Matter as an Artist: Rubens’s Myths of Spontaneous Generation

Three works by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) entail mythologized scenes of spontaneous generation, or the creation of species from nature’s raw matter: Head of Medusa (ca. 1613–1618), The Discovery of Erichthonius (ca. 1616), and the oil sketch Deucalion and Pyrrha (ca. 1636). In these works Rubens naturalizes the life of painting within its materials, implying matter—paint, with its pigments and mediating liquids—as an intrinsic, animating quality of his images and even as a counterpart to or collaborator with the artist. This essay explores these ideas to show how Rubens’s technical and artisanal understanding of painting and its materials could have informed his interpretation of ancient myths.

DOI: 10.5092/jhna.13.2.3

Acknowledgements

This essay would have been inconceivable without the insights offered at various points in time by Frank Fehrenbach, Shawon Kinew, Joseph Koerner, Claudia Swan, Joanna Woodall, and others who are thanked in the footnotes. I am also thankful to the two anonymous reviewers and Perry Chapman for their incisive comments on an earlier draft.

Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa, ca. 1613–1618, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Fig. 1 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa, ca. 1613–1618, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 118 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. No. GG 3834 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1616, Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna
Fig. 2 Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1616, oil on canvas, 218 x 317 cm. Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, inv. no. GE111 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha, 1636, Museo del Prado, Madrid
Fig. 3 Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha, 1636, oil on panel, 26 x 40.7 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid, inv. no. 2041 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Tyrian Purple, ca. 1636, Musée Bonnat-Helleu, Bayonne
Fig. 4 Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Tyrian Purple, ca. 1636, oil on panel, 28 x 32.6 cm. Musée Bonnat-Helleu, Bayonne, photography by A. Vaquero [side-by-side viewer]
Theodor van Thulden after Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Tyrian Purple, ca. 1636–1638, Museo del Prado, Madrid
Fig. 5 Theodor van Thulden after Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Tyrian Purple, ca. 1636–1638, oil on canvas, 190 x 211 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid, acc. no. P001845 [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 1a Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa, ca. 1613–1618, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 118 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. No. GG 3834 [side-by-side viewer]
Frans Francken the Younger, Cabinet of a Collector, 1617, Royal Collection Trust, London
Fig. 6 Frans Francken the Younger, Cabinet of a Collector, signed and dated 1617, oil on panel, 76.5 x 119.1 cm. Royal Collection Trust, London, RCIN 405781, © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021 [side-by-side viewer]
Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Forest Floor with Thistle and a Snake, ca. 1655, Staatliches Museum Schwerin
Fig. 7 Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Forest Floor with Thistle and a Snake, ca. 1655, oil on canvas, 68.4 x 53 cm. Staatliches Museum Schwerin, photography by Elke Walford, courtesy BPK and Staatliche Schlösser, Gärten und Kunstsammlungen Mecklenburg-Vorpommern [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 8 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa (fig. 1), detail of the forest [side-by-side viewer]
Primordial Chaos, ca. 1617, etching, Stiftung der Werke von C.G. Jung, Zürich
Fig. 9 Primordial Chaos, ca. 1617, etching, in Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam divisa (Oppenheim, 1617), 1:37. Courtesy of Stiftung der Werke von C.G. Jung, Zürich (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Jan Muller after Hendrick Goltzius, Creation of the World, ca. 1592, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig. 10 Jan Muller after Hendrick Goltzius, Creation of the World, ca. 1592, engraving, second state of two, plate: 26.4 x 26.4 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, metmuseum.org (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 11 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa (fig. 1), detail the Medusa’s blood [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound, ca. 1611–1612 to 1618, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Fig. 12 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound, ca. 1611–1612 to 1618, oil on canvas, 242.6 x 209.6 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1950, W1950-3-1, image Courtesy of the Museo del Prado, 2015 [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 13 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound (fig. 12), detail of the eagle’s eye [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 14 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound (fig. 12), detail of Prometheus’s liver [side-by-side viewer]
Rubens Peter PaulDie Auffindung des Erichthoniusknabenum 1616Öl auf LeinwandGE111The Discovery of the Infant ErichthoniusLa Scoperta di Erittonio fanciulloLa Découverte d’Erichthon
Fig. 2a Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1616, oil on canvas, 218 x 317 cm. Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, inv. no. GE111 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1615, The Courtauld Gallery of Art, London
Fig. 15 Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1615, oil on panel, 50 x 41 cm. The Courtauld Gallery of Art, London, The Samuel Courtauld Trust P.1978.PG.364 [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 3a Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha, 1636, oil on panel, 26 x 40.7 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid, inv. no. 2041 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Voyage of the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand..., 1635, Harvard Art Museums, Fogg Museum
Fig. 16 Peter Paul Rubens, The Voyage of the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand of Spain from Barcelona to Genoa in April 1633, with Neptune Calming the Tempest (Quos ego), 1635, detail (Boreas), oil on panel, 48.9 x 64.1 cm. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, MA, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund, 1942.174 [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 17 Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha (fig. 3), stages of creation [side-by-side viewer]
Virgil Solis after Bernard Salomon, woodcut from Ovid, Metamorphoses (Frankfurt am Main: Feyerabend, 1581), fol. 7v
Fig. 18 Virgil Solis after Bernard Salomon, woodcut from Ovid, Metamorphoses (Frankfurt am Main: Feyerabend, 1581), fol. 7v [side-by-side viewer]
Theodoor Galle, Allegory of America, ca. 1600, from the Nova Reperta, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig. 19 Theodor Galle after Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus, Allegory of America, ca. 1600, from the Nova Reperta (New Inventions and Discoveries) series, sheet: 28.3 x 34.6 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, metmuseum.org (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 20 Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha (fig. 3), rock [side-by-side viewer]
An alchemical balneum Mariae from Philip Ulstad, Coelum philosophorum (Strasbourg, 1528)
Fig. 21 An alchemical balneum Mariae from Philip Ulstad, Coelum philosophorum (Strasbourg, 1528) (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 22 Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha (fig. 3), sky [side-by-side viewer]
Matthäus Merian in Michael_Maier, Atalanta Fugiens (Emblem 36), 1618
Fig. 23 Matthäus Merian, etching (Emblem 36) in Michael Maier, Atalanta fugiens (Oppenheim, 1618), 153 [side-by-side viewer]
  1. 1. Giovanni Pietro Bellori, “Vita di Pietro Paolo Rubens,” in Le Vite de’ pittori, scultori et architetti moderni (Rome, 1672), 246.

  2. 2. Rubens and his brother Philip were the first to Latinize their family name, which can be traced as early as 1396 and was originally spelled “Rubbens” or “Ruebens”; Max Rooses, trans. Harold Child, Rubens (London: Duckworth, 1904), 1:2–3.

  3. 3. On Rubens’s “physiology of painting” and the emerging recognition of the circulation of the blood codified in the work of William Harvey, see Ulrich Heinen, “Haut und Knochen – Fleisch und Blut: Rubens’ Affektmalerei,” in Ulrich Heinen and Andreas Thielemann, eds., Rubens passioni: Kultur der Leidenschaften im Barock (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 70–109. Julius Held argued that Rubens styled himself as a person of sanguine temperament; “Rubens and Aguilonius: New Points of Contact,” Art Bulletin 61, no. 2 (June 1979): 263.

  4. 4. The first to reproduce the actual inscription on Rubens’s tomb was his French biographer Roger de Piles, as Donatella Sparti notes in her analysis of Bellori’s sources: “Bellori’s Biography of Rubens: An Assessment of Its Reliability and Sources,” Simiolus 36, no.1/2 (2012): 87.

  5. 5. For a short list of such interpretations of Rubens’s paintings, see the extensive footnote on the epitaph in the Italian-German edition of Bellori, Vita di Pietro Paolo Rubens & Vita di Antonio Van Dyck / Das Leben des Peter Paul Rubens & Das Leben des Anthonis van Dyck, ed. Fiona Healy, trans. Anja Brug (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2020), 110n302. As Christine Göttler notes, “Rubens was aware of the painterly and alchemical associations his name carried. The reddening sky in his self-portraits for Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637) and Charles I as well as the aurora borealis in the Mantuan Self-Portrait in a Circle of Friends may be seen as playing on the color associations of his name and the enlivening and transformational qualities of his art”; Christine Göttler, “Vulcan’s Forge: The Sphere of Art in Early Modern Antwerp,” in Knowledge and Discernment in the Early Modern Arts, ed. Sven Dupré and Christine Göttler (London and New York: Routledge, 2017), 53. Tine L. Meganck discusses the alchemical significance of Rubens’s name in “The ‘Reddener’: Peter Paul Rubens and Alchemy,” in Art and Alchemy: The Mystery of Transformation, ed. Sven Dupré, Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, and Beat Wismer, trans. Susanna Michael (Munich: Hirner, 2014), 147.

  6. 6. Bellori, “Vita di Pietro Paolo Rubens,” 247.

  7. 7. Samuel van Hoogstraten, Inleyding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst: Anders de Zichtbaere Werelt (Introduction to the Academy of Painting: Or, the Visible World) (Rotterdam, 1678), 217. See also Celeste Brusati, ed., Samuel van Hoogstraten’s Introduction to the Academy of Painting, Or, the Visible World, trans. Jaap Jacobs (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2021). Christine Göttler has written extensively on the analogies between color and fire in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Antwerp painting. On the notion of “living color,” heat, and the early modern aesthetic of living images, see Frank Fehrenbach, “Calor nativus – Color vitale: Prolegomena zu einer Ästhetik des ‘Lebendigen Bildes’ in der frühen Neuzeit,” in Muster in Wandel: Zur Dynamik topischer Wissensordnungen in Spätmittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, ed. Wolfgang Dickhut, Stefan Manns, and Norbert Winkler (Göttingen: V&R, 2008), 165–90.

  8. 8. With this term I refer to the work of political theorist Jane Bennett and her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009). [ii] The seventeenth-century debates on spontaneous generation are summarized in relation to painting in Karin Leonhard, Bildfelder: Stilleben und Naturstücke des 17. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Akademie, 2013), 61–69.

  9. 9. The seventeenth-century debates on spontaneous generation are summarized in relation to painting in Karin Leonhard, Bildfelder: Stilleben und Naturstücke des 17. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Akademie, 2013), 61–69.

  10. 10. On the opposition of natura naturans and natura naturata, see Thomas Leinkauf, “Implikationen des Begriffs natura naturans in der frühen Neuzeit,” in Natascha Adamowsky, Hartmut Böhme, and Robert Felfe, eds., Ludi Naturae: Spiele der Natur in Kunst und Wissenschaft (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2011), 103–18.

  11. 11. On the Paracelsan tradition and the rise of early modern chemistry, see the summary of literature in Thijs Weststeijn, “Painting’s Enchanting Poison: Artistic Efficacy and the Transfer of Spirits,” in Spirits Unseen: The Representation of Subtle Bodies in Early Modern European Culture, ed. Christine Göttler and Wolfgang Neuber (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007), 149n37.

  12. 12. Leonhard, Bildfelder, 104.

  13. 13. Jan van Eyck’s (1390–1441) legendary “invention” of oil painting was characterized by Vasari and Karel van Mander as a secret alchemical breakthrough. On alchemy, art, and technology in the early modern Low Countries, see Sven Dupré, Laboratories of Art: Alchemy and Art Technology from Antiquity to the 18th Century (Cham: Springer, 2014); and Dupré, von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, and Wismer, eds., Art and Alchemy. For a recent case study of painting and alchemy in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, see Elisabeth Berry Drago, Painted Alchemists: Early Modern Artistry and Experiment in the Work of Thomas Wijck (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019). Spontaneous generation, alchemy, and oil painting are explored in depth in Leonhard, Bildfelder. For a broader theoretical discussion of painting and alchemy, see James Elkins, What Painting Is: How to Think About Oil Painting Using the Language of Alchemy (New York: Routledge, 2000).

  14. 14. See Christine Göttler, “Tales of Transformation: Hendrick Goltzius’s ‘Allegory of the (Alchemical) Arts’ in the Kunstmuseum Basel,” 21: Inquiries into Art, History, and the Visual 21: Inquiries into Art, History, and the Visual. Heidelberg 1, no. 2 (2020): 404–46, https://doi.org/10.11588/xxi.2020.2.76233; Christine Göttler, “The Alchemist, the Painter, and the ‘Indian Bird’: Joining Arts and Cultures in Seventeenth-Century Antwerp; Adriaen von Utrecht’s Allegory of Fire in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels,” in Synergies in Visual Culture / Bildkulturen im Dialog (Festschrift for Gerhard Wolf), ed. Manuela de Giorgi (Paderborn and Munich: Fink, 2013), 449–512; Göttler, “Vulcan’s Forge”; and Christine Göttler and Tine L. Meganck, “Sites of Art, Nature and the Antique in the Spanish Netherlands,” in Embattled Territory: The Circulation of Knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands, ed. Sven Dupré, Bert De Munck, Werner Thomas, and Geert Vanpaemel (Ghent: Academia Press, 2016), 333–69. See also Leonhard, Bildfelder; and Karin Leonhard, “‘The various natures of middling colours we may learne of painters’: Sir Kenelm Digby Looks at Rubens and Van Dyck,” in Dupré and Göttler, Knowledge and Discernment, 163–85. I take the phrase “the meaning of matter” from historian of science Pamela Smith, whose scholarship has helped initiate many inquiries into artisanal cultures in the early modern Low Countries; Pamela Smith, “Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards: Matter and Meaning in Metalworking,” in Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory, ed. Ursula Klein and E. C. Spary (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 31. For a study of concepts of materiality and generative nature in sixteenth-century France, see Rebecca Zorach, Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

  15. 15. Esposito has connected Rubens’s depictions of Black satyrs to Paracelsan notions of prime matter and its role in cosmological and alchemical creation: Teresa Esposito, “Black Ethiopians and the Origin of ‘Materia Prima’ in Rubens’ Images of Creation,” Oud Holland 133, no. 1 (2020): 10–32. See also Teresa Esposito, “Rubens’s Encounter with Natural Philosophy and the ‘Occult Sciences’ in 17th-century Italy,” in Rubens e la cultura italiana, 1600–1608, ed. Raffaella Morselli and Cecilia Paolini (Rome: Viella, 2020), 233–46. On Paracelsan alchemical imagery originally contained in Rubens’s theoretical notebook, see Meganck, “The ‘Reddener.’” Ulrich Heinen has shown the relationship between Rubens’s painting techniques, seventeenth-century anatomical theory, and Paracelsan notions of creation; see Heinen, “Haut und Knochen.”

