens)

G. F. Waagen, Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris, vol. II, Berlin, 1838, p. 41 (as Rubens);

J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, vol. IX (supplement), London, 1842, p. 321 (as Rubens);

G. F. Waagen, The Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. III, London, 1854, p. 125 (as Rubens);

G. Scharf, Catalogue Raisonné or a List of the Pictures in Blenheim Palace, with occasional remarks and illustrative notes, London, 1862, p. 56 (as Rubens);

C. G. Voorhelm Schneevogt, Catalogue des estampes gravées d’après Rubens, Paris, 1873, p. 88, cat. no. 126, copper engraving by Vorsterman;

M. Rooses, Geschiedenis der Antwerpsche Schilderschool, Gent, 1879, p. 310 (as Rubens) ;

L. Gachard, Les Tableaux de Rubens et de Van Dyck enlevés de Bruxelles par le Duc de Marlborough, Rubens Bulletin II, Antwerp/Brussels, 1885, pp. 279–82, n. 1;

The New York Times, 25 July 1886, “Blenheim Pictures Sold”: Rubens, A Holy Family;

New Zealand Herald, vol. XXIII, issue 7728, 28 August 1886, p. 2, “The Sale of Pictures at Blenheim”;

The Times, London, 26 July 1886;

M. Rooses, L’Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens, vol. I, Antwerp 1886, p. 245 and pp. 300/1, cat. no. 227, ill. 74 (the copper engraving by Vorsterman), as Rubens (preliminary design and workshop); Rooses points out the connection to the Return from the Flight (Hartford, cat. no. 182, p. 225);

W. von Bode, Die Versteigerung der Galerie Blenheim in London, in: Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, 10, 1887, p. 60 (as basically an autograph work);

G. Redford, Art Sales: A History of sales of pictures and other works of art, with notices of the collections sold, names of owners, titles of pictures, prices and purchases, arranged under the artists of the different schools in order of date, including the purchases and prices of pictures for the National Gallery, vol. I, London, 1888, pp. 413–15, vol. II, London, 1888, p. 323;

M. Rooses, Rubens’ Leben und Werke, vol. I, Berlin, 1904, cat. no. 227, pp. 286/87, p. 325, p. 337, (as Rubens (preliminary design) and workshop;

L. Currie, Catalogue of the Collection of Works of Art at Minley Manor, London, 1908, pp. 14/15, illustrated in situ, p. 81, illustrated (as Rubens);

C. Terlinden, “Notes et Documents relative à la Galerie de Tableaux conservée au Château de Tervuren aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Annexe”, in: Annales de l’Academie Royale d’Archéologie de Belgique, 6th series, vol. X, Brussels, 1922, p. 365, no. 112;

W. von Bode (ed.), R. Oldenbourg, Peter Paul Rubens, Sammlung der von Rudolf Oldenbourg veröffentlichten oder zur Veröffentlichung vorgesehenen Abhandlung über den Meister, Munich, 1922, pp. 162/63;

J. A. Goris/ J. S. Held, Rubens in America, New York, 1947; pp. 32/33 (as autograph replica of the painting in Chicago);

F. Lugt, Musée du Louvre, inventaire général des dessins des écoles du nord, école flamande, vol. II, Paris, 1959, under cat. no. 1137;

E. Larsen, P. P. Rubens, with a Complete Catalogue of His Works in America, Antwerp, 1952, p. 217, under no. 52 (as Rubens, model for the painting in Chicago);

L. van Puyvelde, Rubens, Paris, 1952, p. 112, p. 203, n. 55;

M. de Maeyer, Albrecht en Isabella en de schilderkunst, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de XVIIe eeuwsche schilderkunst in de zuidelijke Nederlanden, Brussels, 1955, p. 451, document 272, no. 76;

M. Jaffé, “The Return from the Flight in Egypt” by Peter Paul Rubens, in: Wadsworth Atheneum Bulletin 1961, S. 10-26, S. 25 (as Rubens);

L. Burchard/ R. A. d’Hulst, Rubens Drawings, Brussels, 1963, vol. I, pp. 178/79 (as Rubens and his best collaborator);

L. van Puyvelde, Rubens, Brussels, 1964, pp. 134/35 and p. 249;

(No author), Supplement to Paintings in the Art Institute in Chicago, Chicago, 1968, p. 81 (as the larger replica of the painting in Chicago);

(No author), Wadsworth Atheneum Paintings, The Netherlands and the German-Speaking Countries 15th–19th Centuries, Hartford, 1978, p. 180 and p. 182, n. 18;

G. Mulazzani, Peter Paul Rubens, Werkverzeichnis, Frankfurt, 1981, p. 58 (as Workshop of Rubens);

M. Jaffé, Rubens, Catalogo Completo, Milan, 1989, p. 219, cat. no. 377 (as Rubens and Workshop);

S. van Sprang, Rubens and Brussels – more than just courtly relations, in: J. van der Auwera, Rubens, A Genius at Work, The Works of Peter Paul Rubens in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium Reconsidered, Antwerp, 2007, pp. 12–17, n. 29 (as a work by Rubens already mentioned in 1620).


Prints:
Michel Lasne, c. 1617 (with variations and without Elizabeth/Anne and the cradle, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 123);

Lucas Vorsterman, c. 1620 (with varied background, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 126);

Jean de Loysey (with varied background, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 127);

J. Troyen (with varied background, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 130);

Herman Veyen (with varied background, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 132


Drawings:
London, British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings, inv. no. 1860.0616.89;

Paris, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des dessins, Fonds des dessins et miniatures, inv. no. 20319, recto (Lugt 1137)

Further versions of the composition:
Art Institute, Chicago (inv. no. 1967.229), a smaller version (oil on panel, 118 x 90 cm), ex Coll. Poulin, 1840; Coll. William Hope; a copy according to Rooses that was later accepted as autograph by M. Jaffé;

sale, Christie’s, London, 13 April 1973, lot 80 (copy based on the version in Chicago).

We are especially grateful to Dr. Sabine van Sprang for her assistance in researching the painting’s early provenance.

