Rubens’s Invention and Evolution: Material Evidence in The Fall of Phaeton

Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612 (Stage 3), National Gallery of Art, Washington

An early work by Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, documents the experimentation that was essential to Rubens’s creative process. This article accompanies the reader through direct study of the painting itself, combining a range of technical evidence with formal analysis to pinpoint three distinct stages of the composition: the composition Rubens began during his early years in Italy (Stage 1); his first revisions (Stage 2); and the composition we see today (Stage 3), which reflects the final inventive revisions he made after his return to Antwerp. In tracing Rubens’s creative process, the article offers new perspectives on the changing aesthetic goals of his formative years and his extraordinarily fertile mind.

Generous funding by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation supported JHNA’s development of enhanced image tools and navigation (click here for the technical project narrative). Clicking on the images in the article identified in the captions by the reference “IIIF multi-mode viewer” allows the user to study The Fall of Phaeton up to a microscopic level using a range of technical images and paint samples. Clicking on any other figure opens the side-by-side viewer, allowing the user to zoom in and compare that image to all the works of art illustrated in the article.

An additional digital feature, “Exploration and Resources,” gives scholars and students direct access to the image tools and technical evidence on The Fall of Phaeton, inviting them to continue researching the painting on their own. With additional guidance on the interpretation of technical information and the use of the image tools, we hope this feature will support classroom use of this article as an example of art historical research that draws on evidence of the artist’s techniques.

DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2019.11.2.1

Acknowledgements

This interactive article is indebted to the imaginative skill of Jennifer Henel, Digital Humanities Developer, the expertise of programmer Morgan Schwartz, and the support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The remarkable images were prepared by National Gallery of Art colleagues Kate Dooley, John Delaney, Douglas Lachance and Greg Williams. John Gordy, NGA web designer, taught me much about digital tools. Colleagues at institutions where I examined other works were most generous: Laurence Kanter, Ian McClure and Ashley Wingel at the Yale University Art Gallery; at the Courtauld Institute, Aviva Burnstock, Graeme Barraclough, Ketty Gottardo, Clare Richardson and Kate Stonor. I am grateful for the observations of Fiona Healy and Gregory Martin, contributors to forthcoming volumes of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard XI.