  16. 16. Esposito, “Black Ethiopians,” 11.

  17. 17. On this oil sketch, see Julius Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens: A Critical Catalogue (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980), cat. no. 194, 1:279–80; Vincent Ducourau, ed., Musée Bonnat, Bayonne (Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 2004), 60–61; Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée, ed., Rubens, exh. cat.  (Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des Musées, 2004), cat. no. 91; and Michael Jaffé, “Esquisses inédites de Rubens pour La Torre della Parada,” La Revue du Louvre et des Musée de France 14, no. 6 (January 1964): 316. On the function of the scene in the Torre de la Parada cycle, see Svetlana Alpers, The Decoration of the Torre de la Parada, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard 9 (London and New York: Phaidon, 1971), no. 31a,  221–22; and Aneta Georgievska-Shine and Larry Silver, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014), 33–36.

  18. 18. Julius Pollux, Onomasticon 1, 47.

  19. 19. The extraction of Tyrian purple from mollusks is discussed in Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis 9, chapters 60–65. On Tyrian purple in Roman antiquity, see John Gage, Color and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 25–26.

  20. 20. As Held points out, Blaise de Vigenère, in his commentary on the 1614 French translation of Philostratus that may have been Rubens’s source, uses purple and red interchangeably (“les Pourpes ou Escarlattes anciennes”): Held, Oil Sketches, 1:279; Philostratus, Imagines (Paris, 1614), 242.

  21. 21. Alpers, Torre de la Parada, 222: “The reason for the inclusion of this very unusual scene in the Torre series is not clear.”

  22. 22. Held (Oil Sketches, 1:280) identifies the painter of Hercules and Iole as Santi di Tito (1536–1603); see also Georgievska-Shine (Rubens, Velázquez and the King of Spain, 32), as well as Vasari.

  23. 23. On Rubens’s copies after the Farnese Hercules, see Marjon van der Meulen, Copies after the Antique, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard 23 (London: Harvey Miller, 1993), cat. nos. 31, 37, 43, 44; and Valerie Mainz and Emma Stafford, The Exemplary Hercules from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment and Beyond (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2020), 11–14. On Rubens’s Drunken Hercules, see Lisa Rosenthal, “Manhood and Statehood: Rubens’s Construction of Heroic Virtue,” Oxford Art Journal 16, no. 1 (1993): 92–95.

  24. 24. Held, Oil Sketches, 1:280.

  25. 25. Held, Oil Sketches, 1:280.

  26. 26. Aneta Georgievska-Shine, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain, 33–36.

  27. 27. Museo del Prado, acc. no. P001845. I thank Felipe Pereda for encouraging me to take into account the significance of the sketch’s ultimate Spanish audience.

  28. 28. On the colorants used by Rubens, whose raw materials included all of the ones in this list, see Nico Van Hout with contributions by Arnout Balis, Rubens Unveiled: Notes on the Master’s Painting Techniques; A Catalogue of the Rubens Paintings in the Antwerp Museum (Antwerp: Ludion, 2012), 52–54. For a discussion of the “materiality of color” in early modern visual culture with a summary of the literature, see Barbara H. Berrie, “Mining for Color: New Blues, Yellows, and Translucent Paint,” in Early Modern Color Worlds, ed. Tawrin Baker et al (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015), 22–24.

  29. 29. The most convincing date range for both versions remains the one established by Susan Koslow, “‘How looked the Gorgon then . . .’: the Science and Poetics of the Head of Medusa by Rubens and Snyders,” in Cynthia P. Schneider, William W. Robinson, and Alice I. Davies, eds., Shop Talk: Studies in Honor of Seymour Slive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums, 1995), 147–49.

  30. 30. Long considered an inferior copy, the Brno version was recently identified by Gero Seeling as an original by Rubens and, moreover, as probably the earlier of the two versions; “Die Macht der Kunst: Peter Paul Rubens,” in Gero Seelig, Die Menagerie der Medusa: Otto Marseus van Schrieck und die Gelehrten (Schwerin: Hirmer, 2017), 42–45. For a comparative study of the two versions, see also Gerlinde Gruber and Petr Tomášek, “Albtraumhaft Schön: Rubens’ Wiener Medusenhaupt trifft auf die Brünner Fassung,” Ansichtssache 23 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2018), 3–34, esp. 28 on the scaled-down copy of the painting signed by Rubens’s student Victor Wolfvoet (1612–1652).

  31. 31. Lucan, Pharsalia 9.720. The generation of snakes from the Medusa’s blood is also mentioned in Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.846–50.

  32. 32. Including, as Michael Cole has argued, Cellini’s bronze Perseus, which Rubens had seen; Michael Cole, “Cellini’s Blood,” Art Bulletin 81, no. 2 (June 1999): 215–35.

  33. 33. An attribution of the still life to Snyders is broadly accepted on stylistic and documentary grounds. The inventory of George Villiers (1592–1628), from which the Vienna version was auctioned off in 1635, names the painters as Rubens and “Subter,” most likely a misspelling of Snyders’s name. Rubens and Snyders are named as the artists in the inventory of Nicolas Sohiers: Gemeentearchif Amsterdam, inv. no. 232, 9.9.1642, no. 28: “eein dito synde een medusa van Rubens en Snyers” (cited in Grüber and Tomášek, “Albtraumhaft Schön,” 32). Previous attributions to Paul de Vos (in Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Wolfgang Prohaska, and Karl Schütz, eds., Die Gemäldegalerie des Kunsthistorisches Museums in Wien: Verzeichnis der Gemälde{Vienna: Christian Brandstätter, 1991}, cat. no. 404) and Jan Brueghel the Elder (Max Rooses, L’Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens: Histoire et Description de ses Tableaux et Dessins {Antwerp: J. Maes, 1886–92}, 3:636) are to be considered obsolete, as is Wolfgang Prohaska’s suggestion that Rubens executed the still life himself; see Wolfgang Prohaska, “Das Haupt der Medusa,” in Das Flämische Stillleben 1550–1680: Eine Ausstellung des Kunsthistorischen Museums Wien und der Kulturstiftung Ruhr Essen, ed. Christa Nitze-Ertz, Ute Kleinmann, and Stephan Brakensiek (Lingen: Luca, 2002), cat. no. 12: 58.

  34. 34. Miniaturized copies of the snakes from Head of Medusa appear in Jan van Kessel’s (1626–1679) Four Parts of the World series (1660s); two of the snakes appear in the panel labeled “Angola” and another in “Mecca.” See Nadia Baadj, Jan van Kessel I (1626–79): Crafting a Natural History of Art in Early Modern Antwerp (London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller, 2016), 125–7. Didier Bodart links Van Kessel’s visual citation of the snakes to his unusual signature, composed of various insects; Rubens e la pittura fiamminga del Seicento nelle collezioni pubbliche fiorentine (Florence: Centro Di, 1977), 306. Indeed, the “Angola” panel appears directly beneath Kessel’s signature. On the animals in Rubens and Snyders’s painting, see especially Arnout Balis, “Facetten van de Vlaamse dierenschilderkunst van de 15de tot de 17de eeuw,” in Het Aards Paradijs: Dierenvoorstellingen in de Nederlanden van de 16de en 17de eeuw, exh. cat. (Antwerp: Standaard, 1982), 37–55, 44–45; and Peter C. Sutton, “The Head of Medusa,” in The Age of Rubens, exh. cat. (Gent: Ludion, 1993), 2:247.

  35. 35. Pliny, Natural History 38, 8, 85.

  36. 36. Mentioned in Lucan’s text, the amphisbaena was also described in Johann Faber’s Animalia Mexicana (Rome, 1628), a work that mentions Rubens and his brother by name; Esposito, “Black Ethiophians,” 10. On the “Mexican amphisbaena,” see David Freedberg, The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 261, 291–292, 361–364. On the amphisbaena as possibly reflecting a lost source shared with a later illustration in Francisco Hernandez’s (1517–1587) Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus (Rome 1651), a project in which Faber also took part, see Gruber and Tomášek, “Albtraumhaft Schön,” 11.

  37. 37. On this painting, see Desmond Shawe-Taylor and Jennifer Scott, eds., Bruegel to Rubens: Masters of Flemish Painting (London: Royal Collection Publications, 2007), no. 25, 126–29.

  38. 38. A second, earlier version of Caravaggio’s Head of Medusa, dated to 1596 and now in a private collection, was brought to light about a decade ago; see Mina Gregori and Ermanno Zoffili, eds., The First Medusa: Caravaggio (Milan: 5 Continents, 2011). On the Uffizi version, which dates to 1597, see Caterina Caneva, La Medusa del Caravaggio Restaurata (Rome: Retablo, 2002); and Avigdor Posèq, “Caravaggio’s Medusa Shield,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6, no. 113 (1989): 170–74.

  39. 39. Giambattista Marino’s ekphrasis on Caravaggio’s Medusa, published in his collection La galeria (Venice: Ciotti, 1619–20), emphasizes the painting’s ability to turn enemies into stone; addressing the work’s first owner, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Marino concludes “ché la vera Medusa è il valor vostro” (that the true Medusa is your valor); Marino, La galeria 1:32. On Marino’s poem, see Elizabeth Cropper, “The Petrifying Art: Marino’s Poetry and Caravaggio,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 26 (1991), 204.

  40. 40. See Ulrich Heinen, “Huygens, Rubens and Medusa: Reflecting the Passions in Paintings, with Some Considerations of Neuroscience in Art History,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 60 (2010): 151–78.

  41. 41. Heinen, “Huygens, Rubens and Medusa.” The evidence that the painting was kept behind a comes from a description by Constantijn Huygens (1597–1687), who saw a version of the work, probably identical with the one today in Brno, at Sohier’s Amsterdam home; S. A. Worp, “Constantijn Huygens over de schilders van zijn tijd,” Oud Holland 9 (1891): 106–36.

  42. 42. Heinen, “Huygens, Rubens and Medusa. ” On Rubens and the early modern concept of emotion known as the passions, see Heinen and Thielemann, Rubens passioni, esp. 70–109.

  43. 43. In this sense, the curtain could also be interpreted as the allegorical veil of nature Rubens also depicts in Nature Adorned (ca. 1615; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow) a collaboration with Jan Brueghel the Elder (1528–1625). On this latter painting as an allegory of nature’s secrets, see Esposito, “Black Ethiopians,” 15–16; and Elizabeth McGrath, “Garlanding the Great Mother: Rubens, Jan Brueghel and the Celebration of Nature’s Fertility,” in Munuscula amicorum: Contributions on Rubens and his Colleagues in Honour of Hans Vlieghe, ed. Katlijne van der Stighelen, 2 vols. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006), 1:103–22. On Rubens’s veils, see Karolien de Clippel, “Vibrant Veils and Daring Draperies: On Rubens’s Clothing of Nymphs and Goddesses,” in Rubens and the Human Body, ed. Cordula van Wythe (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), 199–223, esp. 26 on Nature Adorned.

  44. 44. The frontality of the head of Medusa was traditionally a crucial aspect of its horror. Jean-Pierre Vernant, “In the Mirror of the Medusa” (1985), in The Medusa Reader, ed. Marjorie Garber and Nancy J. Vickers (New York: Routledge, 2003), 200–31; and Frontisi-Ducroix, trans. Seth Graebner, “The Gorgon, Paradigm of Image Creation,” in The Medusa Reader, 263.

  45. 45. On the sottobosco genre, see Leonhard, Bildfelder; Karin Leonhard, “Painted Poison: Venomous Beasts, Herbs, Gems, and Baroque Color Theory,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 61 (2011): 116–47; and Karin Leonhard, “Pictura’s Fertile Field: Otto Marseus van Schrieck and the Genre of Sottobosco Painting,” Simiolus 31, no. 2 (2010): 95–118. See also Susanna Steensma, Otto Marseus van Schrieck: Leben und Werk, Studien zur Kunstgeschichte 131 (Hildesheim/Zürich/New York: Olms, 1999).

  46. 46. A connection between Rubens and Snyders’s painting and this later genre is evidenced by an anonymous Flemish painting in the Uffizi, previously misattributed to Leonardo da Vinci, which depicts the head of Medusa in a grotto inhabited by chthonic creatures. On this work and its unresolved relationship to the sottobosco genre and to Rubens and Snyders’s painting, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 182–83; Seelig, Die Menagerie der Medusa, 43–45; and Gruber and Tomášek, “Albtraumhaft Schön,” 16.

  47. 47. On sottobosco paintings as a form of “negative mimesis,” see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 100. On the early modern analogies between image-making and sexual reproduction, see Ulrich Pfisterer, Kunst-Geburten: Kreatitivät, Erotik, Körper in der Frühen Neuzeit (Berlin: Wagenbach, 2014).

  48. 48. On nature printing in the sottoboschi, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 30–33.

  49. 49. See Pamela H. Smith and Tonny Beentjes, “Nature and Art, Making and Knowing: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Life-Casting Techniques,” Renaissance Quarterly 63, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 128–79. On examples of life casts of lizards by Wenzel Jamnitzer and from the workshop of Bernard Palissy, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 100.

  50. 50. Koslow, “How Looked the Gorgon Then,” 147.