Between 1615 and 1620, Archduke Albrecht VII, governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1598 to 1621, commissioned Peter Paul Rubens with two paintings, a Holy Family and a Return from the Flight into Egypt, for his private chapel in the Palace of Coudenberg in Brussels. Leo van Puyvelde was the first to identify these two works as the present Holy Family (oil on canvas, 221 x 152 cm) and Return of the Holy Family from the Flight into Egypt, now in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut (inv. no. 1938.254, oil on canvas, 225 x 156 cm, see L. van Puyvelde, Rubens, Paris, 1952, pp. 112, 203, n. 55, and idem, Rubens, Brussels, 1964, pp. 134/35, p. 249). Evidently they were brought to the Castle of Tervuren, the governor’s summer residence outside Brussels, shortly after they had been delivered. At Tervuren they were inventoried as being installed in the Church of St. John, the archduke’s private chapel, as early as 1620:

La chapelle de st jeh(an) […]: Une painture du costel de lautel de Rubbens avecq une vierge marie avecq le petit Jesus, ste anne, st jeh(an), s(ainc)t joseph (Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365, 1620): According to the inventory, they were placed directly beside the altar. Before 1667, the two paintings were assigned inventory numbers 103 (Return from the Flight) and 112 (Holy Family). The Holy Family appears in all the inventories drawn up in 1620, 1651, 1667 (when it was first inventoried as no. 112), 1684, 1687, and 1701, either at the Castle of Tervuren or at the Palace of Coudenberg in Brussels. In the inventory of 1667, only the present Holy Family is listed, whilst its pendant is no longer mentioned. In 1955, Marcel de Maeyer conducted in-depth research on the commissions Rubens received from the archducal couple. He also dealt with the identification of the paintings mentioned in the inventories and assumed that Return from the Flight returned to the Royal Palace in Brussels after 1642, where it was installed on the altar of the family chapel (see de Maeyer 1955, pp. 117 and 458, document 272, no. 76). For the year 1701, both paintings are recorded to have once again been installed in Tervuren (see Terlinden, Brussels 1922, p. 365, no. 112, p. 359). They were then owned by Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria, governor of the Spanish Netherlands at that time, and were installed together in the third parlour of the Electress: 112: notre dame avec le petit Jesus dans le Berceau sur lequel Ste Anne s'appuye; au chasteau de la vuren en la 3e chambre de SA (the present painting) and 103: en la 3chambre de mad. l’elect. sur la cheminée (Return from the Flight; Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/2, 1701).

It was only now, in preparation for this catalogue entry, that the two paintings were successfully identified in the inventories and that it was possible to reconstruct their complete early history. This is one of the rare cases in which the provenance of a painting by Rubens is traceable to the master’s studio almost without interruption.

This is particularly relevant as the archduke and archduchess were extremely important patrons. Rubens, having returned from Italy in 1608, had settled in Antwerp, where he remained, although Archduke Albrecht had appointed him court painter, ‘peintre de notre hôtel’, in Brussels in 1609. Rubens held this position even beyond Albrecht’s death in 1621, during the reigns of the archduke’s successors. He created some of his principal works for the archducal couple, such as the famous Ildefonso Altarpiece, which was commissioned by the recently widowed archduchess in memory of her husband for the Palace of Coudenberg and which has been conserved in Vienna since 1777. It seems that Rubens had found his most important patrons in Archduke Albrecht VII and his wife, Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia (cf. Sprang 2007, p. 14). The broad spectrum of the couple’s collections at the Castle of Tervuren is not least reflected in the views of their picture gallery painted by Jan Brueghel the Elder. After the long period of devastation caused by the Hundred Years’ War and after the Spanish rule of their predecessors, Albrecht and Isabella sought to consolidate their position in society and government by demonstrating a strong bond with the people and their country. The revival of the old Habsburg country palaces was part of their strategy. The important role of the summer residences of Mariemont and Tervuren, which the couple had rebuilt and expanded, is also underscored by several paintings by Rubens and Brueghel showing the archduke and archduchess in front of their palaces (see, for example, Jan Brueghel I and P. P. Rubens, Archduke Albrecht in Front of the Castle of Tervuren, Museo del Prado, Madrid, inv. no. 1683, fig.1) Receiving such a commission from his patrons was therefore a great motivation for the court painter.

The further history of the two paintings, which around 1700 adorned the apartments of the governor at that time, Max Emanuel of Bavaria, is interesting beyond the art historical perspective. In 1885, Louis Gachard, referring to recently unearthed sources (see Gachard 1885, pp. 279–82, n. 1), described the acquisition of the present painting by the Duke of Marlborough (fig. 2 ). Both paintings would remain in the collection of the famous military leader’s family for almost 200 years. The victory of the allied troops, led by Marlborough, in the Battle of Ramillies over the French on 23 May 1706 resulted in the Alliance’s control of the provinces of Brabant and Flanders, which were administered on behalf of the Spanish pretender, Archduke Charles (King Charles III, the future Emperor Charles VI). The Spanish administration was made subordinate to a conference of high-ranking representatives from the States General of the Netherlands and England. Marlborough, the English representative, was ceremonially received in Brussels on 15 May 1708 together with Cadogan, his adjutant. It was part of the honours bestowed upon the military commander, who was known as a passionate collector, to present him with several precious paintings. Marlborough was particularly fond of Rubens’s works and was to compile a prominent collection of the artist’s paintings in England during his lifetime. On 11 May 1706, the Privy Council decreed that almost forty of the most outstanding paintings should be transferred to Brussels from the picture gallery at Tervuren. From these, Marlborough selected five paintings one day after his arrival in Brussels, on 16 May 1708, which were shipped to England and subsequently to Blenheim Palace (figs. 4, 5 ; see Gachard 1885, p. 281). M. Anthonine, the curator of the royal collections, described this transaction in a letter to the treasury in Brussels on 9 July 1721: “Messieurs, en conséquence de l’ordre du conseil donné au feu chatelain de la Vure, en date 11 mai 1708, il m’a delivré le 15 du même mois, trente-six tableaux, lesquels, au même instant, on a placés dans la cour. Or il est que, le 16 mai 1708, S. A. le duc et prince de Marlborough et S. E. de Cadogan sont venus voir alors lesdits tableaux, en presence du conseiller et commis Servati, et on désigné cinq pieces lesquelles ils m’ont ordonné de faire porter au logement dudit seigneur Cadogan…” (quoted from Gachard 1885, p. 281).
Cadogan acknowledged receipt of the paintings: “Nous, soussigné, plénipotentiaire de sa Majesté Britannique, déclarons avoir récu de M. le Baron Le Roy, surintendant des bâtiments de la cour de Bruxelles, les cinq tableaux ci-dessus mentionnés, a savoir: celui nombré 103, désignant Notre Dame, son enfant Jésus et St. Joseph, grande pièce de Rubens, encore celui nombré 112, désignant Notre Dame, l’enfant Jésus au berceau, sur lequel Sainte Anne est appuyée, de Rubens, encore celui nombré, qui est le portrait de Sa Majesté Britannique Charles Stuart, de van Dyck, encore celui nombré 53, qui est un portrait d’une reine d’Angleterre de van Dyck, encore celui sans nombre désignant l’assemblée des Dieux, petite pièce, moulure dorée. Fait à Bruxelles, le 28 mai 1708” (quoted from Gachard 1885, p. 281).