Early results of this research appeared in Arthur K. Wheelock Jr’s systematic catalogue of Flemish paintings at the NGA and were presented at a study day during the exhibition A Master in the Making (London, 2005). I have benefited from the keen insights of colleagues who read earlier drafts of this article: Alexandra Libby, Alison Kettering, Fiona Healy and peer reviewers. Finally, I am deeply grateful for the years I studied with Julius Held. My renewed immersion in the central focus of his scholarship— Peter Paul Rubens’s inventive mind—has been an unalloyed pleasure.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612 (Stage 3), National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 1 Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610-1612 (Stage 3), oil on canvas, 98.4 x 131.2 cm. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (photo: Greg Williams) (artwork in the public domain) [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Leonardo da Vinci, A Rearing Horse, ca. 1503–1504, The Royal Collection Trust, London
Fig. 2 Leonardo da Vinci, A Rearing Horse, ca. 1503-1504, red chalk, pen, and ink on paper, 15.3 x 14.2 cm. London, The Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 912336 (artwork in the public domain). Formerly in the collection of Pompeo Leoni [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of rearing horses, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 3 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of rearing horses [side-by-side viewer]
Roman, Aphrodite or Crouching Venus, 2nd century AD, The Royal Collection Trust, London
Fig. 4 Roman, Aphrodite or “Crouching Venus,” second century AD, marble, 125 x 53 x 65 cm. London, The Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 69746 (artwork in the public domain). Formerly in the Gonzaga Collection, Mantua [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of crouching hora, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 5 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of crouching Hora [side-by-side viewer]
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, ca. 1562-1566, Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice
Fig. 6 Jacopo Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, ca. 1562-1566, oil on canvas, 398 x 315 cm. Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail showing overpainted reins and traces, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 7 The Fall of Phaeton, detail showing overpainted reins and traces [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens,The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the lower right
Fig. 8 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the lower right, in visible light and x-radiograph. An arrow indicates the foot of a Hora that Rubens painted over. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of upper Horae, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 9 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of upper Horae. Flickering red and orange brushstrokes between the figures are inconsistent with the golden light behind them. [side-by-side viewer]
Three details, Primary, X-ray, and False Color Infrared Reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 10 Left to Right: 10a-The Fall of Phaeton, detail from the center of fig. 9; 10b – X-radiograph of The Fall of Phaeton, the area shown in fig. 10a reveals flickering brushwork below the surface; 10c-False-color infrared reflectogram (IRR) of The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the area shown in fig. 10a reveals black sky hidden by later paint [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the sky beside Hora and sample location, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 11 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of sky beside the central Horae, with an arrow indicating the location where a microscopic sample was taken from the edge of an existing loss. Layer 1: yellow-tan ground; Layers 2 and 3: black sky in Stage 1; Layer 4: yellow-white streak of light (Stage 1?); Layer 5: blue sky (Stage 3); Layer 6 is later restoration. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of detail of Horae on left, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 12 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Horae on left [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, A Lion Hunt, ca. 1614-1615, The National Gallery, London
Fig. 13 Peter Paul Rubens, A Lion Hunt, ca. 1614-1615, oil on panel, 73.6 x 105.4 cm. The National Gallery, London, bought 1871 (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 14-final Rubens Lion Hunt detail
Fig. 14 Rubens, A Lion Hunt, detail of the brown brushwork Rubens used in his oil sketches and to sketch out the preliminary design of his paintings. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Sketch-like paint creates an unfinished appearance in the hand, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 15 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. Sketch-like paint creates an unfinished appearance in the hand. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the upper left, showing the original blue sky, white clouds, and tawny zodiac, muted by later gray paint, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 16 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the upper left, showing the original blue sky, white clouds, and tawny zodiac, which Rubens later muted with gray paint. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Fig 17 - det Phaeton ruddy smoke-upper right, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 17 The Fall of Phaeton, detail at the upper right, showing elements of Rubens’s original composition (Stage 1): Horae and smoke illuminated by fire [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of falling Phaeton and flames, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 18 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. Rubens transformed the flames behind Phaeton (Stage 1) into a red cloak. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, All Saints, ca. 1614, Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Fig. 19 Peter Paul Rubens, All Saints, ca. 1614, oil sketch on panel, 38 x 58 cm. Rotterdam, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Schenking / Donation: A. J. Lamme 1863, Studio Tromp, Rotterdam (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, detail of figures, ca. 1562–1566, Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice
Fig. 20 Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, detail of figures in fig. 6 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Transfiguration, ca. 1604–1606, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Nancy
Fig. 21 Peter Paul Rubens, The Transfiguration, ca. 1604-1606, oil on canvas, 407 x 670 cm. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, Cliché P. Mignon, Inv. 71 (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, ca. 1605 Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Fig. 22 Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, ca. 1605, oil on canvas, 95.9 x 128 cm. New Haven, CT, Yale University Art Gallery (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612 (Stage 3), National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 23 The Fall of Phaeton as it appears today (Stage 3). The bright, clear colors are not consistent with the dark tonality of Hero and Leander. [side-by-side viewer]
Infrared reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander
Fig. 24 Infrared reflectogram of Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander (captured by Kelsey Wingel) [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander
Fig. 25 X-radiograph of Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of Nerided, c. 1605, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Fig. 26 Hero and Leander, detail of a Nereid [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Horae at left, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 27 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Horae on left. Rubens often left a gap between figure and setting, revealing lower layers—the painted sketch or the ground itself—to serve as warm, brownish contours. [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander
Fig. 28 X-radiograph of Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail, area of fig. 26 [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail
Fig. 29 X-radiograph of The Fall of Phaeton, detail, area of fig. 27. In both x-radiographs, gaps between the figures and the setting appear as dark halos outlining the forms. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, ca. 1605, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Fig. 30 Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, ca. 1605, oil on canvas, 95.9 x 128 cm. New Haven, CT, Yale University Art Gallery (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Mock up of Stage 1, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 31 Mock-up of the original composition (Stage 1) of The Fall of Phaeton shows a dark tonality that seems more consistent with Hero and Leander. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of the lightning, ca. 1605, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Fig. 32 Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of the lightning, is reminiscent of Tintoretto's work. [side-by-side viewer]
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, detail of lightning, ca. 1562–1566, Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice
Fig. 33 Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, detail of lightning in fig. 6 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of revised lightning with arrows, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 34 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. In his Stage 2 revisions, Rubens used yellowish paint (indicated with a white arrow) to fill in the space around the original whiplash lightning bolt, leaving fringes of the original gray sky. A black arrow indicates a wisp of the Stage 1 lightning, still visible below the later paint. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of revised lightning
Fig. 35 X-radiograph of The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the area in fig. 34. The dense yellow paint Rubens brushed close to the lightning bolt in Stage 2 appears light-colored, while evidence of the original gray sky can be seen in a narrow, dark-colored zone around the lightning. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the space between the Horae at left, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 36 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the space between the Horae at left. An arrow indicates toes still visible after another leg was painted out. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of space between Horae with arrows
Fig. 37 X-radiograph of The Fall of Phaeton, area shown in fig. 36. An arrow indicates a leg hidden when Rubens later added a diagonal beam. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Mock up of Stage 1, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 38 Mock-up of the original composition (Stage 1) of The Fall of Phaeton [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Mock-up of Stage 2 (the first revision) of The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 39 Mock-up of Stage 2 (the first revision) of The Fall of Phaeton. Rubens covered over the flames with gray clouds and expanded the lightning bolt into a diagonal wash of golden light. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of revised blue sky upper left, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 40 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. In Stage 3 Rubens rapidly painted blue sky around the figure, covering the original blackish sky. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of rearing horses, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 41 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of rearing horses [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
False-color infrared reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail
Fig. 42 False-color infrared reflectogram of The Fall of Phaeton, detail. The added white horse covered a complex tangle of harness and traces. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Mock-up of the first revision (Stage 2) of The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 43 Mock-up of the first revision (Stage 2) of The Fall of Phaeton [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612 (Stage 3), National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 44 The Fall of Phaeton (Stage 3). In his final, experimental revisions, Rubens rapidly painted blue sky around some figures and introduced the rearing white horse that crowns the composition. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the added white horse, with an arrow indicating the sample location, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 45 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the added white horse, with an arrow indicating the location where a microscopic sample was taken from the edge of an existing loss. The paint cross section includes layers from all three stages of the composition. Layer 1: yellow-tan ground; layers 2 and 3: smoke in Stage 1; layers 4 and 5: golden light in Stage 2; layers 6 and 7: blue sky and white horse in Stage 3 (layer 8 is later restoration). [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1599-1601, The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna
Fig. 46 Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1599-1601, oil on panel, 72 x 103 cm. © Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna (Scala, Florence / Art Resource, NY) (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1610-1612, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 47 Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (oil sketch), ca. 1610-1612, oil on panel, 57.4 x 78.1 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 48-final Courtauld Conversion oil sketch detail location
Fig. 48 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (oil sketch), detail of fig. 47 showing hasty brushwork reminiscent of the final revisions to The Fall of Phaeton. A white box marks the area shown in fig. 49. [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 49-final Courtauld Conversion oil sketch det sloppy blanket
Fig. 49 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (oil sketch), close detail of area shown in white box in fig. 48 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the the sky, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 50 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of blue sky added with rapid brushwork in Stage 3 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (preparatory drawing), The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 51 Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (preparatory drawing), ca. 1610-1612, pen and brown ink with wash and white bodycolor on paper, 32.9 x 22.2 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (drawing- detail), ca. 1610–1612, preparatory drawing, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 52 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (preparatory drawing), detail of light rays in fig. 51 [side-by-side viewer]
Infrared reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of light rays, Yale University Art Gallery
Fig. 53 Infrared reflectogram of Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of fig. 22, showing similar light rays that Rubens indicated in his painted sketch. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1610-1612, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 54 Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1610-1612, oil on panel, 95.2 x 120.7 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 55-final Rubens Courtauld Conversion painting det horses - arrow - layers
Fig. 55 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (painting), detail. In the final version of the painting, the horse on the right was painted brown. The horse on the left was repainted dapple-gray, but the unrevised foreleg (indicated by a yellow arrow) is still white. [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph of Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (painting), detail, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 56 X-radiograph of Rubens' The Conversion of Saint Paul (painting). A detail of the area in fig. 55 shows that originally the horses were like those in The Fall of Phaeton. The black arrow indicates stippled handling that suggests the horse on the right was originally dappled. The white arrows indicate white highlights in this horse’s mane and a flying white mane on the left-hand horse. The red arrow indicates evidence that the right-hand horse had a long, curling mane. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of horses-arrows, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 57 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. Arrows correspond to features appearing in the original depiction in The Conversion of Saint Paul (see fig. 56) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610–1612, pen and ink with wash on beige laid paper, 218 x 327 mm. Bayonne, Musée Bonnat-Helleu
Fig. 58 Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610–1612, pen and ink with wash on beige laid paper, 218 x 327 mm. Bayonne, Musée Bonnat-Helleu (© Bayonne, Musée Bonnat-Helleu/ photograph A. Vaquero; artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610-1612, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 59 Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610-1612, oil on panel, 51 x 65.1 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610-1612, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Fig. 60 Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610-1612, oil on copper, 50.2 x 70.8 cm. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Accepted by H.M. Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1979, http://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/1865 (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 61-final Rubens Courtauld Conversion painting det horses
Fig. 61 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (painting), detail of fig. 54. As in The Fall of Phaeton, the horses’ muzzles are aligned. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, detail of horses, ca. 1610-1612, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 62 Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus (Courtauld version), detail of fig. 59. In this painting Rubens varied the position of the horses slightly: the muzzle of the white horse here turns away from the gray. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610–1612, pen and ink with wash on beige laid paper, 218 x 327 mm. Bayonne, Musée Bonnat-Helleu
Fig. 63 Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus (drawing), detail of fig. 58. However, in the preparatory drawing Rubens planned to depict the horses with their muzzles aligned. [side-by-side viewer]
Infrared reflectogram of Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, detail, The Courtauld Gallery
Fig. 64 Infrared reflectogram of Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus (Courtauld version), detail. The white arrow indicates underdrawing lines showing that when Rubens planned this painting, he still intended the white horse’s muzzle to be aligned with the other horse. [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 65 X-radiograph, The Fall of Phaeton (captured by Douglas Lachance) [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
False-color infrared reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 66 False-color infrared reflectogram, The Fall of Phaeton (captured by John Delaney and Kate Dooley) [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
  1. 1. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, inv. no. 1990.1.1.