  51. 51. On Rubens’s Paracelsan interests, see Esposito, “Black Ethiopians”; and Esposito, “Rubens’s Encounter with Natural Philosophy and the ‘Occult Sciences’ in 17th-century Italy.” See also Meganck, “The ‘Reddener’” and “Rubens on the Human Figure: Theory, Practice and Metaphysics,” in Rubens: A Genius at Work; The Works of Peter Paul Rubens in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium Reconsidered, ed. Michel Draguet and Joost Vander Auwera, exh. cat. (Tielt: Lannoo, 2007), 52–64, esp. 57.

  52. 52. Meganck, “The ‘Reddener,’” 149.

  53. 53. Meganck, “The ‘Reddener,’” 147; Smith, “Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards.”

  54. 54. These sections were omitted in the 1776 publication but can still be found in the eighteenth-century copy of Rubens’s notebook known as the Ganay manuscript; see Meganck, “The ‘Reddener,’” 146. On the Paracelsan tria prima, see also Leonhard, Bildfelder, 264–270.

  55. 55. On Rubens’s interest in the materia prima and its symbolic relationship to the color black, see Esposito, “Black Ethiopians.”

  56. 56. Fludd’s work is recorded in the nineteenth-century reconstruction of Rubens’s library by Prosper Arents; see Alfons K. L. Thijs, ed., with contributions by Frans Baudouin, Lia Baudouin, Elly Cockx-Indestege, Jacques De Bie and Marcus de Schepper, Prosper Arents: De Bibliotheek van Pieter Paul Rubens: Een reconstructie (Antwerp: Vereniging der Antwerpse Bibliofielen, 2001), 345.

  57. 57. Etching in Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam divisa (Oppenheim, 1617), 1:37.

  58. 58. See Marjolein Leesberg and Huigen Leeflang, eds., Hendrick Goltzius, The New Hollstein Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450–1700 (Ouderkerk aan den Ijssel: Sound and Vision, 2012), 3:381.

  59. 59. Georges Didi-Huberman, trans. Jane Marie Todd, Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 9. The blood also resonates with Didi-Huberman’s concept of a “patch,” a site in which a painting seems to “proclaim itself as pure matter”; see Didi-Huberman, “The Art of Not Describing: Vermeer—the Detail and the Patch,” History of the Human Sciences 2 (1989), 135. Much of the critical discourse surrounding disfiguration and materiality derives from the French critical term “macula”; see the journal of that name published in Paris in 1976–1978.

  60. 60. At the time of this publication, both versions of the painting are undergoing technical study at the University of Antwerp in conjunction with both the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Moravian Gallery in Brno: AXES, “Rubens’ Medusas: Find the Seven Differences,” University of Antwerp website, accessed July 22, 2021, https://www.uantwerpen.be/en/research-groups/axes/x-ray-spectroscopy-and-imaging/research—funding/chair-for-the-arts/research-activities/rubens-medusa.

  61. 61. On cochineal, see Elena Philips, Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010). Byron Ellsworth Hamann has argued that the reflected red curtain in Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656, Museo del Prado) refers to its material basis in cochineal and therefore also to the Atlantic world: “The Mirrors of Las Meninas: Cochineal, Silver, and Clay,” Art Bulletin 92, nos. 1/2 (March–June 2010): 18–20. I thank Joanna Woodall for pointing out the potential significance of cochineal to Rubens and Snyders’s Head of Medusa when she supervised my master’s thesis at the Courtauld Institute in 2006.

  62. 62. On sixteenth-century Antwerp as a center of vermilion production, see Filip Vermeylen, “The Colour of Money: Dealing in Pigments in Sixteenth-Century Antwerp,” in Trade in Artists’ Materials: Markets and Commerce in Europe to 1700, ed. Jo Kirby, Susie Nash, and Joanna Cannon (London: Archetype, 2010), 356–65.

  63. 63. On the methods of making vermilion, see Smith, “Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards,” 35–39.

  64. 64. Cennino Cennini, trans. Lara Broecke, Il Libro dell’Arte: A New English Translation and Commentary with Italian Transcription (London: Archetype, 2015), 64. On the blackening of Rubens’s reds over time, see the technical study by Willemien Anaf, Koen Janssens, and Karolien De Wael, “Formation of Metallic Mercury during Photodegradation/Photodarkening of αHgSElectrochemical Evidence,” Angewandte Chemie International Edition 52, no. 48 (2013): 12568–71.

  65. 65. The philosopher’s stone was often described as a “red powder”; see Smith, “Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards,” 40. On red in alchemy and in seventeenth-century still-life painting, see also Leonhard, Bildfelder, 287–304.

  66. 66. Joachim von Sandrart, Teutsche Akademie (Frankfurt, 1675), 3:292. On this anecdote, which was repeated in Roger de Piles’s Abrégé de la vie des peintres (Paris, 1699), 40, see Göttler, “Vulcan’s Forge,” 52–53.

  67. 67. Herman Van der Wee, The Growth of the Antwerp Market and the European Economy (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1963), 2:327, cited in Elizabeth Honig, Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), 6.

  68. 68. See the introduction to Christine Göttler, Bart Ramakers, and Joanna Woodall, eds., “Trading Values in Early Modern Antwerp,” special issue, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboeck 64 (2014): 9–37.

  69. 69. See Göttler, “Vulcan’s Forge.”

  70. 70. See the technical discussions in Tiarna Doherty, Mark Leonard, and Jørgen Wadum, “Brueghel and Rubens at Work: Technique and the Practice of Collaboration,” in Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship, ed. Anne T. Woollett and Ariane van Sucthelen, exh. cat. (Zwolle: Waanders, 2006), 215–51.

  71. 71. On this image, see Julius Held, “Prometheus Bound,” Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 59, no. 279 (August 1963): 16–32; Anne T. Woolett, “Prometheus Bound,” in Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship, 166–73, cat. no. 221; and Fiske Kimball, “Rubens’ Prometheus,” Burlington Magazine 94, no. 588 (March 1952): 67–68. The attribution of the eagle in Prometheus Bound is confirmed by Rubens himself in a letter of 1608 to Sir Dudley Carleton; see Held, “Prometheus Bound,” 19–20. Two versions of the work are extant today, one in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the other in Landesmuseum in Oldenburg.

  72. 72. On the modes of viewing seventeenth-century Flemish collaborative painting, see Elizabeth Honig, “The Beholder as a Work of Art: A Study in the Location of Value in Seventeenth-Century Flemish Painting,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 46 (1995): 252–97.

  73. 73. Since the attribution of the eagle to Snyders is firm, the close resemblance between the two paintings seems to strengthen the case for attributing the still life in Head of Medusa to Snyders as well.

  74. 74. See Aeschylus, trans. Janet Case, Prometheus Bound (London: Dent, 1905). Rubens would later depict Prometheus’s theft of fire in a 1636 oil sketch for the Torre de la Parada cycle.

  75. 75. Pomponio Gaurico, De Scultura, trans. Heinrich Brockhaus (Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1886), 164; and Natale Conti, Mythologiae (Paris, 1583) 4, ch. 6: “Prometheus is supposed to have been the first one to shape men out of mud.” A Prometheus Bound by Jacob Jordaens (Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne) depicts a small marble bust on the mountainside; Held, “Prometheus Bound,” 31.

  76. 76. Caroline Van Eck, “Gemankeerde Pygmalions en successvolle Medusa’s,” in Levende Beelden: Kunst werken en kijken (Leiden and Brussels: Leiden University Press, 2011), 8–27 and 108–109, quote on 10. See also Caroline van Eck, “The Petrifying Gaze of Medusa: Ambivalence, Explexis, and the Sublime,” Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 8, no. 2 (Summer 2016), https://doi.org/10.5092/jhna.2016.8.2.3. Van Eck draws from the discussion of ikonopoesis in the Medusa myth by Françoise Frontisi-Dutroux, “La Gorgone, paradigme de creation d’images,” in Les Cahiers du Collège Iconique: Communications et Débats (Paris: La Diffusion Française, 1993); English translation in The Medusa Reader, 262–67.

  77. 77. Olga Raggio, “The Myth of Prometheus: Its Survival and Metamorphoses up to the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 21, nos. 1/2 (1958): 44–62. Baudius’s reference to Prometheus’s “ever-regrowing” liver recalls similar descriptions, found in accounts of the myth of Tityus (especially Virgil’s Aeneid 6.595–600) of Tityus’s liver “inexhaustible” or “ever-renewing.” The myth of Prometheus was closely linked in the Renaissance to that of Tityus, who was punished by Zeus by having two vultures tear out his liver; Held, “Prometheus Bound,” 26.

  78. 78. Baudius, a professor at the University of Leiden, knew both Rubens and his brother Philip.

  79. 79. I follow the translation given in Kimball, “Rubens’ Prometheus,” 67.

  80. 80. As Christine Göttler (“The Alchemist, the Painter, and the ‘Indian Bird’”) has argued, fire was invoked by Flemish Baroque painters to symbolize their own transformative power over the natural world.

  81. 81. I thank Joris van Gastel, Giannis Hadjinicolau, and Markus Rath for allowing me to present these thoughts on Head of Medusa and Prometheus Bound at their session “Productive Paragones” at the Renaissance Society of America annual meeting, Berlin, 2015.

  82. 82. On Rubens’s The Discovery of Erichthonius, see Aneta Georgievska-Shine, Rubens and the Archaeology of Myth, 1610–1620: Visual and Poetic Memory (Surrey: Ashgate, 2009), 153–85; and “From Ovid’s Cecrops to Rubens’s City of God in The Finding of Erichthonius,” Art Bulletin 86, no. 1 (March 2004): 58–74. See also Eveliina Juntunen, Peter Paul Rubens’ bildimplizite Kunsttheorie in ausgewählten mythologischen Historien 1611–1618 (Petersberg: Michael Imhof, 2005), 84–99; and Svetlana Alpers, “Manner and Meaning in Some Rubens Mythologies,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 30 (1967): 272–95. See also Wolfgang Stechow, “The Finding of Erichthonius: An Ancient Theme in Baroque Art,” in Latin American Art, and the Baroque Period in Europe, Studies in Western Art 3 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963): 27–35. Rubens often recast ancient myths as allegories of nature’s fertility, a tendency Elizabeth McGrath (“Garlanding the Great Mother”) has attributed to his antiquarian interest in iconographies of nature that peaked in the 1610s.

  83. 83. The story is recounted twice in Ovid, first in its tragic denouement (Metamorphoses 2:531–65): a crow reports Aglaurus’s disobedience to Minerva, who punishes her by driving her mad until she falls off a cliff to her death. Later (Metamorphoses 2:708–832), an earlier segment is narrated: Mercury falls in love with Herse, but when Aglaurus, jealous of her sister, refuses to let him past the threshold, the god turns her to stone.

  84. 84. On this statue and its early modern reception, see Andrea Goesch, Diana Ephesia: Ikonographische Studien zur Allegorie der Natur in der Kunst vom 16.–19. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt and New York: Lang, 1996); and Zorach, “Milk,” in Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold, 82–134.

  85. 85. Georgievska-Shine, “From Ovid’s Cecrops to Rubens’s City of God,” 58; and Alpers, “Manner and Meaning,” 373.

  86. 86. On the large canvas, which is held today in the Liechtenstein Museum, see Johann Kräftner, Wilfred Sepel, and Renate Trnek, eds., Peter Paul Rubens: The Masterpieces from the Viennese Collections (Vienna: Christian Brandstätter, 2004), no. 29, 131. On the Courtauld oil sketch, see Held, Oil Sketches, no. 231, 2:318–19; and Michael Jaffé, Rubens, Catalogo Completo (Milan: Rizzoli, 1989), no. 319, 208. A severely reduced fragment now in the Allen Art Museum at Oberlin College is thought to be from a later version Rubens created in the 1630s; see Ludwig Burchard, “Rubens’s Daughters of Cecrops,” Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 1 (1953): 4–26. On Van Stompel’s print, a sheet of which is held in the National Gallery in Washington (1975.23.54), see Juntunen, Peter Paul Rubens’ bildimplizite Kunsttheorie, 90–91.

  87. 87. Alpers ultimately used the image to explore “the problem of the relationship between allegorical meaning and dramatic action”; “Manner and Meaning,” 292. Held disagreed with Alpers’s purely allegorical interpretation, interpreting the work instead as a synthesis of both Ovidian versions of the myth.

  88. 88. Alpers, “Manner and Meaning,” 283.

  89. 89. In particular, the fountain of Diana Ephesus created by Pirro Ligorio (ca. 1500–1589) for the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Lazio. On the sculptural precedents for Rubens’s depiction of Diana Ephesus, see Juntunen, Peter Paul Rubens’ bildimplizite Kunsttheorie, 95–96. On the Tivoli fountain, see also Zorach, Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold, 99.

  90. 90. Roger de Piles, who owned a copy of the notebook in the late seventeenth century, reproduced this text in his Cours de peinture (Paris, 1708), 139–41. The De imitation statuarum has been explored in depth by Andreas Thielemann; see his “Rubens’ Traktat De imitatione statuarum,” in Ursula Rombach and Peter Seiler, eds., Imitatio als Transformation: Theorie und Praxis der Antikennachahmung in der Frühen Neuzeit (Petersberg: Michael Imhof, 2012), 95–150; and his “Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), De imitatione statuarum,” in Manfred Luchterhandt et al., eds., Abgekupfert: Roms Antiken in den Reproduktionsmedien der Frühen Neuzeit; Katalog zur Aussellung Kunstsammlung der Gipsabgüsse, exh. cat. (Petersberg: Michael Imhof, 2014), 319–21. See also Steven J. Cody, “Rubens and the ‘Smell of Stone’: The Translation of the Antique and the Emulation of Michelangelo,” Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 20, no. 3 (Winter 2013): 39–55. Rubens’s views on the reanimation of ancient sculpture in the De imitatione statuarum have been linked to his Death of Seneca (1615) by Heinen (“Haut und Knochen”). On The Discovery of Erichthonius as a visual expression of the ideas found in the De imitation statuarum, see Juntunen, Peter Paul Rubens’ bildimplizite Kunsttheorie, 99. 