The two Van Dycks rank among the artist’s masterpieces. As the other paintings by Rubens once figuring in the collection of the 1st Duke of Marlborough (now owned by the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York) reveal, Marlborough was an excellent connoisseur of the works of his favourite painter. The fact that the present work and its pendant were the only works by Rubens Marlborough chose from the wealth of the Teruvren collection underscores the great significance of the Holy Family. Interest in the painting was roused following its shipment to England and continues to this day. Waagen, Smith (”An example of the highest excellence”), Scharf (see Literature), and other art historians heaped praise on the Holy Family. An interesting drawing George Scharf made of the painting (fig. 6) when he saw it at Blenheim Palace in 1861 proves that the Holy Family has not been significantly altered since then, such as in the course of restoration. Scharf also noted down the colours of the work. Smith erroneously recorded and published wrong dimensions (approx. 190 x 130 cm), which were subsequently adopted by several authors, whereas the correct dimensions are given in the auction catalogue of 1886 and by Jaffé (1989). In 1887, Rooses, who had lauded the colours and technical treatment of the Holy Family several years earlier (see Rooses1879, p. 310: “Onze lieve vrouw met het Kind, St. Jozef, en St. Anna, in den verzameling van den hertog van Marlborough, alle meesterstukken van lifelijke uitdrucking en stralende kleuring…”), established a connection between the two paintings (the present painting and its Hartford pendant) and, in terms of execution, recognised the participation of the workshop (see Rooses 1886, p. 245 and pp. 300/1, cat. no. 227). In 1887, Wilhelm von Bode described the painting as “the beautiful large Holy Family, basically an autograph work” (see von Bode, 1887, p. 60), an assessment he also upheld as editor of the writings of Rudolf Oldenbourg in 1922.

In the further course of research, a smaller version painted on panel, which is now in Chicago and which Rooses classified as a copy, gained increasing importance. Scholars today still have not reached a final agreement as to which of the two versions was painted first. Larsen described it as a replica of the present painting reduced in size (Larsen 1952, p. 217, under no. 52). Ludwig Burchard considered the present painting to be a variant of the composition’s version in Chicago, made by Rubens and his best collaborator (see Burchard/ d’Hulst1963, vol. I, pp. 178/88, cat. no. 113, preliminary drawing).
Leo van Puyvelde, who succeeded in reconstructing the genesis and actual context of the creation of the two pendants, preferred the present painting to the Chicago version in several publications (see van Puyvelde1964, pp. 134/35 and p. 249). The most recent catalogue raisonné by Michael Jaffé (1989) describes the painting in Chicago as the first version and the present painting as a joint product by Rubens and his collaborators, with Rubens’s hand showing clearly above all in the passages of the Christ Child (“La figura del bambino rivela l’intervento esteso del Maestro”, see Jaffé 1989, p. 219, no. 377). These gradual classifications appear to be of little relevance in view of Rubens’s oeuvre and the period in which the work was executed. The Holy Family was painted during the most productive and most financially successful years in Rubens’s career. His arrival in Antwerp coincided with the armistice of 1609, after which the economic situation received new impetus in general. The subsequent years in Antwerp brought him numerous prestigious assignments, such as an altarpiece for the Church of St. Bravo (Raising of the Cross and Descent from the Cross), an Assumption of the Virgin for Antwerp Cathedral, and a painting for the town hall on the occasion of the signing of the armistice (The Adoration of the Magi). He also worked for European courts – the Habsburgs, the Medici family, the Royal Family of England – as well as for the higher aristocracy. In addition, he received commissions from patrician patrons and the Jesuit order, which emphatically promoted the programme of the Counter-Reformation in its policy of art patronage. During these years, it was only possible for the master to cope with such a workload with the aid of a well- organized workshop. Even for such important commissions as the present painting or for the famous Ildefonso Altarpiece, Rubens had to rely on the help of numerous students and collaborators, including Anthony van Dyck (between 1616 and 1620) and Jacob Jordaens (between 1615 and 1617). In a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton, the English envoy in The Hague, Rubens explained his practice of collaborating with his students and pointed out that a work designed and outlined by him and to which he added finishing touches after it had been executed by a collaborator must be considered an original: “de cette fasson, il passera pour un original” (M. Rooses/ C. Ruelens, Correspondance de Rubens, vol. II, preprint, Soest, 1974, p. 139).
These art historians, who assessed the present painting in preparation of this catalogue, considered the Holy Family as a work of outstanding quality that was doubtlessly completed before 1620. Knowing Rubens’s working method, it is impossible to definitely clarify whether the picture was exclusively painted by him or whether he was supported by collaborators like Jordaens, Van Dyck, or Soutmann and supervised and corrected the execution of his design. Given the work’s prominent provenance, the few compositional modifications detectable with the aid of X-ray and infrared photography or recognisable with the naked eye, and not least the undeniably superior quality of the present painting, it has to be regarded as a product of the Rubens Studio with the Master, the degree of whose participation will be impossible to determine. This opinion was shared by many other Rubens experts. Nils Büttner intends to publish the present painting in 2015 as workshop, as will Fiona Healy in the relevant volume of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, which is to appear by 2020 and in which the present painting will be assigned a catalogue number of its own.

Besides the version in Chicago and a copy auctioned at Christie’s in 1973, there are two drawings related to the present composition – one from the Mariette Collection and now in the British Museum in London (inv. no. 1860.0616.89, see fig. 8) and another in the Louvre in Paris (inv. no. 20319, see fig. 9). Rubens seems to have been occupied with this composition over an extensive period of time. One of the copper engravings – the one made by Lucas Vorsterman in 1620 – is dedicated to the deceased wife of Nicolaes Rockocx, a friend and patron. The picture in Hartford, which evidently seems to be the pendant to our painting, was likewise engraved by Vorsterman. The engraving was among those works by Vorsterman mentioned by Rubens in a letter to Pieter van Veen as particularly felicitous (cf. Ruelens, p. 83 and p. 143, quoted from Rooses 1886, p. 300). Both the drawings and the prints are proof that Rubens devoted himself to the subject in the lengthy process of preparation and utilization that was so typical of him once he found a composition satisfactory. In this context it is interesting to notice that none of the other versions, neither the engravings nor the two drawings, show the innovative invention of the fireplace in the upper right section of the picture. This area demonstrates that the composition was modified while it was being painted. On the chimneypiece, under the festoon suspended from a scroll and ring, we recognise a putto whose swiftly and confidently drawn arms reach for the pieces of fruit in the garland. During the examination of the original painting it turned out that its dimensions correspond to those of the largest standard format offered by Rubens, and the pigments used were also found to be characteristic of the artist. Moreover, several alterations of the original concept were detected in the cloak of Saint Joseph. Nils Büttner, who examined the original painting with the aid of X-ray photography and infrared reflectography, discovered but few modifications, for example in the face of the Madonna (see fig. 10), whose chin Rubens seems to have shifted further towards the back, and in the positions of the heads of Saint Anne and Saint Joseph. A significant conceptual change in the floorboards is even visible to the naked eye. Originally they were aligned according to the principles of central perspective and, as the process of painting progressed, were changed in such a way that they would converge towards the left. Nils Büttner and his collaborators at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart therefore concluded that the perspective of the painting was adapted to the site where it would be installed. In this way, the Holy Family became a ‘left’ picture, whereas its pendant would have to be hung as a ‘right’ picture. The distinct movement towards the left of the Return from the Flight in Hartford corroborates this hypothesis. The fireplace in the upper section of the Holy Family was probably meant to respond to an architectural element, such as a doorframe or architrave decorated with similar festoons that might have been between the two paintings when they were installed at Coudenberg or Tervuren. However, the painting did not lose its perspectival effect through the change in direction of the floorboards to the left, even if the spectator was positioned centrally between the two paintings.