  2. 2. Fiona Healy notes that in addition to Ovid’s telling of the tale, Rubens would also have known versions by Nonnos and Philstratus the Elder (Fiona Healy, “Losing Control of the Senses: The Fifth Horse in Rubens’s Fall of Phaeton,” in Von Kunst und Temperament: Festschrift für Eberhard König, ed. Caroline Zöhl and Mara Hofmann [Turnhout: Brepols, 2007], 86).

  3. 3. Healy suggests that Rubens might have derived the unusual detail of the twelve Horae from Nonnos. Healy, “Losing Control of the Senses,” 86.

  4. 4. Michael Jaffé, Rubens and Italy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 30, 71, 79-80; Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2005), 149-50.

  5. 5. Leonardo’s drawing illustrated here (Royal Collection Trust inv. no. 912336) must have been among the drawings showing Leonardo’s mastery of the anatomy of horses that Rubens described studying in that collection. Roger de Piles, Abrégé de la vie des Peintres, avec des réflexions sur leurs ouvrages, Et un Traité du Peintre . . . (Paris: Chez Charles de Sercy, 1699), 168; for drawing’s provenance, “Leonardo da Vinci – A Rearing Horse,” Royal Collection Trust, accessed June 21, 2019, https://www.rct.uk/collection/912336/a-rearing-horse.

  6. 6. In Mantua Rubens would have known the version of the Crouching Venus illustrated here (Royal Collection Trust inv. no. 69746), which was recorded in the 1627 inventory of the Gonzaga collection. Carlo d’Arco, Delle arti e degli artefici di Mantova (Mantua: D. Agazzi, 1857), 2:169; A. H. Scott-Elliot, “Statues from Mantua in the Collection of King Charles I,” The Burlington Magazine 101, no. 675 (1959): 220.

  7. 7. Musée des beaux-arts de Nancy, inv. no. 71.

  8. 8. Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia, cat. no. 831. Michael Jaffé, “Rubens in Italy: Rediscovered Works,” The Burlington Magazine 100, no. 669 (December 1958): 416, 419; Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 36.

  9. 9. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 415-19.

  10. 10. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 416; Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 71; Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 146, 151.

  11. 11. Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 151.

  12. 12. Julius S. Held, Rubens Selected Drawings (Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1986), 93-94; Julius S. Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens: A Critical Catalogue (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 333-34, 578-80.

  13. 13. Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 146, 151, 152 n. 2, 153 n. 23.

  14. 14. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 146; Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 151.

  15. 15. The original research was briefly summarized in the systematic catalogue of Flemish paintings at the National Gallery (Wheelock, Flemish Paintings). At the start of that project, Adam Greenhalgh, then a summer intern at the National Gallery, joined some initial examination sessions of The Fall of Phaeton and drafted interesting thoughts on the possible evolution of the painting.

  16. 16. In addition to the colleagues thanked in the Acknowledgments, Clare Richardson and Kate Stonor have kindly discussed their new technical research on the Conversion of Saint Paul series at the Courtauld. Their findings are forthcoming in an future article in the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art (hereafter Richardson and Stonor, forthcoming).

  17. 17. Yale University Art Gallery, inv. no. 1962.25.

  18. 18. The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (inv. no. P.1978.PG.358).

  19. 19. The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (oil sketch: inv. no. P.1978.PG.356; drawing: inv. no. D.1978.PG.57; painting: inv. no. P.1978.PG.357).

  20. 20. Jeremy Wood, “‘Damaged by Time and Rubens’: Rubens’s Restorations and Retouchings,” Apollo (1995): 16-23.

  21. 21. The painting’s surface was examined by the author using a stereomicroscope at up to 50x magnification. Digital x-radiography was carried out by Douglas Lachance using a Comet XRP-75MXR-75HP unit (at 35 kev, 8 mA and 30-second exposures) with Carestream Industrex Blue digital imaging plates. Kate Dooley mosaicked the fifteen plates by registering (i.e. spatially aligning) the sub images to a high-resolution color image using custom registration software (Damon M. Conover, John K. Delaney, and Murray H. Loew,“Automatic Registration and Mosaicking of Technical Images of Old Master Paintings.” Applied Physics A 119 (2015): 1567-75.Infrared reflectograms were captured by Kate Dooley and John Delaney using a custom IRR system consisting of a 55 mm EFL near infrared lens (Stingray Optics, Keene, NH) and an infrared camera (model IRC912, IRCameras, Santa Barbara, CA) that has a 1280 x 1024 pixel InSb focal plane array of detectors. An interference filter at the cold stop of the dewar limits the spectral sensitivity to 1000-2500 nm. Three IR reflectograms were collected using IR interference bandpass filters that pass only portions of the IR spectral range (1100-1400 nm, 1500-1800 nm, and 2100-2400 nm). Kate Dooley mosaicked each IR reflectogram to a high-resolution color image as above, and combined these in a false-color IRR.The false-color IRR image was created by placing the three individual IR reflectograms into the red, green, and blue color channels of a digital RGB color image. This is a useful way to visually distinguish areas painted with different artists’ materials. Because different materials have different reflectance in the three IR spectral bands, a “false-color” image results from overlaying the reflectograms.