  91. 91. De Piles, Cours de Peinture, 139.

  92. 92. De Piles, Cours de Peinture, 139–40.

  93. 93. Another visual expression of this idea is the overturned urn held parallel to the picture plane by a river god, a recurrent theme in Rubens’s works.

  94. 94. On Rubens’s Deucalion and Pyrrha, see Georgievska-Shine and Silver, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain, 33–35; Held, Oil Sketches, cat. no. 184, 1:270–71; and Alpers, Torre de la Parada, 22. No large canvas painting after Rubens’s model survives.

  95. 95. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1:313–415.

  96. 96. Alpers, Torre de la Parada, 188–89.

  97. 97. Ovid, Metamorphoses 3:94–115. The large canvas of Cadmus Sewing the Dragon’s Teeth was executed by Jacob Jordaens and is in the Prado (inv. no. 1713). On the oil sketch, see Held, Oil Sketches, cat. no. 176, 1:264–65.

  98. 98. I take this phrase from the English translation of Horst Bredekamp, The Lure of Antiquity and the Cult of the Machine: The Kunstkammer and the Evolution of Nature, Art, and Technology, trans. Allison Brown (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1995), 47.

  99. 99. See the classic study by Jurgis Baltrusaitis, trans. Richard Miller, Aberrations: An Essay on the Legend of Forms (Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 1989). On “pictorial stones,” see also Fabio Berry, “‘Painting in Stone’: Early Modern Experiments in a Metamedium,” Art Bulletin 99, no. 3 (July 2017): 30–61. On “nature as an artist,” see also Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 255–301.

  100. 100. On this passage in Alberti, see Roland Kanz, Die Kunst des Capriccio: Kreativer Eigensinn in Renaissance und Barock (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2002), 77.

  101. 101. Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, trans. Cecil Grayson (London: Penguin Classics, 1991), 60.

  102. 102. H. W. Janson, “The ‘Image Made by Chance’ in Renaissance Thought,” in De artibus opuscula XL: Essays in Honor of Erwin Panofsky, ed. Millard Meiss (New York: New York University Press, 1961), 54–66. Primary sources discussed by Janson include Lucretus, Philostratus, Albertus Magnus, Leonardo, and Vasari. On the “image made by chance” in later seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting and art theory, with reference to spontaneous generation, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 85–88.

  103. 103. Harvard Art Museums, 1942.174. Also known as Quos ego, after the passage in Virgil’s Aeneid on which it is based, this oil study was a model for the Pompa introitus Ferdinandi, a triumphal procession designed by Rubens and held in Antwerp in 1634. See Anna C. Knaap and Michael C. J. Putnam, eds., Art, Music, and Spectacle in the Age of Rubens: The Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi (London and Turnhout: Brepols, 2013). On the technical fluency of the Quos ego oil sketch, see Jakob Rosenberg, “Rubens’s Sketch for The Wrath of Neptune,” Bulletin of the Fogg Museum of Art 10, no. 1 (November 1942): 10–11.

  104. 104. On Rubens’s previous depictions of Eve, see Jeremy Wood, “Adam and Eve: Painting after Titian,” in Rubens: Copies and Adaptations from Renaissance and Later Masters: Italian Artists. 2, Titian and North Italian Art (London: Harvey Miller, 2010), Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard 26, cat. no. 111, 1:111–19; and Ariane van Suchtelen, “The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man,” in Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship, cat. no. 4, 64–65. The woman’s long blonde hair also recalls Rubens’s painting of Venus at a Mirror (ca. 1615).

  105. 105. Held, Oil Sketches, 1:271. The female figure’s hand, whose placement is modeled on the Venus pudica statue, disappears autoerotically behind her upper thigh.

  106. 106. Rubens frequently drew inspiration from illustrated Ovids, including the edition published by the Plantijn Press in Antwerp in 1591; Held, Oil Sketches, 1:281. As Elizabeth McGrath notes: “These works often specifically advertised themselves as aimed at artists”; “Rubens and Ovid,” in The Afterlife of Ovid, ed. Peter Mack and John North (London: Institute of Classical Studies 2015), 159.

  107. 107. I thank Anna Knaap for pointing out this stylistic contrast when I presented these thoughts on Rubens’s Deucalion and Pyrrha at the Renaissance Society of America annual meeting, Boston, 2016.

  108. 108. Wood, Rubens: Copies and Adaptations, 111–19. Both Titian’s Fall of Man (ca. 1550) and Rubens’s copy after it (1628–1629) are now in the Prado. On Rubens and Titian, see Hilliard Goldfarb, David Freedberg, and Manuela B. Mena Marqués, Titian and Rubens: Power, Politics and Style (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1998), especially Freedberg’s essay “Rubens and Titian: Art and Politics,” 30–60. See also Aneta Georgievska-Shine, “Rubens’s Europa and Titian’s Auctoris Index,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek  59, no. 1 (2009): 274–91.

  109. 109. Rebecca Zorach drew my attention to the potential racial implications of Rubens’s sketch and its conception of the human when I presented a paper (“Mythologizing Matter: Rubens’s Images of Spontaneous Generation”) at the workshop organized by Claudia Swan, “Shaped by Nature, Forged by Art: Early Modern Objects and Images” (Northwestern University, May 20–21, 2016). I also thank Shawon Kinew for encouraging me to acknowledge the colonial aspects of the image in relation to its ultimate Spanish audience, and Claudia Swan for pointing me toward the Stradanus print.

  110. 110. On Theodoor de Bry’s engravings as expressions of the amorphousness of the “new world” and its inhabitants, see Michael Gaudio, “Making Sense of Smoke: Engraving and Ornament in de Bry’s America,” in Engraving the Savage: The New World and Techniques of Civilization (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 45–85.

  111. 111. Marjolein Leesberg and Huigen Leeflang, eds., Stradanus, The New Hollstein Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450–1700 (Ouderkerk aan den Ijssel: Sound and Vision, 2008), 3:323. On the print within the Nova Reperta series, see Dániel Margócsy, “Stradanus: Nova Reperta,” in Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, ed. Susan Dackerman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), cat. no. 1, 38–45. The original drawing by Stradanus is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1974.205.

  112. 112. Americen Americus retexit, & Semel vocauit inde semper exitam.

  113. 113. Rubens owned both de Acosta’s and de Bry’s treatises and used them as sources for his allegorical image of Mount Potosi in the Pompa introitus Ferdinandi (1633–4); Elizabeth McGrath, “Rubens’s Arch of the Mint,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 37 (1974): 196.

  114. 114. José de Acosta, Historia natural y moral de las Indias (Seville, 1590), book 1, chapters 25, 82. Translation adapted from the English edition (London, 1609) by Edward Grimson, ed. Clements R. Markham (London: Hakluyt Society, 1880), 70–71.

  115. 115. De Acosta, Historia natural y moral, 71.

  116. 116. For a study of shifting conceptions of the human in early modern Europe in relation to illustrated maps, see Surekha Davies, Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps, and Monsters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). By Rubens’s time, there was already a history of familiarizing newly encountered peoples to European audiences by rendering them as standard image types, including Adam and Eve. Hans Burgkmair the Elder’s 1508 woodcut In Allago (In Algoa) is an example. See Marisa Mandabach, “Burgkmair  and Glockendon: Peoples of Africa and India,” in Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge, 326–31, cat. 79 (326).

  117. 117. On race in Rubens and in the historiography on Rubens, see Shawon Kinew, “Sedlmayr’s Mother-of-Pearl: Further Notes on Rubens and Flesh Color,” Selva: A Journal of the History of Art, 2 (Fall 2020): 8896.

  118. 118. For Roger de Piles, tonal modeling was an intrinsic part of Rubens’s colorisme; Svetlana Alpers, The Making of Rubens (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 75. The association of Rubens’s art with “coloring” as opposed to “design” was first made by Bellori, then picked up by de Piles.

  119. 119. On the relationship between artisanal and natural knowledge in early modern Europe, see Pamela Smith, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2004); and Dupré and Göttler, Knowledge and Discernment. On how paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck informed seventeenth-century theories of color and optics, see Leonhard, “The various natures of middling colours.”

  120. 120. On the technical “fluency” of Rubens’s oil sketches, see David Freedberg, “The Hand of Rubens,” in Peter Paul Rubens: Paintings and Oil Sketches, exh. cat. (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 1995), 8. On speed as a technical and aesthetic quality in Venetian painting and art criticism, see Una Roman d’Elia, “Tintoretto, Aretino, and the Speed of Creation,” Word & Image 20 (2004): 206–18.

  121. 121. Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 55–57.

  122. 122. British Library, MS 2052. On the Mayerne manuscript, see especially Jenny Boulboullé, “Drawn up by a learned physician from the mouths of artisans: The Mayerne manuscript revisited,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 68, no. 1 (2019): 227–29.

  123. 123. On the Rubens note in the Mayerne manuscript, the relationship between Rubens’s technique of alternatively condensing and thinning colors, and Paracelsan ideas about modifying the elements, see Heinen, “Haut und Knochen,” 81–82; and Leonhard, “The Various Natures of Middling Colours,” 168. The transcription of Rubens’s theoretical notebook, most likely made by Van Dyck, includes a recipe for a varnish made with turpentine; Meganck, “The ‘Reddener,’” 147.

  124. 124. British Library, MS 2052, fol. 9v. I follow the translation in Jenny Boulboullé, “Drawn up by a learned physician,” 227.

  125. 125. Heinen, “Haut und Knochen”; Thielemann, “Rubens’ Traktat De Imitatione statuarum,” 113; Kinew, “Sedlmayr’s Mother-of-Pearl,” 94.

  126. 126. On Rubens’s grounds, see Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 38–51; on the doodverf in Rubens, 60–64. On Rubens’s uses of the doodverf, see also Van Hout, “Functies van doodverf met bijzondere aandacht voor de onderschildering en andere onderliggende Stadia in het Werk van P.P. Rubens” (PhD diss., Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, 2005); and “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer in Seventeenth-Century Painting,” Leids kunsthistorisch jaarboek 11 (1998): 199–225. On the longer history of the doodverf in Netherlandish painting, see Hessel Miedema, “Over kwaliteitsvoorschriften in het St. Lucasgilde, over ‘doodverf,’” Oud Holland 101 (1987): 141–47. For comparison, on Rembrandt’s use of the doodverf, see Nicola Suthor, “Transparenz der Mittel: Zur Sichtbarkeit der Imprimatur in einigen Werken Rembrandts,” in Gottfried Böhm, ed., Der Grund: Das Feld des Sichtbaren (Munich: Fink, 2012), 223–50.

  127. 127. In Genesis 2:7 God is described as creating Adam from the “dust of the earth.”

  128. 128. Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ piu eccellenti pittori, scultori, et architettori (Florence, 1568), 12: “Cosi dunque il primo modello, onde usci la prima imagine dell’huomo fu una massa di terra; et non senza cagione: percioche il divino Architetto del tempo, et della natura, come perfetissimo volle mostrare nella imperfezzione della materia, la via, del levare, et dell’aggiugnere; nel medesimo modo, che sogliono fare i buoni scultori; et pittori, i quali ne’ lor modelli, aggiungendo, et levando, riducono le imperfette bozze a quel fine, et perfezzione che vogliono. Diedegli colore vivacissimo di carne, dove s’è tratto nelle pitture poi da le Miniere della terra gli istessi colori, per contraffare tutte le cose, che accaggiono nelle Pitture.” Translation adapted from Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architectsi, trans. Gaston du C. De Vere (London: Macmillan and Co. Ld. & The Medici Society), 1912–14: xxxvii–viii.

  129. 129. On the engraved vignettes and title page Rubens created for Aguilonius’s Opticorum libri sex (1613), see Julius Held, “Rubens and Aguilonius: New Points of Contact,” Art Bulletin 61, no. 2 (June 1979): 257–64; Michael Jaffé, “Rubens and Optics: Some Fresh Evidence,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 34 (1971): 362–66; and Charles Parkhurst, “Aguilonius’ Optics and Rubens’ Color,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 12 (1961): 35–48.

  130. 130. On ancient and early modern analogies between colors and the elements, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 343–45; and Fehrenbach, “Calor nativus – color vitale,” 158–60.

  131. 131. On this etching, see Michael Gaudio, “The Emblem in the Landscape: Matthäus Merian’s Etchings for Atalanta fugiens,” in Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s “Atalanta fugiens” (1618) with Scholarly Commentary, digital edition (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020), https://furnaceandfugue.org/essays/gaudio.

  132. 132. Gaudio, “The Emblem in the Landscape.”

  133. 133. Rubens’s oil sketches had a practical and utilitarian function within his workshop, and the question remains as to what extent Rubens would have understood them as works of art in their own right; see Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 17. However, Rubens may well have discussed his oil sketches with learned friends, associates, connoisseurs, and other artists on both a theoretical and technical level. On early modern artist workshops in the Low Countries as spaces of exchange between artisanal and scholarly knowledge, see Dupré and Göttler, introduction to Knowledge and Discernment; on artist workshops in the Low Countries as “arenas in which the learned taught the skilled, and the skilled taught the learned,” see Pamela Long, Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400–1600 (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2011), 95. On the series of the Four Elements and Five Senses by Rubens and Bruegel—and painters’ workshops in early seventeenth-century Antwerp as “laboratories of invention and experimentation” in which “the more traditional mode of acquiring knowledge through books” existed side-by-side with both the “observation of nature” and artisanal labor—see Göttler, Ramakers, and Woodall, introduction to “Trading Values in Early Modern Antwerp,” 25.

  134. 134. An allusion to Rubens’s first name has been discerned in the self-portrait now in the Windsor collection; Shawe-Taylor and Scott, Rubens to Brueghel, 143.