In the course of the preparation of this catalogue entry, the original painting was examined by several art historians, who agreed that the painting in Chicago seems to be Rubens’s original conception of the painting, while for the present painting the composition was adapted out of necessity, in order to fill a certain format. This was successfully achieved by Rubens through the fireplace, a relatively unique invention in the artist’s oeuvre, which was introduced in order to animate the upper third of the composition and seems to have been necessary in order to adjust its format to that of its pendant, the Return from the Flight. This solution adds to the picture’s unusual impression. Through the elegance of the diagonal composition, entirely characteristic of the artist’s so-called ‘Second Antwerp Period’, and the powerful colours, Rubens not only alluded to the heavenly spheres here, but literally also brought the scene back down to earth. By the choice of the scene, he transferred the biblical episode into an interior that was closer to the spectator’s experience, thereby grounding the event in everyday life. The fireplace in the background, the plain wooden floor, and the wickerwork cradle almost create a homely atmosphere. Moreover, the contemporary garments and the precise drawing of the protagonists, whose features are based on individual studies Rubens made from life, relying on Antwerp models, contribute to the spectator’s identification with a theme that by its nature is removed from reality. Choosing this approach, Rubens and his workshop collaborators did not violate the important law of decorum of the Counter-Reformation that would have applied to such a subject, but lent it an appropriate noble and dignified monumentality, despite all the contemporary elements. 

 

additional pictures:
fig. 1: Jan Brueghel I. and Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Archduke Albrecht VII before his summer palace in Tervuren, where the painting was located between 1620–1708, Madrid, Museo del Prado

fig. 2: Adriaen van der Werff, Portrait of John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough. He received the present painting in 1708, Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina.

fig. 3: Peter Paul Rubens, The return of the Holy Family from Egypt, about 1615 – the pendant , formerly Marlborough Collection, today Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut

fig .4, 5: Blenheim Palace. The Holy Family has probably been located in the Grand Cabinet, the right corner pavilion on the park side of the palace, since 1720, but documented between 1766–1886.

fig. 6: George Scharf’s drawing of the present painting in Blenheim Palace, 1861 (we are grateful to Fiona Healy for her reference to this drawing)

fig .7: The Holy Family in the salon of Minley Manor, 1907

fig. 8: Rubens’ drawing for the present composition, London, British Museum

fig. 9: drawing (Rubens?), Paris, Louvre

fig. 10: infrared image of the present, painting, detail

Specialist: Dr. Alexander Strasoldo Dr. Alexander Strasoldo
+43-1-515 60-556

alexander.strasoldo@dorotheum.at

09.04.2014 - 18:00

Realized price: **
EUR 503,030.-
Estimate:
EUR 400,000.- to EUR 600,000.-

Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens


(Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp)
The Holy Family with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist,
oil on canvas, 221 x 152 cm, framed

Current state of research:

Nils Büttner, who examined the painting in the original, judged it to be a work of superior quality by Peter Paul Rubens and his workshop. Professor Büttner is expected to publish the present painting in 2015. 

Fiona Healy, who also examined the painting in the original, considers it a very good work of high quality from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, executed around 1615/1620. Dr. Healy will publish the painting in the relevant volume of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, which will appear before 2020, under its own catalogue number.

Michael Jaffé judged the present painting in his most recent catalogue raisonné of 1989 as a work by Rubens and workshop (cat. no. 377).

Hans Vlieghe, who also examined the painting in the original, considers it a good work from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens.


Provenance:

Commissioned from Rubens in 1615/20 by Governor Archduke Albrecht for the chapel of Coudenberg Palace in Brussels or for the chapel of the Castle of Tervuren (cf. Puyvelde, see Literature);

1620: together with its pendant (Return from the Flight into Egypt, today Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Ct., inv. No. 1938.254) in the Castle of Tervuren near Brussels Archduke Albrecht VII, in the latter’s private chapel of St. John, near the altar, “du costel de lautel”; described in the inventory of 1620 (Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume ; Ouvrages de la cour, no. 421): “La chapelle de St Jean evangeliste: […] Une painture de ntre dame, ste anne et st joseph faict par Rubbens (the present painting); Une aultre de la mesme main estant ntre dame avecq st joseph allant de chemin (Return from the Flight in Hartford)”; and described even more precisely in another inventory of 1620 (Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365): La chapelle de st jeh(an) […]: “Une painture du costel de lautel de Rubbens avecq une vierge marie avecq le petit Jesus, ste anne, st jeh(an), s(ainc)t joseph. Une aultre painture de Nste Dame avecq st Jospeh allant de chemin”.

1651: Castle of Tervuren, Chapel of Albrecht VII: 1651 (Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 421): “A la chapelle […] Une aultre de Ntre Dame, le petit Jesus, St Jean et St Joseph”.

1667: Castle of Tervuren, Chapel of Archduke Albrecht VII, near Brussels, described in the inventory of 1667 (De Maeyer, see Literature, pp. 448–53): “En la capilla: […] Nustra Senora con el nino Jesus, San Juan y San Jusepo”. In another inventory of that year identified with its catalogue number for the first time: Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume: Chambres des comptes, no. 84/3: Kat 112: “notre dame avecq le petit Jesus dans le Berceau”.

1684: Ottone Enrico del Carretto, Marchese di Savona e di Grana, Conte di Millesimo, governor of the Spanish Netherlands; transferred to the Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels (Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365/4): “paintures du chasteau de la Vuren transportées audit lieu de la [court] d'année 1684: N 112 Notre Dame avec le petit Jesus dans un berceau”.

1687: Fray Antonio de Agurto, Marquis von Castagna, governor of the Spanish Netherlands; transferred back to the Castle of Tervuren: Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/3): “112: notre dame avecq le petit Jesus dans le Berceau”. In the storage at the Castle of Tervuren (Grenier).

1701: Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and his wife, Theresa Kunegunda Sobieska, Castle of Tervuren, third parlour of her apartment: Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/2): “112. notre dame avec le petit Jesus dans le Berceau sur lequel Ste Anne s'appuye; au chasteau de la vuren en la 3e chambre de SA” (this identification becoming clear through the localisation of the Hartford pendant, which in 1701 is mentioned to have been in the same room: “103: en la 3chambre de mad. l’elect. sur la cheminée”).