  22. 22. A small number of microscopic paint samples were analyzed by the author using a Leica DMRX polarizing light research microscope at up to 500x magnification. Dispersed samples, consisting of a few grains of pigment removed from the paint surface, were mounted in Cargille Meltmount (n=1.66) for microscopic examination in transmitted light. Paint cross-section samples were mounted in polyester resin, then ground and polished to expose the sequence of paint and ground layers.

  23. 23. The fine, plain-weave canvas measures 17.3 threads/cm in the warp direction and 14 threads/cm in the weft direction. Automated thread counting analysis was carried out by Kelsey Wingel (Yale University Art Museum) with the assistance of Dr. Don H. Johnson (Thread Count Automation Project, Rice University) using the protocols and software developed by Dr. Don H. Johnson and Dr. C. Richard Johnson (Don H. Johnson, C. Richard Johnson, and Robert G. Erdmann, “Weave Analysis of Paintings on Canvas from Radiographs.” Signal Processing 93 (2013): 527-40. ). Kelsey Wingel, email message to the author, February 14, 2019. SEM-EDS analysis of the ground identified a translucent matrix of siliceous earths, calcite, and traces of dolomite, colored with small amounts of ochre and charcoal black.

  24. 24. Although the literature on Rubens’s painting materials and techniques is extensive (for comprehensive overviews, see Hubert von Sonnenburg, “Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, I: Bildträger, Gruniereung un Vorskizzierung,” Mahltecknik Restauro 85, no. 2 [1979]: 77-100; Hubert von Sonnenburg, “Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, II: Farbe und Auftragstechnik,” Mahltecknik Restauro 85, no. 3 [1979]: 181-203; Nico van Hout and Arnout Balis, Rubens Unveiled: Notes on the Master’s Painting Technique, exh. cat. [Antwerp: Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten], 2012), technical studies focused on early works, including works from Rubens’s years in Italy, are limited. Typically, oak panels in Antwerp were prepared with a white, chalk-based lower ground, lightly toned by an upper ground, or imprimatura. Kirby, “The Painter’s Trade in the Seventeenth Century: Theory and Practice,” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 20 (1999): 17-22, 27-28; Nico van Hout, “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer in Seventeenth-Century Painting,” in Looking through Paintings: The Study of Painting Techniques and Materials in Support of Art Historical Research, edited by Erma Hermens, Annemiek Ouwerkerk, and Nicola Costaras. Leids kunsthistorisch jaarboek 11 (1998): 199-225.”; Von Sonnenburg, “Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, II,” 77-83.

  25. 25. The recognizable “streaky imprimatura” that Rubens left visible in most of his oil sketches is often thought of as characteristic of the artist’s personal painting practices (Von Sonnenburg, “Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, I,” 89-92). However, such preparations appear in works by many painters active in Antwerp in the first half of the seventeenth century (Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 42-45; Van Hout, “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer,” 205-10). This raises the possibility that artists could have purchased panels already prepared with a streaky imprimatura. The author has observed a case, Vista from a Grotto by David Teniers (early 1630s; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), in which an artist seems to have obscured a translucent, brownish imprimatura with a thick, opaque, gray preparation layer, completely changing the visual effect of the painting surface (E. Melanie Gifford, “Style and Technique in the Evolution of Naturalism: North Netherlandish Landscape Painting in the Early Seventeenth Century” [PhD diss., University of Maryland, College Park, 1997], 86; Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 232). It seems possible that this sequence is evidence of an artist modifying a commercially prepared panel. For an investigation into the materials and processes used for such preparations, see Maartje Stols-Witlox, Tiarna Doherty, and Barbara Schoonhoven, “Reconstructing Seventeenth-Century Streaky Imprimatura Layers Used on Panel Paintings,” in Preparation for Painting: The Artist’s Choice and its Consequences, ed. Joyce H. Townsend, Tiarna Doherty, Gunnar Heydenreich, and Jacqueline Ridge (London: Archetype Publications, 2008), 79-91.

  26. 26. Richard Symonds, who traveled to Rome between 1649 and 1651, commented on the popularity of coarsely woven canvases in Italy, but finely woven canvases, some exported from Flanders, were also used (Mary Rose Sylvia Beal, “A Study of Richard Symonds: His Italian Notebooks and their Relevance to Seventeenth-Century Painting Techniques” [PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, 1978), 85; Kirby, “The Painter’s Trade,” 25]. It is possible that in choosing a finely woven canvas Rubens continued to use Flemish canvas (either from a supply he had brought with him or purchased locally), but this ground seems typical of Italian practices. Symonds describes a ground for canvas paintings used by his mentor, Giovanni Angelo Canini, that is very similar to the ground of The Fall of Phaeton: based on earth pigments (“the earth that bricks are made from”) and creta, which could indicate siliceous earths and clays as well as chalk (Beal, “Richard Symonds,” 87, 218).