  135. 135. Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 5. For this letter, see Charles Ruelens and Max Rooses, Correspondance de Rubens et documents epistolaires concernant sa vie et ses oeuvres, 6 vols. (Antwerp: Veuve de Backer, 1887–1909), 5:153. For an English translation, see Ruth Magurn, The Letters of Peter Paul Rubens (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955), 322–23.

  136. 136. Alpers, Art of Describing, 5.

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List of Illustrations

Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa, ca. 1613–1618, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Fig. 1 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa, ca. 1613–1618, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 118 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. No. GG 3834 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1616, Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna
Fig. 2 Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1616, oil on canvas, 218 x 317 cm. Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, inv. no. GE111 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha, 1636, Museo del Prado, Madrid
Fig. 3 Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha, 1636, oil on panel, 26 x 40.7 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid, inv. no. 2041 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Tyrian Purple, ca. 1636, Musée Bonnat-Helleu, Bayonne
Fig. 4 Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Tyrian Purple, ca. 1636, oil on panel, 28 x 32.6 cm. Musée Bonnat-Helleu, Bayonne, photography by A. Vaquero [side-by-side viewer]
Theodor van Thulden after Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Tyrian Purple, ca. 1636–1638, Museo del Prado, Madrid
Fig. 5 Theodor van Thulden after Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Tyrian Purple, ca. 1636–1638, oil on canvas, 190 x 211 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid, acc. no. P001845 [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 1a Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa, ca. 1613–1618, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 118 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. No. GG 3834 [side-by-side viewer]
Frans Francken the Younger, Cabinet of a Collector, 1617, Royal Collection Trust, London
Fig. 6 Frans Francken the Younger, Cabinet of a Collector, signed and dated 1617, oil on panel, 76.5 x 119.1 cm. Royal Collection Trust, London, RCIN 405781, © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2021 [side-by-side viewer]
Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Forest Floor with Thistle and a Snake, ca. 1655, Staatliches Museum Schwerin
Fig. 7 Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Forest Floor with Thistle and a Snake, ca. 1655, oil on canvas, 68.4 x 53 cm. Staatliches Museum Schwerin, photography by Elke Walford, courtesy BPK and Staatliche Schlösser, Gärten und Kunstsammlungen Mecklenburg-Vorpommern [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 8 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa (fig. 1), detail of the forest [side-by-side viewer]
Primordial Chaos, ca. 1617, etching, Stiftung der Werke von C.G. Jung, Zürich
Fig. 9 Primordial Chaos, ca. 1617, etching, in Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam divisa (Oppenheim, 1617), 1:37. Courtesy of Stiftung der Werke von C.G. Jung, Zürich (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Jan Muller after Hendrick Goltzius, Creation of the World, ca. 1592, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig. 10 Jan Muller after Hendrick Goltzius, Creation of the World, ca. 1592, engraving, second state of two, plate: 26.4 x 26.4 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, metmuseum.org (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 11 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Head of Medusa (fig. 1), detail the Medusa’s blood [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound, ca. 1611–1612 to 1618, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Fig. 12 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound, ca. 1611–1612 to 1618, oil on canvas, 242.6 x 209.6 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1950, W1950-3-1, image Courtesy of the Museo del Prado, 2015 [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 13 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound (fig. 12), detail of the eagle’s eye [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 14 Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound (fig. 12), detail of Prometheus’s liver [side-by-side viewer]
Rubens Peter PaulDie Auffindung des Erichthoniusknabenum 1616Öl auf LeinwandGE111The Discovery of the Infant ErichthoniusLa Scoperta di Erittonio fanciulloLa Découverte d’Erichthon
Fig. 2a Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1616, oil on canvas, 218 x 317 cm. Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, inv. no. GE111 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1615, The Courtauld Gallery of Art, London
Fig. 15 Peter Paul Rubens, The Discovery of Erichthonius, ca. 1615, oil on panel, 50 x 41 cm. The Courtauld Gallery of Art, London, The Samuel Courtauld Trust P.1978.PG.364 [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 3a Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha, 1636, oil on panel, 26 x 40.7 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid, inv. no. 2041 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Voyage of the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand..., 1635, Harvard Art Museums, Fogg Museum
Fig. 16 Peter Paul Rubens, The Voyage of the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand of Spain from Barcelona to Genoa in April 1633, with Neptune Calming the Tempest (Quos ego), 1635, detail (Boreas), oil on panel, 48.9 x 64.1 cm. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, MA, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund, 1942.174 [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 17 Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha (fig. 3), stages of creation [side-by-side viewer]
Virgil Solis after Bernard Salomon, woodcut from Ovid, Metamorphoses (Frankfurt am Main: Feyerabend, 1581), fol. 7v
Fig. 18 Virgil Solis after Bernard Salomon, woodcut from Ovid, Metamorphoses (Frankfurt am Main: Feyerabend, 1581), fol. 7v [side-by-side viewer]
Theodoor Galle, Allegory of America, ca. 1600, from the Nova Reperta, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fig. 19 Theodor Galle after Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus, Allegory of America, ca. 1600, from the Nova Reperta (New Inventions and Discoveries) series, sheet: 28.3 x 34.6 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, metmuseum.org (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 20 Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha (fig. 3), rock [side-by-side viewer]
An alchemical balneum Mariae from Philip Ulstad, Coelum philosophorum (Strasbourg, 1528)
Fig. 21 An alchemical balneum Mariae from Philip Ulstad, Coelum philosophorum (Strasbourg, 1528) (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig. 22 Peter Paul Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha (fig. 3), sky [side-by-side viewer]
Matthäus Merian in Michael_Maier, Atalanta Fugiens (Emblem 36), 1618
Fig. 23 Matthäus Merian, etching (Emblem 36) in Michael Maier, Atalanta fugiens (Oppenheim, 1618), 153 [side-by-side viewer]

Footnotes

  1. 1. Giovanni Pietro Bellori, “Vita di Pietro Paolo Rubens,” in Le Vite de’ pittori, scultori et architetti moderni (Rome, 1672), 246.

  2. 2. Rubens and his brother Philip were the first to Latinize their family name, which can be traced as early as 1396 and was originally spelled “Rubbens” or “Ruebens”; Max Rooses, trans. Harold Child, Rubens (London: Duckworth, 1904), 1:2–3.

  3. 3. On Rubens’s “physiology of painting” and the emerging recognition of the circulation of the blood codified in the work of William Harvey, see Ulrich Heinen, “Haut und Knochen – Fleisch und Blut: Rubens’ Affektmalerei,” in Ulrich Heinen and Andreas Thielemann, eds., Rubens passioni: Kultur der Leidenschaften im Barock (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 70–109. Julius Held argued that Rubens styled himself as a person of sanguine temperament; “Rubens and Aguilonius: New Points of Contact,” Art Bulletin 61, no. 2 (June 1979): 263.

  4. 4. The first to reproduce the actual inscription on Rubens’s tomb was his French biographer Roger de Piles, as Donatella Sparti notes in her analysis of Bellori’s sources: “Bellori’s Biography of Rubens: An Assessment of Its Reliability and Sources,” Simiolus 36, no.1/2 (2012): 87.

  5. 5. For a short list of such interpretations of Rubens’s paintings, see the extensive footnote on the epitaph in the Italian-German edition of Bellori, Vita di Pietro Paolo Rubens & Vita di Antonio Van Dyck / Das Leben des Peter Paul Rubens & Das Leben des Anthonis van Dyck, ed. Fiona Healy, trans. Anja Brug (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2020), 110n302. As Christine Göttler notes, “Rubens was aware of the painterly and alchemical associations his name carried. The reddening sky in his self-portraits for Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637) and Charles I as well as the aurora borealis in the Mantuan Self-Portrait in a Circle of Friends may be seen as playing on the color associations of his name and the enlivening and transformational qualities of his art”; Christine Göttler, “Vulcan’s Forge: The Sphere of Art in Early Modern Antwerp,” in Knowledge and Discernment in the Early Modern Arts, ed. Sven Dupré and Christine Göttler (London and New York: Routledge, 2017), 53. Tine L. Meganck discusses the alchemical significance of Rubens’s name in “The ‘Reddener’: Peter Paul Rubens and Alchemy,” in Art and Alchemy: The Mystery of Transformation, ed. Sven Dupré, Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, and Beat Wismer, trans. Susanna Michael (Munich: Hirner, 2014), 147.

  6. 6. Bellori, “Vita di Pietro Paolo Rubens,” 247.

  7. 7. Samuel van Hoogstraten, Inleyding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst: Anders de Zichtbaere Werelt (Introduction to the Academy of Painting: Or, the Visible World) (Rotterdam, 1678), 217. See also Celeste Brusati, ed., Samuel van Hoogstraten’s Introduction to the Academy of Painting, Or, the Visible World, trans. Jaap Jacobs (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2021). Christine Göttler has written extensively on the analogies between color and fire in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Antwerp painting. On the notion of “living color,” heat, and the early modern aesthetic of living images, see Frank Fehrenbach, “Calor nativus – Color vitale: Prolegomena zu einer Ästhetik des ‘Lebendigen Bildes’ in der frühen Neuzeit,” in Muster in Wandel: Zur Dynamik topischer Wissensordnungen in Spätmittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, ed. Wolfgang Dickhut, Stefan Manns, and Norbert Winkler (Göttingen: V&R, 2008), 165–90.

  8. 8. With this term I refer to the work of political theorist Jane Bennett and her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009). [ii] The seventeenth-century debates on spontaneous generation are summarized in relation to painting in Karin Leonhard, Bildfelder: Stilleben und Naturstücke des 17. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Akademie, 2013), 61–69.

  9. 9. The seventeenth-century debates on spontaneous generation are summarized in relation to painting in Karin Leonhard, Bildfelder: Stilleben und Naturstücke des 17. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Akademie, 2013), 61–69.

  10. 10. On the opposition of natura naturans and natura naturata, see Thomas Leinkauf, “Implikationen des Begriffs natura naturans in der frühen Neuzeit,” in Natascha Adamowsky, Hartmut Böhme, and Robert Felfe, eds., Ludi Naturae: Spiele der Natur in Kunst und Wissenschaft (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2011), 103–18.

  11. 11. On the Paracelsan tradition and the rise of early modern chemistry, see the summary of literature in Thijs Weststeijn, “Painting’s Enchanting Poison: Artistic Efficacy and the Transfer of Spirits,” in Spirits Unseen: The Representation of Subtle Bodies in Early Modern European Culture, ed. Christine Göttler and Wolfgang Neuber (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007), 149n37.

  12. 12. Leonhard, Bildfelder, 104.

  13. 13. Jan van Eyck’s (1390–1441) legendary “invention” of oil painting was characterized by Vasari and Karel van Mander as a secret alchemical breakthrough. On alchemy, art, and technology in the early modern Low Countries, see Sven Dupré, Laboratories of Art: Alchemy and Art Technology from Antiquity to the 18th Century (Cham: Springer, 2014); and Dupré, von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, and Wismer, eds., Art and Alchemy. For a recent case study of painting and alchemy in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, see Elisabeth Berry Drago, Painted Alchemists: Early Modern Artistry and Experiment in the Work of Thomas Wijck (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019). Spontaneous generation, alchemy, and oil painting are explored in depth in Leonhard, Bildfelder. For a broader theoretical discussion of painting and alchemy, see James Elkins, What Painting Is: How to Think About Oil Painting Using the Language of Alchemy (New York: Routledge, 2000).

  14. 14. See Christine Göttler, “Tales of Transformation: Hendrick Goltzius’s ‘Allegory of the (Alchemical) Arts’ in the Kunstmuseum Basel,” 21: Inquiries into Art, History, and the Visual 21: Inquiries into Art, History, and the Visual. Heidelberg 1, no. 2 (2020): 404–46, https://doi.org/10.11588/xxi.2020.2.76233; Christine Göttler, “The Alchemist, the Painter, and the ‘Indian Bird’: Joining Arts and Cultures in Seventeenth-Century Antwerp; Adriaen von Utrecht’s Allegory of Fire in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels,” in Synergies in Visual Culture / Bildkulturen im Dialog (Festschrift for Gerhard Wolf), ed. Manuela de Giorgi (Paderborn and Munich: Fink, 2013), 449–512; Göttler, “Vulcan’s Forge”; and Christine Göttler and Tine L. Meganck, “Sites of Art, Nature and the Antique in the Spanish Netherlands,” in Embattled Territory: The Circulation of Knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands, ed. Sven Dupré, Bert De Munck, Werner Thomas, and Geert Vanpaemel (Ghent: Academia Press, 2016), 333–69. See also Leonhard, Bildfelder; and Karin Leonhard, “‘The various natures of middling colours we may learne of painters’: Sir Kenelm Digby Looks at Rubens and Van Dyck,” in Dupré and Göttler, Knowledge and Discernment, 163–85. I take the phrase “the meaning of matter” from historian of science Pamela Smith, whose scholarship has helped initiate many inquiries into artisanal cultures in the early modern Low Countries; Pamela Smith, “Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards: Matter and Meaning in Metalworking,” in Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory, ed. Ursula Klein and E. C. Spary (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 31. For a study of concepts of materiality and generative nature in sixteenth-century France, see Rebecca Zorach, Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

  15. 15. Esposito has connected Rubens’s depictions of Black satyrs to Paracelsan notions of prime matter and its role in cosmological and alchemical creation: Teresa Esposito, “Black Ethiopians and the Origin of ‘Materia Prima’ in Rubens’ Images of Creation,” Oud Holland 133, no. 1 (2020): 10–32. See also Teresa Esposito, “Rubens’s Encounter with Natural Philosophy and the ‘Occult Sciences’ in 17th-century Italy,” in Rubens e la cultura italiana, 1600–1608, ed. Raffaella Morselli and Cecilia Paolini (Rome: Viella, 2020), 233–46. On Paracelsan alchemical imagery originally contained in Rubens’s theoretical notebook, see Meganck, “The ‘Reddener.’” Ulrich Heinen has shown the relationship between Rubens’s painting techniques, seventeenth-century anatomical theory, and Paracelsan notions of creation; see Heinen, “Haut und Knochen.”