1708: Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels (shipped there from Tervuren on 15 Mai 1708 under the supervision of the ‘controleur des ouvrages de la cour’, M. Anthonine, cf. Gachard 1885, see Literature);

1708: Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels, 16 May 1708, as one of two paintings (the other being the pendant) by Rubens selected there by the 1st Duke of Marlborough for Blenheim Palace;

1708: Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels, 28 May, 1708, handed over together with Return from the Flight (now Hartford, Connecticut, see fig. 3) by ‘M. le Baron Le Roy, surintendant des bâtiments de la cour de Bruxelles’ and received by General Cadogan, adjutant of the Duke of Marlborough; cat. no. 112: “Notre Dame, l’enfant Jesus au Berceau sur lequel Sainte Anne est appuyé”; transport to England;

until 1722: in the collection of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, London and Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire;

before 1766: 5th apartment, the ‘Grand Cabinet’, south-eastern corner salon on the garden front of Blenheim Palace (described there by Martyn);

1789–97: ‘Grand Cabinet‘, Blenheim Palace (described there by Mayor);

1830–42: Blenheim Palace (described there by Smith);

1854: Blenheim Palace (described there by Waagen);

1862: Blenheim Palace, ‘Grand Cabinet’ (described there and drawn by Scharf);

1883: by inheritance to George Charles Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough;

Sale 26 June 1886: Christie’s, London, The Marlborough Collection, lot 66 (sale postponed to 24 July 1886);

1886: acquired by Charles Fairfax Murray, London and Florence, on behalf of Charles Buttler;

1886 – before 1908: collection of Charles Buttler, Warren Wood, Hatfield, England;

before 1908 – 1934: collection of Lawrence Currie, Minley Manor, Hampshire, England (see fig. 7);

1934–37: collection of Bertram Currie, Minley Manor, Hampshire, England;

sale Christie’s, London, 16 April 1937, lot 115;

1937: Durlacher Brothers, New York and London;

1942: Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Art Gallery, London and Ontario, Canada (according to the data sheet of the Rubenianum, Antwerp);

before 1949: collection of Thomas Harris, London (described by Ludwig Burchard as still having been owned by the former in 1949; see Literature);

1951: Paul Drey Gallery, New York;

after 1951: (according to Michael Jaffé) Canadian art market (see Literature);

documented since 1989 in the collection of Banca Español de Credito, Madrid (until 2013)


Exhibited:
Palacio de Exposiciones de Bellas Artes, Parque de Retiro, Madrid, as Rubens, Collection Banco Español de Crédito (according to a label on the reverse)


Literature:
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 421, 1620: “La chapelle de St Jean evangeliste: […] Une painture de ntre dame, ste anne et st joseph faict par Rubbens”
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365, 1620: “La chapelle de st jeh(an) […]: Une painture du costel de lautel de Rubbens avecq une vierge marie avecq le petit Jesus, ste anne, st jeh(an), s(ainc)t joseph”;
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 421, 1642: “A la chapelle […] Une aultre de Ntre Dame, le petit Jesus, St Jean et St Joseph”;
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/3, 1667: “Kat 112: notre dame avecq le petit Jesus dans le Berceau”;
Another inventory of 1667, quoted by Marcel de Maeyer (see below): 1667: “En la capilla: […] Nustra Senora con el nino Jesus, San Juan y San Jusepo”;
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365/4, 1684: “paintures du chasteau de la Vuren transportées audit lieu de la [court] d’année 1684: N 112 Notre Dame avec le petit Jesus dans un berceau”;
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/3, 1687: “112. notre dame avecq le petit Jesus dans le Berceau (Grenier)
Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/2, 1701: “112. notre dame avec le petit Jesus dans le Berceau sur lequel Ste Anne s'appuye; au chasteau de la vuren en la 3e chambre de SA”;
Letter of 9 July 1721 from M. Anthonine, controleur des ouvrages de la cour, to the treasurer in Brussels regarding the handing over of the painting to General Cadogan, (quoted by Gachard, 1885, p. 281);

T. Martyn, The English Connoisseur, containing an Account of whatever is curious in Painting, Sculpture etc. in the Palaces and Seats of the Nobility and Principal Gentry of England, both in Town and Country, London, 1766, vol. 1, p. 19, no. 1;

R. Griffiths, “A Six Weeks Tour through England and Wales”, in: The Monthly Review or Literary Journal, vol. 38, London, 1768, p. 223;

W. Fordyce Mayor, New Description of Blenheim, London, 1789, p. 60;

W. Fordyce Mayor, New Description of Blenheim, London, 1797, p. 46;

J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters,vol. II, London, 1830, p. 246, cat. no. 837, (as Rubens)

G. F. Waagen, Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris, vol. II, Berlin, 1838, p. 41 (as Rubens);

J. Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, vol. IX (supplement), London, 1842, p. 321 (as Rubens);

G. F. Waagen, The Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. III, London, 1854, p. 125 (as Rubens);

G. Scharf, Catalogue Raisonné or a List of the Pictures in Blenheim Palace, with occasional remarks and illustrative notes, London, 1862, p. 56 (as Rubens);

C. G. Voorhelm Schneevogt, Catalogue des estampes gravées d’après Rubens, Paris, 1873, p. 88, cat. no. 126, copper engraving by Vorsterman;

M. Rooses, Geschiedenis der Antwerpsche Schilderschool, Gent, 1879, p. 310 (as Rubens) ;

L. Gachard, Les Tableaux de Rubens et de Van Dyck enlevés de Bruxelles par le Duc de Marlborough, Rubens Bulletin II, Antwerp/Brussels, 1885, pp. 279–82, n. 1;

The New York Times, 25 July 1886, “Blenheim Pictures Sold”: Rubens, A Holy Family;

New Zealand Herald, vol. XXIII, issue 7728, 28 August 1886, p. 2, “The Sale of Pictures at Blenheim”;

The Times, London, 26 July 1886;

M. Rooses, L’Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens, vol. I, Antwerp 1886, p. 245 and pp. 300/1, cat. no. 227, ill. 74 (the copper engraving by Vorsterman), as Rubens (preliminary design and workshop); Rooses points out the connection to the Return from the Flight (Hartford, cat. no. 182, p. 225);

W. von Bode, Die Versteigerung der Galerie Blenheim in London, in: Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, 10, 1887, p. 60 (as basically an autograph work);

G. Redford, Art Sales: A History of sales of pictures and other works of art, with notices of the collections sold, names of owners, titles of pictures, prices and purchases, arranged under the artists of the different schools in order of date, including the purchases and prices of pictures for the National Gallery, vol. I, London, 1888, pp. 413–15, vol. II, London, 1888, p. 323;

M. Rooses, Rubens’ Leben und Werke, vol. I, Berlin, 1904, cat. no. 227, pp. 286/87, p. 325, p. 337, (as Rubens (preliminary design) and workshop;

L. Currie, Catalogue of the Collection of Works of Art at Minley Manor, London, 1908, pp. 14/15, illustrated in situ, p. 81, illustrated (as Rubens);

C. Terlinden, “Notes et Documents relative à la Galerie de Tableaux conservée au Château de Tervuren aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Annexe”, in: Annales de l’Academie Royale d’Archéologie de Belgique, 6th series, vol. X, Brussels, 1922, p. 365, no. 112;

W. von Bode (ed.), R. Oldenbourg, Peter Paul Rubens, Sammlung der von Rudolf Oldenbourg veröffentlichten oder zur Veröffentlichung vorgesehenen Abhandlung über den Meister, Munich, 1922, pp. 162/63;