  27. 27. Some fifteen years later, Anthony van Dyck also used finely woven linens during his time in Italy (Carol Christensen, Michael Palmer, and Michael Swicklick, “Van Dyck’s Painting Technique, His Writings, and Three Paintings in the National Gallery of Art,” in Anthony van Dyck, ed. Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Susan J. Barnes, and Julius S. Held, exh. cat. [Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1990], 47). The grounds of Rubens’s Italian paintings are often described as dark-red “bolus,” but both his Italian grounds and Van Dyck’s seem to have been more varied, suggesting perhaps that they used local suppliers as they traveled. For Hercules and Omphalec, 1602-1605; Louvre RF 1938-46), Rubens used an earth ground described as “red-orange” (Ségolène Bergeon, Science et patience, ou la restauration des peintures [Paris: Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1990], 233-35); for the Baptism of Christ (c. 1604-1605; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerp, inv. no. 707), “ochre-brown” (Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 47); and for the Transfiguration (c. 1604-1606), now in Nancy, a double ground with a red-brown first layer and a gray upper ground (La Transfiguration de Rubens, exh. cat. (Nancy: Musée des beaux-arts, Nancy, 1990), 94, cited by Van Hout, “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer,” 224 n. 106). Van Dyck used a dark ground rich in umber for St. Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo, c. 1624; Maryan Wynn Ainsworth, Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, John Brealey, Pieter Meyers. Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of Paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Vermeer. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982, 12, plate 3, color plates G, H), but used lightly tinted whitish and gray grounds for two Genoese portraits, Elena Grimaldi and A Genoese Noblewoman and Her Son (1623 and c. 1626, respectively; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1942.9.92 and 1942.9.91; Christensen, Palmer, and Swicklick, “Van Dyck’s Painting Technique,” 47, 49: pls. 1, 3, and 4).

  28. 28. National Gallery, London, inv. no. NG853.1.

  29. 29. Dark lines reinforcing many of the contours were observed in figures Rubens contributed to The Battle of the Amazons, executed with Jan Brueghel c. 1598-1600, before Rubens left for Italy (Tiarna Doherty, Mark Leonard, and Jørgen Wadum, “Brueghel and Rubens at Work: Technique and the Practice of Collaboration,” in Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship, ed. Anne T. Woollett and Ariane van Suchtelen, exh. cat. [Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum and The Hague, The Mauritshuis, 2006], 223-4). Judging from images reproduced in that publication, these lines might have served not as an independent underdrawing but as a reinforcement to a brown painted sketch, similar to the selective reinforcement that a more confident Rubens used some years later in The Fall of Phaeton.

  30. 30. The very fine particles of indigo were characterized through polarizing light microscopy by the author (see Nicholas Eastaugh, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, and Ruth Siddall, The Pigment Compendium: Optical Microscopy of Historical Pigments [Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann, 2004], 116-7) and confirmed by fiber optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) carried out by Kate Dooley. The pigment can be recognized in various areas across the painting’s surface using a stereomicroscope: under high magnification it is seen as smears of dark blue in the paint matrix, rather than the individual particles typical of blue pigments such as ultramarine, azurite, or smalt.

  31. 31. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 416.

  32. 32. Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 36.

  33. 33. Joyce Plesters has identified several types of dark grounds in paintings at the National Gallery, London: a charcoal black upper ground over a gesso lower ground (Christ Washing His Disciples’ Feet, c. 1575-1580, NG 1130); a single-layer ground of ochre with mixed pigments, perhaps “palette scrapings” (The Origin of the Milky Way, c. 1575, NG 1313); and a double ground of dark palette scrapings over gesso (Portrait of Vincenzo Morosini, c. 1575-1580, NG 4004). Joyce Plesters, “Tintoretto’s Paintings in the National Gallery: Part II,” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 4 (1980): 36, 39, 41.

  34. 34. Like a number of Tintoretto’s works, this was painted on canvas prepared with a thin gesso (Joyce Plesters and Lorenzo Lazzarini, “Preliminary Observations on the Technique and Materials of Tintoretto,” in Conservation of Paintings and the Graphic Arts: Preprints of Contributions to The Lisbon Congres 1972 [London: The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1972], 155); in combination with the underlying canvas color, this would have been a mid-toned painting surface.

  35. 35. Plesters and Lazzarini, “Technique and Materials of Tintoretto,” 156; Joyce Plesters, “Tintoretto’s Paintings in the National Gallery: Part I,” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 3 (1979): 10-11, 14-16; Plesters, “Tintoretto’s Paintings in the National Gallery: Part II,” 40, 43.

  36. 36. Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. 1738 (OK).

  37. 37. Ovid, Metamorphoses, translated by Brookes Moore, The Theoi Classical Texts Library, https://www.theoi.com/Text/OvidMetamorphoses2.html, book 2, 319.

  38. 38. Automated thread counting carried out Kelsey Wingel (as in n. 23) established that the plain-weave canvas measures 9 threads/cm in the warp direction and 9.4 threads/cm in the weft direction (personal communication, February 14, 2019).

  39. 39. Because the ground of Hero and Leander has not been analyzed, it has not possible to establish whether the materials are identical to those analyzed in Phaeton. However, under high magnification with a stereomicroscope the appearance is comparable, suggesting that Rubens either purchased similar grounds or prepared both grounds himself. In Hero and Leander the ground has been described as “bolus,” which would suggest the use of predominantly red earth, but the reddish tone seen in photographs of this painting is actually the combined color of the brown painted sketch and the lighter-colored ground below.

  40. 40. Analysis of samples from The Fall of Phaeton (as in n. 30) confirms that the blue pigment is typical of indigo rather than ultramarine or smalt. Samples from Hero and Leander were not available for comparative analysis, but in magnified examination of the paint surface and in IRR the blue of Hero and Leander shows the same characteristics as the blue used for Stage 1 of The Fall of Phaeton.

  41. 41. These lines are visible in IRR: in the upper center of Hero and Leander (above the angular lightning bolt and around the curved lightning) and above the far left figures in The Fall of Phaeton.

  42. 42. Gregory Martin, “Hero and Leander,” in Rubens: Mythological Subjects 2, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard XI (London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers/Brepols, forthcoming). I am grateful to Gregory Martin for the opportunity to consult his draft before publication and for fruitful discussions of the issues raised by the present technical study.

  43. 43. Two of these are discussed below (in n. 60 and n. 61).

  44. 44. Elizabeth McGrath, “Rubens and Classical Myth: An Introduction,” in Elizabeth McGrath, Gregory Martin, Fiona Healy, Bert Schepers, Carl van de Velde and Karolien de Clippel, Rubens: Mythological Subjects 1: Achilles to The Graces, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard XI (London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers/Brepols, 2016), 43-44.

  45. 45. Now in a French private collection, this work measures 89 x 135.5 cm (McGrath et al., Mythological Subjects 1, no. 7, 132-40).

  46. 46. Both paintings have been relined with the tacking margins removed and are likely to have been slightly trimmed, which would account for small differences; The Fall of Phaeton now measures 98.4 x 131.2 cm and Hero and Leander measures 95.9 x 128 cm.