  16. 16. Esposito, “Black Ethiopians,” 11.

  17. 17. On this oil sketch, see Julius Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens: A Critical Catalogue (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980), cat. no. 194, 1:279–80; Vincent Ducourau, ed., Musée Bonnat, Bayonne (Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 2004), 60–61; Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée, ed., Rubens, exh. cat.  (Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des Musées, 2004), cat. no. 91; and Michael Jaffé, “Esquisses inédites de Rubens pour La Torre della Parada,” La Revue du Louvre et des Musée de France 14, no. 6 (January 1964): 316. On the function of the scene in the Torre de la Parada cycle, see Svetlana Alpers, The Decoration of the Torre de la Parada, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard 9 (London and New York: Phaidon, 1971), no. 31a,  221–22; and Aneta Georgievska-Shine and Larry Silver, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014), 33–36.

  18. 18. Julius Pollux, Onomasticon 1, 47.

  19. 19. The extraction of Tyrian purple from mollusks is discussed in Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis 9, chapters 60–65. On Tyrian purple in Roman antiquity, see John Gage, Color and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 25–26.

  20. 20. As Held points out, Blaise de Vigenère, in his commentary on the 1614 French translation of Philostratus that may have been Rubens’s source, uses purple and red interchangeably (“les Pourpes ou Escarlattes anciennes”): Held, Oil Sketches, 1:279; Philostratus, Imagines (Paris, 1614), 242.

  21. 21. Alpers, Torre de la Parada, 222: “The reason for the inclusion of this very unusual scene in the Torre series is not clear.”

  22. 22. Held (Oil Sketches, 1:280) identifies the painter of Hercules and Iole as Santi di Tito (1536–1603); see also Georgievska-Shine (Rubens, Velázquez and the King of Spain, 32), as well as Vasari.

  23. 23. On Rubens’s copies after the Farnese Hercules, see Marjon van der Meulen, Copies after the Antique, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard 23 (London: Harvey Miller, 1993), cat. nos. 31, 37, 43, 44; and Valerie Mainz and Emma Stafford, The Exemplary Hercules from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment and Beyond (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2020), 11–14. On Rubens’s Drunken Hercules, see Lisa Rosenthal, “Manhood and Statehood: Rubens’s Construction of Heroic Virtue,” Oxford Art Journal 16, no. 1 (1993): 92–95.

  24. 24. Held, Oil Sketches, 1:280.

  25. 25. Held, Oil Sketches, 1:280.

  26. 26. Aneta Georgievska-Shine, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain, 33–36.

  27. 27. Museo del Prado, acc. no. P001845. I thank Felipe Pereda for encouraging me to take into account the significance of the sketch’s ultimate Spanish audience.

  28. 28. On the colorants used by Rubens, whose raw materials included all of the ones in this list, see Nico Van Hout with contributions by Arnout Balis, Rubens Unveiled: Notes on the Master’s Painting Techniques; A Catalogue of the Rubens Paintings in the Antwerp Museum (Antwerp: Ludion, 2012), 52–54. For a discussion of the “materiality of color” in early modern visual culture with a summary of the literature, see Barbara H. Berrie, “Mining for Color: New Blues, Yellows, and Translucent Paint,” in Early Modern Color Worlds, ed. Tawrin Baker et al (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015), 22–24.

  29. 29. The most convincing date range for both versions remains the one established by Susan Koslow, “‘How looked the Gorgon then . . .’: the Science and Poetics of the Head of Medusa by Rubens and Snyders,” in Cynthia P. Schneider, William W. Robinson, and Alice I. Davies, eds., Shop Talk: Studies in Honor of Seymour Slive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums, 1995), 147–49.

  30. 30. Long considered an inferior copy, the Brno version was recently identified by Gero Seeling as an original by Rubens and, moreover, as probably the earlier of the two versions; “Die Macht der Kunst: Peter Paul Rubens,” in Gero Seelig, Die Menagerie der Medusa: Otto Marseus van Schrieck und die Gelehrten (Schwerin: Hirmer, 2017), 42–45. For a comparative study of the two versions, see also Gerlinde Gruber and Petr Tomášek, “Albtraumhaft Schön: Rubens’ Wiener Medusenhaupt trifft auf die Brünner Fassung,” Ansichtssache 23 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2018), 3–34, esp. 28 on the scaled-down copy of the painting signed by Rubens’s student Victor Wolfvoet (1612–1652).

  31. 31. Lucan, Pharsalia 9.720. The generation of snakes from the Medusa’s blood is also mentioned in Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.846–50.

  32. 32. Including, as Michael Cole has argued, Cellini’s bronze Perseus, which Rubens had seen; Michael Cole, “Cellini’s Blood,” Art Bulletin 81, no. 2 (June 1999): 215–35.

  33. 33. An attribution of the still life to Snyders is broadly accepted on stylistic and documentary grounds. The inventory of George Villiers (1592–1628), from which the Vienna version was auctioned off in 1635, names the painters as Rubens and “Subter,” most likely a misspelling of Snyders’s name. Rubens and Snyders are named as the artists in the inventory of Nicolas Sohiers: Gemeentearchif Amsterdam, inv. no. 232, 9.9.1642, no. 28: “eein dito synde een medusa van Rubens en Snyers” (cited in Grüber and Tomášek, “Albtraumhaft Schön,” 32). Previous attributions to Paul de Vos (in Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Wolfgang Prohaska, and Karl Schütz, eds., Die Gemäldegalerie des Kunsthistorisches Museums in Wien: Verzeichnis der Gemälde{Vienna: Christian Brandstätter, 1991}, cat. no. 404) and Jan Brueghel the Elder (Max Rooses, L’Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens: Histoire et Description de ses Tableaux et Dessins {Antwerp: J. Maes, 1886–92}, 3:636) are to be considered obsolete, as is Wolfgang Prohaska’s suggestion that Rubens executed the still life himself; see Wolfgang Prohaska, “Das Haupt der Medusa,” in Das Flämische Stillleben 1550–1680: Eine Ausstellung des Kunsthistorischen Museums Wien und der Kulturstiftung Ruhr Essen, ed. Christa Nitze-Ertz, Ute Kleinmann, and Stephan Brakensiek (Lingen: Luca, 2002), cat. no. 12: 58.

  34. 34. Miniaturized copies of the snakes from Head of Medusa appear in Jan van Kessel’s (1626–1679) Four Parts of the World series (1660s); two of the snakes appear in the panel labeled “Angola” and another in “Mecca.” See Nadia Baadj, Jan van Kessel I (1626–79): Crafting a Natural History of Art in Early Modern Antwerp (London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller, 2016), 125–7. Didier Bodart links Van Kessel’s visual citation of the snakes to his unusual signature, composed of various insects; Rubens e la pittura fiamminga del Seicento nelle collezioni pubbliche fiorentine (Florence: Centro Di, 1977), 306. Indeed, the “Angola” panel appears directly beneath Kessel’s signature. On the animals in Rubens and Snyders’s painting, see especially Arnout Balis, “Facetten van de Vlaamse dierenschilderkunst van de 15de tot de 17de eeuw,” in Het Aards Paradijs: Dierenvoorstellingen in de Nederlanden van de 16de en 17de eeuw, exh. cat. (Antwerp: Standaard, 1982), 37–55, 44–45; and Peter C. Sutton, “The Head of Medusa,” in The Age of Rubens, exh. cat. (Gent: Ludion, 1993), 2:247.

  35. 35. Pliny, Natural History 38, 8, 85.

  36. 36. Mentioned in Lucan’s text, the amphisbaena was also described in Johann Faber’s Animalia Mexicana (Rome, 1628), a work that mentions Rubens and his brother by name; Esposito, “Black Ethiophians,” 10. On the “Mexican amphisbaena,” see David Freedberg, The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 261, 291–292, 361–364. On the amphisbaena as possibly reflecting a lost source shared with a later illustration in Francisco Hernandez’s (1517–1587) Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus (Rome 1651), a project in which Faber also took part, see Gruber and Tomášek, “Albtraumhaft Schön,” 11.

  37. 37. On this painting, see Desmond Shawe-Taylor and Jennifer Scott, eds., Bruegel to Rubens: Masters of Flemish Painting (London: Royal Collection Publications, 2007), no. 25, 126–29.

  38. 38. A second, earlier version of Caravaggio’s Head of Medusa, dated to 1596 and now in a private collection, was brought to light about a decade ago; see Mina Gregori and Ermanno Zoffili, eds., The First Medusa: Caravaggio (Milan: 5 Continents, 2011). On the Uffizi version, which dates to 1597, see Caterina Caneva, La Medusa del Caravaggio Restaurata (Rome: Retablo, 2002); and Avigdor Posèq, “Caravaggio’s Medusa Shield,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6, no. 113 (1989): 170–74.

  39. 39. Giambattista Marino’s ekphrasis on Caravaggio’s Medusa, published in his collection La galeria (Venice: Ciotti, 1619–20), emphasizes the painting’s ability to turn enemies into stone; addressing the work’s first owner, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Marino concludes “ché la vera Medusa è il valor vostro” (that the true Medusa is your valor); Marino, La galeria 1:32. On Marino’s poem, see Elizabeth Cropper, “The Petrifying Art: Marino’s Poetry and Caravaggio,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 26 (1991), 204.

  40. 40. See Ulrich Heinen, “Huygens, Rubens and Medusa: Reflecting the Passions in Paintings, with Some Considerations of Neuroscience in Art History,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 60 (2010): 151–78.

  41. 41. Heinen, “Huygens, Rubens and Medusa.” The evidence that the painting was kept behind a comes from a description by Constantijn Huygens (1597–1687), who saw a version of the work, probably identical with the one today in Brno, at Sohier’s Amsterdam home; S. A. Worp, “Constantijn Huygens over de schilders van zijn tijd,” Oud Holland 9 (1891): 106–36.

  42. 42. Heinen, “Huygens, Rubens and Medusa. ” On Rubens and the early modern concept of emotion known as the passions, see Heinen and Thielemann, Rubens passioni, esp. 70–109.

  43. 43. In this sense, the curtain could also be interpreted as the allegorical veil of nature Rubens also depicts in Nature Adorned (ca. 1615; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow) a collaboration with Jan Brueghel the Elder (1528–1625). On this latter painting as an allegory of nature’s secrets, see Esposito, “Black Ethiopians,” 15–16; and Elizabeth McGrath, “Garlanding the Great Mother: Rubens, Jan Brueghel and the Celebration of Nature’s Fertility,” in Munuscula amicorum: Contributions on Rubens and his Colleagues in Honour of Hans Vlieghe, ed. Katlijne van der Stighelen, 2 vols. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006), 1:103–22. On Rubens’s veils, see Karolien de Clippel, “Vibrant Veils and Daring Draperies: On Rubens’s Clothing of Nymphs and Goddesses,” in Rubens and the Human Body, ed. Cordula van Wythe (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), 199–223, esp. 26 on Nature Adorned.

  44. 44. The frontality of the head of Medusa was traditionally a crucial aspect of its horror. Jean-Pierre Vernant, “In the Mirror of the Medusa” (1985), in The Medusa Reader, ed. Marjorie Garber and Nancy J. Vickers (New York: Routledge, 2003), 200–31; and Frontisi-Ducroix, trans. Seth Graebner, “The Gorgon, Paradigm of Image Creation,” in The Medusa Reader, 263.

  45. 45. On the sottobosco genre, see Leonhard, Bildfelder; Karin Leonhard, “Painted Poison: Venomous Beasts, Herbs, Gems, and Baroque Color Theory,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 61 (2011): 116–47; and Karin Leonhard, “Pictura’s Fertile Field: Otto Marseus van Schrieck and the Genre of Sottobosco Painting,” Simiolus 31, no. 2 (2010): 95–118. See also Susanna Steensma, Otto Marseus van Schrieck: Leben und Werk, Studien zur Kunstgeschichte 131 (Hildesheim/Zürich/New York: Olms, 1999).

  46. 46. A connection between Rubens and Snyders’s painting and this later genre is evidenced by an anonymous Flemish painting in the Uffizi, previously misattributed to Leonardo da Vinci, which depicts the head of Medusa in a grotto inhabited by chthonic creatures. On this work and its unresolved relationship to the sottobosco genre and to Rubens and Snyders’s painting, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 182–83; Seelig, Die Menagerie der Medusa, 43–45; and Gruber and Tomášek, “Albtraumhaft Schön,” 16.

  47. 47. On sottobosco paintings as a form of “negative mimesis,” see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 100. On the early modern analogies between image-making and sexual reproduction, see Ulrich Pfisterer, Kunst-Geburten: Kreatitivät, Erotik, Körper in der Frühen Neuzeit (Berlin: Wagenbach, 2014).

  48. 48. On nature printing in the sottoboschi, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 30–33.

  49. 49. See Pamela H. Smith and Tonny Beentjes, “Nature and Art, Making and Knowing: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Life-Casting Techniques,” Renaissance Quarterly 63, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 128–79. On examples of life casts of lizards by Wenzel Jamnitzer and from the workshop of Bernard Palissy, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 100.

  50. 50. Koslow, “How Looked the Gorgon Then,” 147.

  51. 51. On Rubens’s Paracelsan interests, see Esposito, “Black Ethiopians”; and Esposito, “Rubens’s Encounter with Natural Philosophy and the ‘Occult Sciences’ in 17th-century Italy.” See also Meganck, “The ‘Reddener’” and “Rubens on the Human Figure: Theory, Practice and Metaphysics,” in Rubens: A Genius at Work; The Works of Peter Paul Rubens in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium Reconsidered, ed. Michel Draguet and Joost Vander Auwera, exh. cat. (Tielt: Lannoo, 2007), 52–64, esp. 57.