J. A. Goris/ J. S. Held, Rubens in America, New York, 1947; pp. 32/33 (as autograph replica of the painting in Chicago);

F. Lugt, Musée du Louvre, inventaire général des dessins des écoles du nord, école flamande, vol. II, Paris, 1959, under cat. no. 1137;

E. Larsen, P. P. Rubens, with a Complete Catalogue of His Works in America, Antwerp, 1952, p. 217, under no. 52 (as Rubens, model for the painting in Chicago);

L. van Puyvelde, Rubens, Paris, 1952, p. 112, p. 203, n. 55;

M. de Maeyer, Albrecht en Isabella en de schilderkunst, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de XVIIe eeuwsche schilderkunst in de zuidelijke Nederlanden, Brussels, 1955, p. 451, document 272, no. 76;

M. Jaffé, “The Return from the Flight in Egypt” by Peter Paul Rubens, in: Wadsworth Atheneum Bulletin 1961, S. 10-26, S. 25 (as Rubens);

L. Burchard/ R. A. d’Hulst, Rubens Drawings, Brussels, 1963, vol. I, pp. 178/79 (as Rubens and his best collaborator);

L. van Puyvelde, Rubens, Brussels, 1964, pp. 134/35 and p. 249;

(No author), Supplement to Paintings in the Art Institute in Chicago, Chicago, 1968, p. 81 (as the larger replica of the painting in Chicago);

(No author), Wadsworth Atheneum Paintings, The Netherlands and the German-Speaking Countries 15th–19th Centuries, Hartford, 1978, p. 180 and p. 182, n. 18;

G. Mulazzani, Peter Paul Rubens, Werkverzeichnis, Frankfurt, 1981, p. 58 (as Workshop of Rubens);

M. Jaffé, Rubens, Catalogo Completo, Milan, 1989, p. 219, cat. no. 377 (as Rubens and Workshop);

S. van Sprang, Rubens and Brussels – more than just courtly relations, in: J. van der Auwera, Rubens, A Genius at Work, The Works of Peter Paul Rubens in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium Reconsidered, Antwerp, 2007, pp. 12–17, n. 29 (as a work by Rubens already mentioned in 1620).


Prints:
Michel Lasne, c. 1617 (with variations and without Elizabeth/Anne and the cradle, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 123);

Lucas Vorsterman, c. 1620 (with varied background, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 126);

Jean de Loysey (with varied background, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 127);

J. Troyen (with varied background, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 130);

Herman Veyen (with varied background, Voorhelm-Schneevogt, 1873, cat. no. 132


Drawings:
London, British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings, inv. no. 1860.0616.89;

Paris, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des dessins, Fonds des dessins et miniatures, inv. no. 20319, recto (Lugt 1137)

Further versions of the composition:
Art Institute, Chicago (inv. no. 1967.229), a smaller version (oil on panel, 118 x 90 cm), ex Coll. Poulin, 1840; Coll. William Hope; a copy according to Rooses that was later accepted as autograph by M. Jaffé;

sale, Christie’s, London, 13 April 1973, lot 80 (copy based on the version in Chicago).

We are especially grateful to Dr. Sabine van Sprang for her assistance in researching the painting’s early provenance.

Between 1615 and 1620, Archduke Albrecht VII, governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1598 to 1621, commissioned Peter Paul Rubens with two paintings, a Holy Family and a Return from the Flight into Egypt, for his private chapel in the Palace of Coudenberg in Brussels. Leo van Puyvelde was the first to identify these two works as the present Holy Family (oil on canvas, 221 x 152 cm) and Return of the Holy Family from the Flight into Egypt, now in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut (inv. no. 1938.254, oil on canvas, 225 x 156 cm, see L. van Puyvelde, Rubens, Paris, 1952, pp. 112, 203, n. 55, and idem, Rubens, Brussels, 1964, pp. 134/35, p. 249). Evidently they were brought to the Castle of Tervuren, the governor’s summer residence outside Brussels, shortly after they had been delivered. At Tervuren they were inventoried as being installed in the Church of St. John, the archduke’s private chapel, as early as 1620:

La chapelle de st jeh(an) […]: Une painture du costel de lautel de Rubbens avecq une vierge marie avecq le petit Jesus, ste anne, st jeh(an), s(ainc)t joseph (Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Ouvrages de la cour, no. 365, 1620): According to the inventory, they were placed directly beside the altar. Before 1667, the two paintings were assigned inventory numbers 103 (Return from the Flight) and 112 (Holy Family). The Holy Family appears in all the inventories drawn up in 1620, 1651, 1667 (when it was first inventoried as no. 112), 1684, 1687, and 1701, either at the Castle of Tervuren or at the Palace of Coudenberg in Brussels. In the inventory of 1667, only the present Holy Family is listed, whilst its pendant is no longer mentioned. In 1955, Marcel de Maeyer conducted in-depth research on the commissions Rubens received from the archducal couple. He also dealt with the identification of the paintings mentioned in the inventories and assumed that Return from the Flight returned to the Royal Palace in Brussels after 1642, where it was installed on the altar of the family chapel (see de Maeyer 1955, pp. 117 and 458, document 272, no. 76). For the year 1701, both paintings are recorded to have once again been installed in Tervuren (see Terlinden, Brussels 1922, p. 365, no. 112, p. 359). They were then owned by Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria, governor of the Spanish Netherlands at that time, and were installed together in the third parlour of the Electress: 112: notre dame avec le petit Jesus dans le Berceau sur lequel Ste Anne s'appuye; au chasteau de la vuren en la 3e chambre de SA (the present painting) and 103: en la 3chambre de mad. l’elect. sur la cheminée (Return from the Flight; Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, Chambres des comptes, no. 84/2, 1701).

It was only now, in preparation for this catalogue entry, that the two paintings were successfully identified in the inventories and that it was possible to reconstruct their complete early history. This is one of the rare cases in which the provenance of a painting by Rubens is traceable to the master’s studio almost without interruption.

This is particularly relevant as the archduke and archduchess were extremely important patrons. Rubens, having returned from Italy in 1608, had settled in Antwerp, where he remained, although Archduke Albrecht had appointed him court painter, ‘peintre de notre hôtel’, in Brussels in 1609. Rubens held this position even beyond Albrecht’s death in 1621, during the reigns of the archduke’s successors. He created some of his principal works for the archducal couple, such as the famous Ildefonso Altarpiece, which was commissioned by the recently widowed archduchess in memory of her husband for the Palace of Coudenberg and which has been conserved in Vienna since 1777. It seems that Rubens had found his most important patrons in Archduke Albrecht VII and his wife, Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia (cf. Sprang 2007, p. 14). The broad spectrum of the couple’s collections at the Castle of Tervuren is not least reflected in the views of their picture gallery painted by Jan Brueghel the Elder. After the long period of devastation caused by the Hundred Years’ War and after the Spanish rule of their predecessors, Albrecht and Isabella sought to consolidate their position in society and government by demonstrating a strong bond with the people and their country. The revival of the old Habsburg country palaces was part of their strategy. The important role of the summer residences of Mariemont and Tervuren, which the couple had rebuilt and expanded, is also underscored by several paintings by Rubens and Brueghel showing the archduke and archduchess in front of their palaces (see, for example, Jan Brueghel I and P. P. Rubens, Archduke Albrecht in Front of the Castle of Tervuren, Museo del Prado, Madrid, inv. no. 1683, fig.1) Receiving such a commission from his patrons was therefore a great motivation for the court painter.