  47. 47. In first publishing the two paintings, Michael Jaffé described only their close compositional relationship (Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 416, 419), but in 1993 he also wrote that they were “almost certainly conceived as pendants c. 1605” (Jaffé, “Samson Destroying the Temple of Dagon: A Rediscovered Rubens,” Apollo 139 [December 1993]: 382). Since then, the two paintings have been described as possible pendants by some (Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 151; David Jaffé, Elizabeth McGrath, Amanda Bradley, Ulrich Heinen, Veronika Kopecky, and Delfina Bergamaschi, Rubens: A Master in the Making, exh. cat. [London: National Gallery, 2005], 72). Other scholars make no mention of a relationship (Held, Oil Sketches, 1:292, 589), and the two paintings frequently appear in adjacent discussions or catalogue entries without a relationship mentioned explicitly (for example, Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, exh. cat. [Cologne: Museen der Stadt Köln, 1977], 145-6, 147-9; Guy Bauman and Walter A. Liedtke, Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America [Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1992], 172-4, 175-7).

  48. 48. Fiona Healy and Gregory Martin each have generously discussed this point in personal communications, April 2019.

  49. 49. A drawing recording Rubens’s early ideas for Hero and Leander places even more emphasis on broad arcs defining the setting c. 1600-1603, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh: inv. no 4936, recto; Keith Andrews, Catalogue of Netherlandish Drawings in the National Gallery of Scotland [Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland, 1985], 1:69-70, 2: fig. 464). Note that, based on the script used for the Latin inscription, Kristin Lohse Belkin dates this drawing to before Rubens left Antwerp, which would suggest that he developed this composition over an extended time, as he did other subjects, including The Conversion of Saint Paul, discussed below (Kristin Lohse Belkin, “Rubens’s Latin Inscriptions in his Copies after Holbein’s Dance of Death,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 52 [1989]: 246).

  50. 50. The alternative explanation is that Rubens could have picked up the touch of light-blue paint from a detail on Leander, such as seafoam. However, in the only place near this stroke of lightning that he mixed wet paints, he pulled yellow paint (depicting a beam of light), and not white, through the dark-blue sky paint.

  51. 51. National Gallery, London, 2005; Jaffé et al., A Master in the Making.

  52. 52. The full form of this sinuous lightning bolt is now visible only in the x-radiograph. Wheelock described this as “the S-shaped curve indicating the wayward path of Phaeton’s flight.” Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 153 n. 22.

  53. 53. Since the evidence for the twelfth Hora is limited, no attempt was made to recreate this figure in the schematic representation of Stage 1.

  54. 54. Jaffé et al., A Master in the Making, 72.

  55. 55. In Aristotle’s theory of the four elements, each was assigned two of four defining characteristics – hot, cold, wet, and dry. Water and fire are opposites, while in the alternative pair, air (hot, wet) is the complement of earth (cold, dry). David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 52-56.

  56. 56. Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 97; on the Chiesa Nuova commission, see 85-99.

  57. 57. Jaffé, “Samson,” 378.

  58. 58. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 421; Hans Vlieghe, Saints, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard VIII (London and New York: Phaidon, 1973), 2:35-38. This painting appeared in the inventory of his collections, the “Specification” (Jeffrey M. Muller, Rubens: The Artist as Collector [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989], 122).

  59. 59. Amy Golahny, “Rubens’ Hero and Leander and its Poetic Progeny,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (1990): 27-29. While Golahny has explored three different seventeenth-century poetic responses to Rubens’s Hero and Leander composition, there is no equivalent literary record of the impression The Fall of Phaeton might have made on his contemporaries.

  60. 60. Jaffé notes that this larger variant, now in Dresden (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Gal.-Nr. 1002) was painted on a canvas prepared with a light-colored ground (more typical of northern practice), and not the earth ground typical of Italy. He dates the handling of the flesh tones in particular to around 1610 (Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 419-20).

  61. 61. The plan for the engraving appears in a letter to Pieter van Veen, January 23, 1619 (see The Letters of Peter Paul Rubens, trans. and ed. Ruth Saunders Magurn [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955], 36-37). A drawing (Louvre, Inv. 20369) was presumably made in preparation for the engraving that was never executed. Based on the studio replica now in Dresden, the drawing follows numerous details that appear only in that version (Golhany, “Hero and Leander,” 27 n. 18).

  62. 62. In analyzing the provenance of the two versions of Hero and Leander, Jaffé lays out evidence that suggests that after Rubens used the smaller, Yale version as the model for the studio replica around 1610, it may have been among the paintings he sold to the Duke of Buckingham in 1627. A version was owned by the Duke’s heirs in 1635, and measurements listed in a sale catalogue confirm that that smaller version was in England sometime later, as it appeared in the sale of Peter Lely’s collection in 1682 (Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 420).

  63. 63. See, for example, Ixion, King of the Lapiths, Deceived by Juno (c. 1611, Louvre RF2121).

  64. 64. Examination at high magnification showed that, like the lightning in Hero and Leander, this original ochre paint was applied wet-in-wet with white lead paint.

  65. 65. The crudely brushed green just above the Earth has yet to be deciphered, but it seems likely to have been introduced in this first revision.

  66. 66. There also are no layers of surface dirt that could have documented an extended time lag between paint layers.

  67. 67. Varnish has seeped from the paint loss (the void at the right edge of the sample) into the tiny gap. As this extends only a little way into the sample, it is not a complete varnish layer between the two stages, which would have been evidence that the painter considered the work completed (and ready to varnish) before the final paints were applied.

  68. 68. In a comparison of three versions of The Flight of Lot and his Family from Sodom (Rubens and Studio, c. 1613-1615, The John and Mable Ringling Museum, Sarasota; Studio of Rubens, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach; Jacob Jordaens(?), National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo), also painted within a few years of Rubens’s return to Antwerp, analysis found ultramarine used for a sky-blue sleeve in the autograph painting, but indigo was used for the comparable passage in two workshop compositions. For a darker, mauve-blue sleeve, all three used an alternative blue pigment, smalt (Nobuyuki Kamba, “Scientific Examination of the Ground, Pigments and Painting Techniques Used in Three Versions of The Flight of Lot and his Family from Sodom,” in Rubens and His Workshop: “The Flight of Lot and His Family from Sodom,” ed. Toshiharu Nakamura, exh. cat. [Tokyo: The National Museum of Western Art, 1994], 69-94).