  52. 52. Meganck, “The ‘Reddener,’” 149.

  53. 53. Meganck, “The ‘Reddener,’” 147; Smith, “Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards.”

  54. 54. These sections were omitted in the 1776 publication but can still be found in the eighteenth-century copy of Rubens’s notebook known as the Ganay manuscript; see Meganck, “The ‘Reddener,’” 146. On the Paracelsan tria prima, see also Leonhard, Bildfelder, 264–270.

  55. 55. On Rubens’s interest in the materia prima and its symbolic relationship to the color black, see Esposito, “Black Ethiopians.”

  56. 56. Fludd’s work is recorded in the nineteenth-century reconstruction of Rubens’s library by Prosper Arents; see Alfons K. L. Thijs, ed., with contributions by Frans Baudouin, Lia Baudouin, Elly Cockx-Indestege, Jacques De Bie and Marcus de Schepper, Prosper Arents: De Bibliotheek van Pieter Paul Rubens: Een reconstructie (Antwerp: Vereniging der Antwerpse Bibliofielen, 2001), 345.

  57. 57. Etching in Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam divisa (Oppenheim, 1617), 1:37.

  58. 58. See Marjolein Leesberg and Huigen Leeflang, eds., Hendrick Goltzius, The New Hollstein Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450–1700 (Ouderkerk aan den Ijssel: Sound and Vision, 2012), 3:381.

  59. 59. Georges Didi-Huberman, trans. Jane Marie Todd, Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 9. The blood also resonates with Didi-Huberman’s concept of a “patch,” a site in which a painting seems to “proclaim itself as pure matter”; see Didi-Huberman, “The Art of Not Describing: Vermeer—the Detail and the Patch,” History of the Human Sciences 2 (1989), 135. Much of the critical discourse surrounding disfiguration and materiality derives from the French critical term “macula”; see the journal of that name published in Paris in 1976–1978.

  60. 60. At the time of this publication, both versions of the painting are undergoing technical study at the University of Antwerp in conjunction with both the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Moravian Gallery in Brno: AXES, “Rubens’ Medusas: Find the Seven Differences,” University of Antwerp website, accessed July 22, 2021, https://www.uantwerpen.be/en/research-groups/axes/x-ray-spectroscopy-and-imaging/research—funding/chair-for-the-arts/research-activities/rubens-medusa.

  61. 61. On cochineal, see Elena Philips, Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010). Byron Ellsworth Hamann has argued that the reflected red curtain in Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656, Museo del Prado) refers to its material basis in cochineal and therefore also to the Atlantic world: “The Mirrors of Las Meninas: Cochineal, Silver, and Clay,” Art Bulletin 92, nos. 1/2 (March–June 2010): 18–20. I thank Joanna Woodall for pointing out the potential significance of cochineal to Rubens and Snyders’s Head of Medusa when she supervised my master’s thesis at the Courtauld Institute in 2006.

  62. 62. On sixteenth-century Antwerp as a center of vermilion production, see Filip Vermeylen, “The Colour of Money: Dealing in Pigments in Sixteenth-Century Antwerp,” in Trade in Artists’ Materials: Markets and Commerce in Europe to 1700, ed. Jo Kirby, Susie Nash, and Joanna Cannon (London: Archetype, 2010), 356–65.

  63. 63. On the methods of making vermilion, see Smith, “Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards,” 35–39.

  64. 64. Cennino Cennini, trans. Lara Broecke, Il Libro dell’Arte: A New English Translation and Commentary with Italian Transcription (London: Archetype, 2015), 64. On the blackening of Rubens’s reds over time, see the technical study by Willemien Anaf, Koen Janssens, and Karolien De Wael, “Formation of Metallic Mercury during Photodegradation/Photodarkening of αHgSElectrochemical Evidence,” Angewandte Chemie International Edition 52, no. 48 (2013): 12568–71.

  65. 65. The philosopher’s stone was often described as a “red powder”; see Smith, “Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards,” 40. On red in alchemy and in seventeenth-century still-life painting, see also Leonhard, Bildfelder, 287–304.

  66. 66. Joachim von Sandrart, Teutsche Akademie (Frankfurt, 1675), 3:292. On this anecdote, which was repeated in Roger de Piles’s Abrégé de la vie des peintres (Paris, 1699), 40, see Göttler, “Vulcan’s Forge,” 52–53.

  67. 67. Herman Van der Wee, The Growth of the Antwerp Market and the European Economy (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1963), 2:327, cited in Elizabeth Honig, Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), 6.

  68. 68. See the introduction to Christine Göttler, Bart Ramakers, and Joanna Woodall, eds., “Trading Values in Early Modern Antwerp,” special issue, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboeck 64 (2014): 9–37.

  69. 69. See Göttler, “Vulcan’s Forge.”

  70. 70. See the technical discussions in Tiarna Doherty, Mark Leonard, and Jørgen Wadum, “Brueghel and Rubens at Work: Technique and the Practice of Collaboration,” in Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship, ed. Anne T. Woollett and Ariane van Sucthelen, exh. cat. (Zwolle: Waanders, 2006), 215–51.

  71. 71. On this image, see Julius Held, “Prometheus Bound,” Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 59, no. 279 (August 1963): 16–32; Anne T. Woolett, “Prometheus Bound,” in Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship, 166–73, cat. no. 221; and Fiske Kimball, “Rubens’ Prometheus,” Burlington Magazine 94, no. 588 (March 1952): 67–68. The attribution of the eagle in Prometheus Bound is confirmed by Rubens himself in a letter of 1608 to Sir Dudley Carleton; see Held, “Prometheus Bound,” 19–20. Two versions of the work are extant today, one in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the other in Landesmuseum in Oldenburg.

  72. 72. On the modes of viewing seventeenth-century Flemish collaborative painting, see Elizabeth Honig, “The Beholder as a Work of Art: A Study in the Location of Value in Seventeenth-Century Flemish Painting,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 46 (1995): 252–97.

  73. 73. Since the attribution of the eagle to Snyders is firm, the close resemblance between the two paintings seems to strengthen the case for attributing the still life in Head of Medusa to Snyders as well.

  74. 74. See Aeschylus, trans. Janet Case, Prometheus Bound (London: Dent, 1905). Rubens would later depict Prometheus’s theft of fire in a 1636 oil sketch for the Torre de la Parada cycle.

  75. 75. Pomponio Gaurico, De Scultura, trans. Heinrich Brockhaus (Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1886), 164; and Natale Conti, Mythologiae (Paris, 1583) 4, ch. 6: “Prometheus is supposed to have been the first one to shape men out of mud.” A Prometheus Bound by Jacob Jordaens (Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne) depicts a small marble bust on the mountainside; Held, “Prometheus Bound,” 31.

  76. 76. Caroline Van Eck, “Gemankeerde Pygmalions en successvolle Medusa’s,” in Levende Beelden: Kunst werken en kijken (Leiden and Brussels: Leiden University Press, 2011), 8–27 and 108–109, quote on 10. See also Caroline van Eck, “The Petrifying Gaze of Medusa: Ambivalence, Explexis, and the Sublime,” Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 8, no. 2 (Summer 2016), https://doi.org/10.5092/jhna.2016.8.2.3. Van Eck draws from the discussion of ikonopoesis in the Medusa myth by Françoise Frontisi-Dutroux, “La Gorgone, paradigme de creation d’images,” in Les Cahiers du Collège Iconique: Communications et Débats (Paris: La Diffusion Française, 1993); English translation in The Medusa Reader, 262–67.

  77. 77. Olga Raggio, “The Myth of Prometheus: Its Survival and Metamorphoses up to the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 21, nos. 1/2 (1958): 44–62. Baudius’s reference to Prometheus’s “ever-regrowing” liver recalls similar descriptions, found in accounts of the myth of Tityus (especially Virgil’s Aeneid 6.595–600) of Tityus’s liver “inexhaustible” or “ever-renewing.” The myth of Prometheus was closely linked in the Renaissance to that of Tityus, who was punished by Zeus by having two vultures tear out his liver; Held, “Prometheus Bound,” 26.

  78. 78. Baudius, a professor at the University of Leiden, knew both Rubens and his brother Philip.

  79. 79. I follow the translation given in Kimball, “Rubens’ Prometheus,” 67.

  80. 80. As Christine Göttler (“The Alchemist, the Painter, and the ‘Indian Bird’”) has argued, fire was invoked by Flemish Baroque painters to symbolize their own transformative power over the natural world.

  81. 81. I thank Joris van Gastel, Giannis Hadjinicolau, and Markus Rath for allowing me to present these thoughts on Head of Medusa and Prometheus Bound at their session “Productive Paragones” at the Renaissance Society of America annual meeting, Berlin, 2015.

  82. 82. On Rubens’s The Discovery of Erichthonius, see Aneta Georgievska-Shine, Rubens and the Archaeology of Myth, 1610–1620: Visual and Poetic Memory (Surrey: Ashgate, 2009), 153–85; and “From Ovid’s Cecrops to Rubens’s City of God in The Finding of Erichthonius,” Art Bulletin 86, no. 1 (March 2004): 58–74. See also Eveliina Juntunen, Peter Paul Rubens’ bildimplizite Kunsttheorie in ausgewählten mythologischen Historien 1611–1618 (Petersberg: Michael Imhof, 2005), 84–99; and Svetlana Alpers, “Manner and Meaning in Some Rubens Mythologies,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 30 (1967): 272–95. See also Wolfgang Stechow, “The Finding of Erichthonius: An Ancient Theme in Baroque Art,” in Latin American Art, and the Baroque Period in Europe, Studies in Western Art 3 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963): 27–35. Rubens often recast ancient myths as allegories of nature’s fertility, a tendency Elizabeth McGrath (“Garlanding the Great Mother”) has attributed to his antiquarian interest in iconographies of nature that peaked in the 1610s.

  83. 83. The story is recounted twice in Ovid, first in its tragic denouement (Metamorphoses 2:531–65): a crow reports Aglaurus’s disobedience to Minerva, who punishes her by driving her mad until she falls off a cliff to her death. Later (Metamorphoses 2:708–832), an earlier segment is narrated: Mercury falls in love with Herse, but when Aglaurus, jealous of her sister, refuses to let him past the threshold, the god turns her to stone.

  84. 84. On this statue and its early modern reception, see Andrea Goesch, Diana Ephesia: Ikonographische Studien zur Allegorie der Natur in der Kunst vom 16.–19. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt and New York: Lang, 1996); and Zorach, “Milk,” in Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold, 82–134.

  85. 85. Georgievska-Shine, “From Ovid’s Cecrops to Rubens’s City of God,” 58; and Alpers, “Manner and Meaning,” 373.

  86. 86. On the large canvas, which is held today in the Liechtenstein Museum, see Johann Kräftner, Wilfred Sepel, and Renate Trnek, eds., Peter Paul Rubens: The Masterpieces from the Viennese Collections (Vienna: Christian Brandstätter, 2004), no. 29, 131. On the Courtauld oil sketch, see Held, Oil Sketches, no. 231, 2:318–19; and Michael Jaffé, Rubens, Catalogo Completo (Milan: Rizzoli, 1989), no. 319, 208. A severely reduced fragment now in the Allen Art Museum at Oberlin College is thought to be from a later version Rubens created in the 1630s; see Ludwig Burchard, “Rubens’s Daughters of Cecrops,” Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 1 (1953): 4–26. On Van Stompel’s print, a sheet of which is held in the National Gallery in Washington (1975.23.54), see Juntunen, Peter Paul Rubens’ bildimplizite Kunsttheorie, 90–91.

  87. 87. Alpers ultimately used the image to explore “the problem of the relationship between allegorical meaning and dramatic action”; “Manner and Meaning,” 292. Held disagreed with Alpers’s purely allegorical interpretation, interpreting the work instead as a synthesis of both Ovidian versions of the myth.

  88. 88. Alpers, “Manner and Meaning,” 283.

  89. 89. In particular, the fountain of Diana Ephesus created by Pirro Ligorio (ca. 1500–1589) for the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Lazio. On the sculptural precedents for Rubens’s depiction of Diana Ephesus, see Juntunen, Peter Paul Rubens’ bildimplizite Kunsttheorie, 95–96. On the Tivoli fountain, see also Zorach, Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold, 99.

  90. 90. Roger de Piles, who owned a copy of the notebook in the late seventeenth century, reproduced this text in his Cours de peinture (Paris, 1708), 139–41. The De imitation statuarum has been explored in depth by Andreas Thielemann; see his “Rubens’ Traktat De imitatione statuarum,” in Ursula Rombach and Peter Seiler, eds., Imitatio als Transformation: Theorie und Praxis der Antikennachahmung in der Frühen Neuzeit (Petersberg: Michael Imhof, 2012), 95–150; and his “Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), De imitatione statuarum,” in Manfred Luchterhandt et al., eds., Abgekupfert: Roms Antiken in den Reproduktionsmedien der Frühen Neuzeit; Katalog zur Aussellung Kunstsammlung der Gipsabgüsse, exh. cat. (Petersberg: Michael Imhof, 2014), 319–21. See also Steven J. Cody, “Rubens and the ‘Smell of Stone’: The Translation of the Antique and the Emulation of Michelangelo,” Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 20, no. 3 (Winter 2013): 39–55. Rubens’s views on the reanimation of ancient sculpture in the De imitatione statuarum have been linked to his Death of Seneca (1615) by Heinen (“Haut und Knochen”). On The Discovery of Erichthonius as a visual expression of the ideas found in the De imitation statuarum, see Juntunen, Peter Paul Rubens’ bildimplizite Kunsttheorie, 99. 

  91. 91. De Piles, Cours de Peinture, 139.

  92. 92. De Piles, Cours de Peinture, 139–40.

  93. 93. Another visual expression of this idea is the overturned urn held parallel to the picture plane by a river god, a recurrent theme in Rubens’s works.