The further history of the two paintings, which around 1700 adorned the apartments of the governor at that time, Max Emanuel of Bavaria, is interesting beyond the art historical perspective. In 1885, Louis Gachard, referring to recently unearthed sources (see Gachard 1885, pp. 279–82, n. 1), described the acquisition of the present painting by the Duke of Marlborough (fig. 2 ). Both paintings would remain in the collection of the famous military leader’s family for almost 200 years. The victory of the allied troops, led by Marlborough, in the Battle of Ramillies over the French on 23 May 1706 resulted in the Alliance’s control of the provinces of Brabant and Flanders, which were administered on behalf of the Spanish pretender, Archduke Charles (King Charles III, the future Emperor Charles VI). The Spanish administration was made subordinate to a conference of high-ranking representatives from the States General of the Netherlands and England. Marlborough, the English representative, was ceremonially received in Brussels on 15 May 1708 together with Cadogan, his adjutant. It was part of the honours bestowed upon the military commander, who was known as a passionate collector, to present him with several precious paintings. Marlborough was particularly fond of Rubens’s works and was to compile a prominent collection of the artist’s paintings in England during his lifetime. On 11 May 1706, the Privy Council decreed that almost forty of the most outstanding paintings should be transferred to Brussels from the picture gallery at Tervuren. From these, Marlborough selected five paintings one day after his arrival in Brussels, on 16 May 1708, which were shipped to England and subsequently to Blenheim Palace (figs. 4, 5 ; see Gachard 1885, p. 281). M. Anthonine, the curator of the royal collections, described this transaction in a letter to the treasury in Brussels on 9 July 1721: “Messieurs, en conséquence de l’ordre du conseil donné au feu chatelain de la Vure, en date 11 mai 1708, il m’a delivré le 15 du même mois, trente-six tableaux, lesquels, au même instant, on a placés dans la cour. Or il est que, le 16 mai 1708, S. A. le duc et prince de Marlborough et S. E. de Cadogan sont venus voir alors lesdits tableaux, en presence du conseiller et commis Servati, et on désigné cinq pieces lesquelles ils m’ont ordonné de faire porter au logement dudit seigneur Cadogan…” (quoted from Gachard 1885, p. 281).
Cadogan acknowledged receipt of the paintings: “Nous, soussigné, plénipotentiaire de sa Majesté Britannique, déclarons avoir récu de M. le Baron Le Roy, surintendant des bâtiments de la cour de Bruxelles, les cinq tableaux ci-dessus mentionnés, a savoir: celui nombré 103, désignant Notre Dame, son enfant Jésus et St. Joseph, grande pièce de Rubens, encore celui nombré 112, désignant Notre Dame, l’enfant Jésus au berceau, sur lequel Sainte Anne est appuyée, de Rubens, encore celui nombré, qui est le portrait de Sa Majesté Britannique Charles Stuart, de van Dyck, encore celui nombré 53, qui est un portrait d’une reine d’Angleterre de van Dyck, encore celui sans nombre désignant l’assemblée des Dieux, petite pièce, moulure dorée. Fait à Bruxelles, le 28 mai 1708” (quoted from Gachard 1885, p. 281).

The two Van Dycks rank among the artist’s masterpieces. As the other paintings by Rubens once figuring in the collection of the 1st Duke of Marlborough (now owned by the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York) reveal, Marlborough was an excellent connoisseur of the works of his favourite painter. The fact that the present work and its pendant were the only works by Rubens Marlborough chose from the wealth of the Teruvren collection underscores the great significance of the Holy Family. Interest in the painting was roused following its shipment to England and continues to this day. Waagen, Smith (”An example of the highest excellence”), Scharf (see Literature), and other art historians heaped praise on the Holy Family. An interesting drawing George Scharf made of the painting (fig. 6) when he saw it at Blenheim Palace in 1861 proves that the Holy Family has not been significantly altered since then, such as in the course of restoration. Scharf also noted down the colours of the work. Smith erroneously recorded and published wrong dimensions (approx. 190 x 130 cm), which were subsequently adopted by several authors, whereas the correct dimensions are given in the auction catalogue of 1886 and by Jaffé (1989). In 1887, Rooses, who had lauded the colours and technical treatment of the Holy Family several years earlier (see Rooses1879, p. 310: “Onze lieve vrouw met het Kind, St. Jozef, en St. Anna, in den verzameling van den hertog van Marlborough, alle meesterstukken van lifelijke uitdrucking en stralende kleuring…”), established a connection between the two paintings (the present painting and its Hartford pendant) and, in terms of execution, recognised the participation of the workshop (see Rooses 1886, p. 245 and pp. 300/1, cat. no. 227). In 1887, Wilhelm von Bode described the painting as “the beautiful large Holy Family, basically an autograph work” (see von Bode, 1887, p. 60), an assessment he also upheld as editor of the writings of Rudolf Oldenbourg in 1922.

In the further course of research, a smaller version painted on panel, which is now in Chicago and which Rooses classified as a copy, gained increasing importance. Scholars today still have not reached a final agreement as to which of the two versions was painted first. Larsen described it as a replica of the present painting reduced in size (Larsen 1952, p. 217, under no. 52). Ludwig Burchard considered the present painting to be a variant of the composition’s version in Chicago, made by Rubens and his best collaborator (see Burchard/ d’Hulst1963, vol. I, pp. 178/88, cat. no. 113, preliminary drawing).
Leo van Puyvelde, who succeeded in reconstructing the genesis and actual context of the creation of the two pendants, preferred the present painting to the Chicago version in several publications (see van Puyvelde1964, pp. 134/35 and p. 249). The most recent catalogue raisonné by Michael Jaffé (1989) describes the painting in Chicago as the first version and the present painting as a joint product by Rubens and his collaborators, with Rubens’s hand showing clearly above all in the passages of the Christ Child (“La figura del bambino rivela l’intervento esteso del Maestro”, see Jaffé 1989, p. 219, no. 377). These gradual classifications appear to be of little relevance in view of Rubens’s oeuvre and the period in which the work was executed. The Holy Family was painted during the most productive and most financially successful years in Rubens’s career. His arrival in Antwerp coincided with the armistice of 1609, after which the economic situation received new impetus in general. The subsequent years in Antwerp brought him numerous prestigious assignments, such as an altarpiece for the Church of St. Bravo (Raising of the Cross and Descent from the Cross), an Assumption of the Virgin for Antwerp Cathedral, and a painting for the town hall on the occasion of the signing of the armistice (The Adoration of the Magi). He also worked for European courts – the Habsburgs, the Medici family, the Royal Family of England – as well as for the higher aristocracy. In addition, he received commissions from patrician patrons and the Jesuit order, which emphatically promoted the programme of the Counter-Reformation in its policy of art patronage. During these years, it was only possible for the master to cope with such a workload with the aid of a well- organized workshop. Even for such important commissions as the present painting or for the famous Ildefonso Altarpiece, Rubens had to rely on the help of numerous students and collaborators, including Anthony van Dyck (between 1616 and 1620) and Jacob Jordaens (between 1615 and 1617). In a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton, the English envoy in The Hague, Rubens explained his practice of collaborating with his students and pointed out that a work designed and outlined by him and to which he added finishing touches after it had been executed by a collaborator must be considered an original: “de cette fasson, il passera pour un original” (M. Rooses/ C. Ruelens, Correspondance de Rubens, vol. II, preprint, Soest, 1974, p. 139).
These art historians, who assessed the present painting in preparation of this catalogue, considered the Holy Family as a work of outstanding quality that was doubtlessly completed before 1620. Knowing Rubens’s working method, it is impossible to definitely clarify whether the picture was exclusively painted by him or whether he was supported by collaborators like Jordaens, Van Dyck, or Soutmann and supervised and corrected the execution of his design. Given the work’s prominent provenance, the few compositional modifications detectable with the aid of X-ray and infrared photography or recognisable with the naked eye, and not least the undeniably superior quality of the present painting, it has to be regarded as a product of the Rubens Studio with the Master, the degree of whose participation will be impossible to determine. This opinion was shared by many other Rubens experts. Nils Büttner intends to publish the present painting in 2015 as workshop, as will Fiona Healy in the relevant volume of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, which is to appear by 2020 and in which the present painting will be assigned a catalogue number of its own.