  69. 69. Without further sampling and analysis this difference cannot be characterized in more detail, but it is interesting to note that although white lead was manufactured by the same process in the north and the south, there is evidence that differences in purification methods made white lead produced in Venice different from the northern product (Barbara Berrie and Louisa Matthew, “Lead White from Venice: A Whiter Shade of Pale?” in Studying Old Master Paintings, Technology and Practice, ed. Marika Spring [London: Archetype Publications, 2011], 295-301; on the effects of various production methods for white lead, see Maartje Stols-Witlox, “‘From Reading to Painting’: Authors and Audiences of Dutch Recipes for Preparatory Layers for Oil Painting,” Early Modern Low Countries 1 [2017]: 201-10).

  70. 70. Petria Noble, Jaap J. Boon, and Jørgen Wadum. “Dissolution, Aggregation and Protrusion: Lead Soap Formation in 17th-Century Grounds and Paint Layers,” ArtMatters: Netherlands Technical Studies in Art 1 (2002): 46-61. On lead soaps in lead-tin yellow specifically, see Catherine Higgitt, Marika Spring, and David Saunders, “Pigment-medium Interactions in Oil Paint Films containing Red Lead or Lead-Tin Yellow.” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 24 (2003): 75-95.

  71. 71. As in n. 12.

  72. 72. Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna, inv. no. GE-40; Justus Müller Hofstede, “An Early Rubens Conversion of Saint Paul: The Beginning of his Preoccupation with Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari,” The Burlington Magazine 106, no. 732 (1964): 94-103; 105-106. In 2000, Daniel Fabian presented results of his technical study of the Liechtenstein Conversion at a conference on Rubens’s painting practices at the Rubenianum. The painting is on an oak panel, prepared with a white ground and an imprimatura of lead white toned with black and earth pigments (personal communication, February 25, 2019).
    There is disagreement in the literature on both this Conversion and Rubens’s early Judgment of Paris (National Gallery, London, 6379) as to whether he painted either work in Antwerp shortly before he left for Italy, or in Italy shortly after he arrived. He used oak panels for both, but as Gregory Martin noted, he also used oak for St. Helena (now in Grasse), which was commissioned in Italy in 1601 (Gregory Martin, The Flemish School: Circa 1600-Circa 1900 [London: National Gallery, 1970], 213-15). These oak panels, and in particular the light-colored double ground used for the Conversion, seem characteristic of painting supplies available in Antwerp. However, it is possible that Rubens brought a stock of materials with him when he traveled to Italy and used these for some of his earliest Italian paintings.

  73. 73. Pierre Génard, P. P. Rubens: Aanteekeningen over den grooten Meester en zijne bloedverwanten (Antwerp: Boekhandel van P. Kockx, 1877), 373.

  74. 74. Müller-Hofstede, “An Early Rubens,” 97.

  75. 75. As in n. 19.

  76. 76. The author examined the oil sketch and painting in 2000 and in 2017 using a stereomicroscope, and by consulting x-radiographs and IRR images on file. The drawing was examined in 2017 with an Eschenbach handheld microscope equipped with an auxiliary lens giving magnification up to 25x; a transmitted-light IRR was available for comparison. X-radiography was carried out by Robert Bruce Gardner in 2007. Infrared reflectograms were captured by Clare Richardson and Kate Stonor using an Osiris camera (InGaAs detector array with a spectral sensitivity of 900-1700 nm).

  77. 77. Richardson and Stonor, forthcoming.

  78. 78. The freedom of the revisions has also been noted in other examples of Rubens revising his own earlier paintings. In The Prodigal Son (1618; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerp, inv. no. 781), Van Hout and Balis described the handling in revisions as “slapdash” and suggested this was more characteristic of works from his last decade (Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 77-79). However, the early examples described here suggest that throughout his career he used such free brushwork in moments of informal experimentation.

  79. 79. Many authors propose that the drawing preceded the oil sketch: Held, Oil Sketches, 578-80; Antoine Seilern, Flemish Paintings & Drawings at 56 Princes Gate, London SW7 (London: Shenval Press, 1955), 34-38; Seilern, Corrigenda & Addenda to the Catalogue of Paintings & Drawings at 56 Princes Gate, London SW7 (London: Shenval Press, 1971), 25; David Freedberg, Rubens: The Life of Christ After the Passion, Corpus Rubenianum VII. (London: Harvey Miller, 1984), 121-22; Friso Lammertse and Alejandro Vergara, Rubens: Painter of Sketches, exh. cat. (Madrid: Museo del Prado; Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2018), 80-81; and Jaffé et al., A Master in the Making, 152-54. Stephanie-Suzanne Durante described the conflicting opinions on the sequence of oil sketch and drawing and suggested that Rubens might have created still another preparatory work before the final painting. Stephanie-Suzanne Durante, “The Conversion of Saint Paul,” in Peter Paul Rubens: A Touch of Brilliance: Oil Sketches and Related Works from The State Hermitage Museum and the Courtauld Institute Gallery, exh. cat. (London: Courtauld Institute of Art, 2003), 67.

  80. 80. Held, Selected Drawings, 93-94: pl. 60; Freedberg, Life of Christ After the Passion, 118-20.

  81. 81. Richardson and Stonor, forthcoming.

  82. 82. Rubens also later revised the sky of The Conversion of Saint Paul, and this may have been when he repainted the horses with their present, darker colors. Held proposed that around 1620, as Rubens undertook a new version of the subject in the oil sketch now in Oxford, he made extensive revisions to the upper part of the painting and perhaps to some of the figures: Held, Oil Sketches, 1:580-82; Freedberg, Life of Christ After the Passion, 129-31. Richardson and Stonor consider this question more deeply (Richardson and Stonor, forthcoming).

  83. 83. In another intriguing analogy, he seems to have narrowed the focus of the light emanating from the heavens by covering over rays at the left and right with dark paint, as he did in Phaeton.

  84. 84. Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, inv. no. 1441; Held, Selected Drawings, 93, pl. 58.

  85. 85. As in n. 18. The author examined the painting in 2000 and 2017 using a stereomicroscope and consulting x-radiograph and IRR images on file (x-radiography was carried out by Aviva Burnstock in 2016 at 20 kev, 4.3 mA and 60 second exposures. Infrared reflectogram as in n. 76).

    There is disagreement in the literature on the function of the Courtauld painting: Held included it in his catalogue of the oil sketches but noted that the severely worn surface may contribute to its “sketchy” appearance: Held, Oil Sketches, 1:333-34, 2: pl. 245. To this observer, it seems more like a damaged painting than a sketch. The painting’s heavily abraded surface suffered from old restorations. At some time in the past it was completely repainted, overpaint that was removed some time before 1955 (Seilern, Flemish Paintings & Drawings, 32).