  94. 94. On Rubens’s Deucalion and Pyrrha, see Georgievska-Shine and Silver, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain, 33–35; Held, Oil Sketches, cat. no. 184, 1:270–71; and Alpers, Torre de la Parada, 22. No large canvas painting after Rubens’s model survives.

  95. 95. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1:313–415.

  96. 96. Alpers, Torre de la Parada, 188–89.

  97. 97. Ovid, Metamorphoses 3:94–115. The large canvas of Cadmus Sewing the Dragon’s Teeth was executed by Jacob Jordaens and is in the Prado (inv. no. 1713). On the oil sketch, see Held, Oil Sketches, cat. no. 176, 1:264–65.

  98. 98. I take this phrase from the English translation of Horst Bredekamp, The Lure of Antiquity and the Cult of the Machine: The Kunstkammer and the Evolution of Nature, Art, and Technology, trans. Allison Brown (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1995), 47.

  99. 99. See the classic study by Jurgis Baltrusaitis, trans. Richard Miller, Aberrations: An Essay on the Legend of Forms (Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 1989). On “pictorial stones,” see also Fabio Berry, “‘Painting in Stone’: Early Modern Experiments in a Metamedium,” Art Bulletin 99, no. 3 (July 2017): 30–61. On “nature as an artist,” see also Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 255–301.

  100. 100. On this passage in Alberti, see Roland Kanz, Die Kunst des Capriccio: Kreativer Eigensinn in Renaissance und Barock (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2002), 77.

  101. 101. Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, trans. Cecil Grayson (London: Penguin Classics, 1991), 60.

  102. 102. H. W. Janson, “The ‘Image Made by Chance’ in Renaissance Thought,” in De artibus opuscula XL: Essays in Honor of Erwin Panofsky, ed. Millard Meiss (New York: New York University Press, 1961), 54–66. Primary sources discussed by Janson include Lucretus, Philostratus, Albertus Magnus, Leonardo, and Vasari. On the “image made by chance” in later seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting and art theory, with reference to spontaneous generation, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 85–88.

  103. 103. Harvard Art Museums, 1942.174. Also known as Quos ego, after the passage in Virgil’s Aeneid on which it is based, this oil study was a model for the Pompa introitus Ferdinandi, a triumphal procession designed by Rubens and held in Antwerp in 1634. See Anna C. Knaap and Michael C. J. Putnam, eds., Art, Music, and Spectacle in the Age of Rubens: The Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi (London and Turnhout: Brepols, 2013). On the technical fluency of the Quos ego oil sketch, see Jakob Rosenberg, “Rubens’s Sketch for The Wrath of Neptune,” Bulletin of the Fogg Museum of Art 10, no. 1 (November 1942): 10–11.

  104. 104. On Rubens’s previous depictions of Eve, see Jeremy Wood, “Adam and Eve: Painting after Titian,” in Rubens: Copies and Adaptations from Renaissance and Later Masters: Italian Artists. 2, Titian and North Italian Art (London: Harvey Miller, 2010), Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard 26, cat. no. 111, 1:111–19; and Ariane van Suchtelen, “The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man,” in Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship, cat. no. 4, 64–65. The woman’s long blonde hair also recalls Rubens’s painting of Venus at a Mirror (ca. 1615).

  105. 105. Held, Oil Sketches, 1:271. The female figure’s hand, whose placement is modeled on the Venus pudica statue, disappears autoerotically behind her upper thigh.

  106. 106. Rubens frequently drew inspiration from illustrated Ovids, including the edition published by the Plantijn Press in Antwerp in 1591; Held, Oil Sketches, 1:281. As Elizabeth McGrath notes: “These works often specifically advertised themselves as aimed at artists”; “Rubens and Ovid,” in The Afterlife of Ovid, ed. Peter Mack and John North (London: Institute of Classical Studies 2015), 159.

  107. 107. I thank Anna Knaap for pointing out this stylistic contrast when I presented these thoughts on Rubens’s Deucalion and Pyrrha at the Renaissance Society of America annual meeting, Boston, 2016.

  108. 108. Wood, Rubens: Copies and Adaptations, 111–19. Both Titian’s Fall of Man (ca. 1550) and Rubens’s copy after it (1628–1629) are now in the Prado. On Rubens and Titian, see Hilliard Goldfarb, David Freedberg, and Manuela B. Mena Marqués, Titian and Rubens: Power, Politics and Style (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1998), especially Freedberg’s essay “Rubens and Titian: Art and Politics,” 30–60. See also Aneta Georgievska-Shine, “Rubens’s Europa and Titian’s Auctoris Index,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek  59, no. 1 (2009): 274–91.

  109. 109. Rebecca Zorach drew my attention to the potential racial implications of Rubens’s sketch and its conception of the human when I presented a paper (“Mythologizing Matter: Rubens’s Images of Spontaneous Generation”) at the workshop organized by Claudia Swan, “Shaped by Nature, Forged by Art: Early Modern Objects and Images” (Northwestern University, May 20–21, 2016). I also thank Shawon Kinew for encouraging me to acknowledge the colonial aspects of the image in relation to its ultimate Spanish audience, and Claudia Swan for pointing me toward the Stradanus print.

  110. 110. On Theodoor de Bry’s engravings as expressions of the amorphousness of the “new world” and its inhabitants, see Michael Gaudio, “Making Sense of Smoke: Engraving and Ornament in de Bry’s America,” in Engraving the Savage: The New World and Techniques of Civilization (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 45–85.

  111. 111. Marjolein Leesberg and Huigen Leeflang, eds., Stradanus, The New Hollstein Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450–1700 (Ouderkerk aan den Ijssel: Sound and Vision, 2008), 3:323. On the print within the Nova Reperta series, see Dániel Margócsy, “Stradanus: Nova Reperta,” in Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, ed. Susan Dackerman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), cat. no. 1, 38–45. The original drawing by Stradanus is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1974.205.

  112. 112. Americen Americus retexit, & Semel vocauit inde semper exitam.

  113. 113. Rubens owned both de Acosta’s and de Bry’s treatises and used them as sources for his allegorical image of Mount Potosi in the Pompa introitus Ferdinandi (1633–4); Elizabeth McGrath, “Rubens’s Arch of the Mint,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 37 (1974): 196.

  114. 114. José de Acosta, Historia natural y moral de las Indias (Seville, 1590), book 1, chapters 25, 82. Translation adapted from the English edition (London, 1609) by Edward Grimson, ed. Clements R. Markham (London: Hakluyt Society, 1880), 70–71.

  115. 115. De Acosta, Historia natural y moral, 71.

  116. 116. For a study of shifting conceptions of the human in early modern Europe in relation to illustrated maps, see Surekha Davies, Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps, and Monsters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). By Rubens’s time, there was already a history of familiarizing newly encountered peoples to European audiences by rendering them as standard image types, including Adam and Eve. Hans Burgkmair the Elder’s 1508 woodcut In Allago (In Algoa) is an example. See Marisa Mandabach, “Burgkmair  and Glockendon: Peoples of Africa and India,” in Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge, 326–31, cat. 79 (326).

  117. 117. On race in Rubens and in the historiography on Rubens, see Shawon Kinew, “Sedlmayr’s Mother-of-Pearl: Further Notes on Rubens and Flesh Color,” Selva: A Journal of the History of Art, 2 (Fall 2020): 8896.

  118. 118. For Roger de Piles, tonal modeling was an intrinsic part of Rubens’s colorisme; Svetlana Alpers, The Making of Rubens (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 75. The association of Rubens’s art with “coloring” as opposed to “design” was first made by Bellori, then picked up by de Piles.

  119. 119. On the relationship between artisanal and natural knowledge in early modern Europe, see Pamela Smith, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2004); and Dupré and Göttler, Knowledge and Discernment. On how paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck informed seventeenth-century theories of color and optics, see Leonhard, “The various natures of middling colours.”

  120. 120. On the technical “fluency” of Rubens’s oil sketches, see David Freedberg, “The Hand of Rubens,” in Peter Paul Rubens: Paintings and Oil Sketches, exh. cat. (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 1995), 8. On speed as a technical and aesthetic quality in Venetian painting and art criticism, see Una Roman d’Elia, “Tintoretto, Aretino, and the Speed of Creation,” Word & Image 20 (2004): 206–18.

  121. 121. Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 55–57.

  122. 122. British Library, MS 2052. On the Mayerne manuscript, see especially Jenny Boulboullé, “Drawn up by a learned physician from the mouths of artisans: The Mayerne manuscript revisited,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 68, no. 1 (2019): 227–29.

  123. 123. On the Rubens note in the Mayerne manuscript, the relationship between Rubens’s technique of alternatively condensing and thinning colors, and Paracelsan ideas about modifying the elements, see Heinen, “Haut und Knochen,” 81–82; and Leonhard, “The Various Natures of Middling Colours,” 168. The transcription of Rubens’s theoretical notebook, most likely made by Van Dyck, includes a recipe for a varnish made with turpentine; Meganck, “The ‘Reddener,’” 147.

  124. 124. British Library, MS 2052, fol. 9v. I follow the translation in Jenny Boulboullé, “Drawn up by a learned physician,” 227.

  125. 125. Heinen, “Haut und Knochen”; Thielemann, “Rubens’ Traktat De Imitatione statuarum,” 113; Kinew, “Sedlmayr’s Mother-of-Pearl,” 94.

  126. 126. On Rubens’s grounds, see Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 38–51; on the doodverf in Rubens, 60–64. On Rubens’s uses of the doodverf, see also Van Hout, “Functies van doodverf met bijzondere aandacht voor de onderschildering en andere onderliggende Stadia in het Werk van P.P. Rubens” (PhD diss., Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, 2005); and “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer in Seventeenth-Century Painting,” Leids kunsthistorisch jaarboek 11 (1998): 199–225. On the longer history of the doodverf in Netherlandish painting, see Hessel Miedema, “Over kwaliteitsvoorschriften in het St. Lucasgilde, over ‘doodverf,’” Oud Holland 101 (1987): 141–47. For comparison, on Rembrandt’s use of the doodverf, see Nicola Suthor, “Transparenz der Mittel: Zur Sichtbarkeit der Imprimatur in einigen Werken Rembrandts,” in Gottfried Böhm, ed., Der Grund: Das Feld des Sichtbaren (Munich: Fink, 2012), 223–50.

  127. 127. In Genesis 2:7 God is described as creating Adam from the “dust of the earth.”

  128. 128. Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ piu eccellenti pittori, scultori, et architettori (Florence, 1568), 12: “Cosi dunque il primo modello, onde usci la prima imagine dell’huomo fu una massa di terra; et non senza cagione: percioche il divino Architetto del tempo, et della natura, come perfetissimo volle mostrare nella imperfezzione della materia, la via, del levare, et dell’aggiugnere; nel medesimo modo, che sogliono fare i buoni scultori; et pittori, i quali ne’ lor modelli, aggiungendo, et levando, riducono le imperfette bozze a quel fine, et perfezzione che vogliono. Diedegli colore vivacissimo di carne, dove s’è tratto nelle pitture poi da le Miniere della terra gli istessi colori, per contraffare tutte le cose, che accaggiono nelle Pitture.” Translation adapted from Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architectsi, trans. Gaston du C. De Vere (London: Macmillan and Co. Ld. & The Medici Society), 1912–14: xxxvii–viii.

  129. 129. On the engraved vignettes and title page Rubens created for Aguilonius’s Opticorum libri sex (1613), see Julius Held, “Rubens and Aguilonius: New Points of Contact,” Art Bulletin 61, no. 2 (June 1979): 257–64; Michael Jaffé, “Rubens and Optics: Some Fresh Evidence,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 34 (1971): 362–66; and Charles Parkhurst, “Aguilonius’ Optics and Rubens’ Color,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 12 (1961): 35–48.

  130. 130. On ancient and early modern analogies between colors and the elements, see Leonhard, Bildfelder, 343–45; and Fehrenbach, “Calor nativus – color vitale,” 158–60.

  131. 131. On this etching, see Michael Gaudio, “The Emblem in the Landscape: Matthäus Merian’s Etchings for Atalanta fugiens,” in Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s “Atalanta fugiens” (1618) with Scholarly Commentary, digital edition (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020), https://furnaceandfugue.org/essays/gaudio.

  132. 132. Gaudio, “The Emblem in the Landscape.”

  133. 133. Rubens’s oil sketches had a practical and utilitarian function within his workshop, and the question remains as to what extent Rubens would have understood them as works of art in their own right; see Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 17. However, Rubens may well have discussed his oil sketches with learned friends, associates, connoisseurs, and other artists on both a theoretical and technical level. On early modern artist workshops in the Low Countries as spaces of exchange between artisanal and scholarly knowledge, see Dupré and Göttler, introduction to Knowledge and Discernment; on artist workshops in the Low Countries as “arenas in which the learned taught the skilled, and the skilled taught the learned,” see Pamela Long, Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400–1600 (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2011), 95. On the series of the Four Elements and Five Senses by Rubens and Bruegel—and painters’ workshops in early seventeenth-century Antwerp as “laboratories of invention and experimentation” in which “the more traditional mode of acquiring knowledge through books” existed side-by-side with both the “observation of nature” and artisanal labor—see Göttler, Ramakers, and Woodall, introduction to “Trading Values in Early Modern Antwerp,” 25.

  134. 134. An allusion to Rubens’s first name has been discerned in the self-portrait now in the Windsor collection; Shawe-Taylor and Scott, Rubens to Brueghel, 143.

  135. 135. Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 5. For this letter, see Charles Ruelens and Max Rooses, Correspondance de Rubens et documents epistolaires concernant sa vie et ses oeuvres, 6 vols. (Antwerp: Veuve de Backer, 1887–1909), 5:153. For an English translation, see Ruth Magurn, The Letters of Peter Paul Rubens (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955), 322–23.

  136. 136. Alpers, Art of Describing, 5.

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