Besides the version in Chicago and a copy auctioned at Christie’s in 1973, there are two drawings related to the present composition – one from the Mariette Collection and now in the British Museum in London (inv. no. 1860.0616.89, see fig. 8) and another in the Louvre in Paris (inv. no. 20319, see fig. 9). Rubens seems to have been occupied with this composition over an extensive period of time. One of the copper engravings – the one made by Lucas Vorsterman in 1620 – is dedicated to the deceased wife of Nicolaes Rockocx, a friend and patron. The picture in Hartford, which evidently seems to be the pendant to our painting, was likewise engraved by Vorsterman. The engraving was among those works by Vorsterman mentioned by Rubens in a letter to Pieter van Veen as particularly felicitous (cf. Ruelens, p. 83 and p. 143, quoted from Rooses 1886, p. 300). Both the drawings and the prints are proof that Rubens devoted himself to the subject in the lengthy process of preparation and utilization that was so typical of him once he found a composition satisfactory. In this context it is interesting to notice that none of the other versions, neither the engravings nor the two drawings, show the innovative invention of the fireplace in the upper right section of the picture. This area demonstrates that the composition was modified while it was being painted. On the chimneypiece, under the festoon suspended from a scroll and ring, we recognise a putto whose swiftly and confidently drawn arms reach for the pieces of fruit in the garland. During the examination of the original painting it turned out that its dimensions correspond to those of the largest standard format offered by Rubens, and the pigments used were also found to be characteristic of the artist. Moreover, several alterations of the original concept were detected in the cloak of Saint Joseph. Nils Büttner, who examined the original painting with the aid of X-ray photography and infrared reflectography, discovered but few modifications, for example in the face of the Madonna (see fig. 10), whose chin Rubens seems to have shifted further towards the back, and in the positions of the heads of Saint Anne and Saint Joseph. A significant conceptual change in the floorboards is even visible to the naked eye. Originally they were aligned according to the principles of central perspective and, as the process of painting progressed, were changed in such a way that they would converge towards the left. Nils Büttner and his collaborators at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart therefore concluded that the perspective of the painting was adapted to the site where it would be installed. In this way, the Holy Family became a ‘left’ picture, whereas its pendant would have to be hung as a ‘right’ picture. The distinct movement towards the left of the Return from the Flight in Hartford corroborates this hypothesis. The fireplace in the upper section of the Holy Family was probably meant to respond to an architectural element, such as a doorframe or architrave decorated with similar festoons that might have been between the two paintings when they were installed at Coudenberg or Tervuren. However, the painting did not lose its perspectival effect through the change in direction of the floorboards to the left, even if the spectator was positioned centrally between the two paintings.

In the course of the preparation of this catalogue entry, the original painting was examined by several art historians, who agreed that the painting in Chicago seems to be Rubens’s original conception of the painting, while for the present painting the composition was adapted out of necessity, in order to fill a certain format. This was successfully achieved by Rubens through the fireplace, a relatively unique invention in the artist’s oeuvre, which was introduced in order to animate the upper third of the composition and seems to have been necessary in order to adjust its format to that of its pendant, the Return from the Flight. This solution adds to the picture’s unusual impression. Through the elegance of the diagonal composition, entirely characteristic of the artist’s so-called ‘Second Antwerp Period’, and the powerful colours, Rubens not only alluded to the heavenly spheres here, but literally also brought the scene back down to earth. By the choice of the scene, he transferred the biblical episode into an interior that was closer to the spectator’s experience, thereby grounding the event in everyday life. The fireplace in the background, the plain wooden floor, and the wickerwork cradle almost create a homely atmosphere. Moreover, the contemporary garments and the precise drawing of the protagonists, whose features are based on individual studies Rubens made from life, relying on Antwerp models, contribute to the spectator’s identification with a theme that by its nature is removed from reality. Choosing this approach, Rubens and his workshop collaborators did not violate the important law of decorum of the Counter-Reformation that would have applied to such a subject, but lent it an appropriate noble and dignified monumentality, despite all the contemporary elements. 

 

additional pictures:
fig. 1: Jan Brueghel I. and Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Archduke Albrecht VII before his summer palace in Tervuren, where the painting was located between 1620–1708, Madrid, Museo del Prado

fig. 2: Adriaen van der Werff, Portrait of John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough. He received the present painting in 1708, Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina.

fig. 3: Peter Paul Rubens, The return of the Holy Family from Egypt, about 1615 – the pendant , formerly Marlborough Collection, today Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut

fig .4, 5: Blenheim Palace. The Holy Family has probably been located in the Grand Cabinet, the right corner pavilion on the park side of the palace, since 1720, but documented between 1766–1886.

fig. 6: George Scharf’s drawing of the present painting in Blenheim Palace, 1861 (we are grateful to Fiona Healy for her reference to this drawing)

fig .7: The Holy Family in the salon of Minley Manor, 1907

fig. 8: Rubens’ drawing for the present composition, London, British Museum

fig. 9: drawing (Rubens?), Paris, Louvre

fig. 10: infrared image of the present, painting, detail

Specialist: Dr. Alexander Strasoldo Dr. Alexander Strasoldo
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alexander.strasoldo@dorotheum.at


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Auction: Old Master Paintings
Date: 09.04.2014 - 18:00
Location: Vienna | Palais Dorotheum
Exhibition: 29.03. - 09.04.2014


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