  86. 86. Fitzwilliam Museum, inv. no. PD.8-1979.

  87. 87. Von Sonnenburg, for example, emphasizes the efficiency of reusing motifs and established techniques in the context of a busy workshop (“Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, II”, 187).

Ainsworth, Maryan Wynn, Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, John Brealey, Pieter Meyers. Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of Paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Vermeer. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982.

Andrews, Keith. Catalogue of Netherlandish Drawings in the National Gallery of Scotland. Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland, 1985.

D’Arco, Carlo. Delle arti e degli artefici di Mantova. Mantua: D. Agazzi, 1857.

Bauman, Guy, and Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1992.

Beal, Mary Rose Sylvia. “A Study of Richard Symonds: His Italian Notebooks and their Relevance to Seventeenth-Century Painting Techniques.” PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, 1978.

Belkin, Kristin Lohse. “Rubens’s Latin Inscriptions in his Copies after Holbein’s Dance of Death.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 52 (1989): 245-50.

Bergeon, Ségolène. Science et patience, ou la restauration des peintures. Paris: Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1990.

Berrie, Barbara, and Louisa Matthew. “Lead White from Venice: A Whiter Shade of Pale?” In Studying Old Master Paintings, Technology and Practice, edited by Marika Spring, 295-301. London: Archetype Publications, 2011.

Christensen, Carol, Michael Palmer, and Michael Swicklick. “Van Dyck’s Painting Technique, His Writings, and Three Paintings in the National Gallery of Art.” In Anthony van Dyck, edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Susan J. Barnes, and Julius S. Held, 45-52. Exh. cat. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1990.

Conover, Damon M., John K. Delaney, and Murray H. Loew. “Automatic Registration and Mosaicking of Technical Images of Old Master Paintings.” Applied Physics A 119 (2015): 1567-75.

Doherty, Tiarna, Mark Leonard, and Jørgen Wadum. “Brueghel and Rubens at Work: Technique and the Practice of Collaboration.” In Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship, edited by Anne T. Woollett and Ariane van Suchtelen, 215-251. Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum and The Hague, The Mauritshuis, 2006.

Durante, Stephanie-Suzanne. “The Conversion of Saint Paul.” In Peter Paul Rubens: A Touch of Brilliance: Oil Sketches and Related Works from The State Hermitage Museum and the Courtauld Institute Gallery, 66-73. Exh. cat. London: Courtauld Institute of Art, 2003.

Eastaugh, Nicholas, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, and Ruth Siddall. The Pigment Compendium: Optical Microscopy of Historical Pigments. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann, 2004.

Freedberg, David. Rubens: The Life of Christ After the Passion. Corpus Rubenianum VII. London: Harvey Miller Ltd, 1984.

Génard, Pierre. P. P. Rubens: Aanteekeningen over den grooten Meester en zijne bloedverwanten. Antwerp: Boekhandel van P. Kockx, 1877.

Gifford, E. Melanie. “Style and Technique in the Evolution of Naturalism: North Netherlandish Landscape Painting in the Early Seventeenth Century.” PhD diss., University of Maryland, College Park, 1997.

Golahny, Amy. “Rubens’ Hero and Leander and its Poetic Progeny.” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (1990): 20-37.

Healy, Fiona. “Losing Control of the Senses: The Fifth Horse in Rubens’s Fall of Phaeton.” In Von Kunst und Temperament: Festschrift für Eberhard König, edited by Caroline Zöhl and Mara Hofmann with contributions by Marion Kaminski, Stephanie Buck, and Maximilian Benke, 105-18. Ars nova. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007.

Held, Julius S. The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens: A Critical Catalogue. Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

. Rubens: Selected Drawings. 2nd ed. Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1986.

Higgitt, Catherine, Marika Spring, and David Saunders. “Pigment-medium Interactions in Oil Paint Films containing Red Lead or Lead-Tin Yellow.” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 24 (2003): 75-95.

Van Hout, Nico. “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer in Seventeenth-Century Painting.” In Looking through Paintings: The Study of Painting Techniques and Materials in Support of Art Historical Research, edited by Erma Hermens, Annemiek Ouwerkerk, and Nicola Costaras. Leids hunsthistorisch jaarboek 11 (1998): 199-225.

Van Hout, Nico, and Arnout Balis. Rubens Unveiled: Notes on the Master’s Painting Technique. Exh. cat. Antwerp: Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 2012.

Jaffé, David, Elizabeth McGrath, Amanda Bradley, Ulrich Heinen, Veronika Kopecky, and Delfina Bergamaschi. Rubens: A Master in the Making. Exh. cat. London: National Gallery, 2005.

Jaffé, Michael. “Samson Destroying the Temple of Dagon: A Rediscovered Rubens.” Apollo 139 (December 1993): 377-82.

. Rubens and Italy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977.

. “Rubens in Italy: Rediscovered Works,” The Burlington Magazine 100, no. 669 (December 1958): 411-422, 426.

Johnson, Don H., C. Richard Johnson, and Robert G. Erdmann, “Weave Analysis of Paintings on Canvas from Radiographs.” Signal Processing 93 (2013): 527-40.

Kamba, Nobuyuki. “Scientific Examination of the Ground, Pigments and Painting Techniques Used in Three Versions of The Flight of Lot and His Family from Sodom.” In Rubens and His Workshop: The Flight of Lot and His Family from Sodom,” edited by Toshiharu Nakamura, 69-94. Exh. cat. Tokyo: The National Museum of Western Art, 1994.

Kirby, Jo. “The Painter’s Trade in the Seventeenth Century: Theory and Practice.” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 20 (1999): 5-49.

Lammertse, Friso and Alejandro Vergara. Rubens: Painter of Sketches. Exh. cat. Madrid: Museo del Prado and Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2018.

Lindberg, David C. The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to a.d. 1450. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.   The Letters of Peter Paul Rubens, translated and edited by Ruth Saunders Magurn. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955.

Martin, Gregory. The Flemish School: Circa 1600-Circa 1900. London: National Gallery, 1970.

. “Hero and Leander.” In Rubens: Mythological Subjects 2. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard XI. London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers/Brepols, forthcoming.

McGrath, Elizabeth. “Rubens and Classical Myth: An Introduction.” In McGrath, Martin, Healy, Schepers, Van de Velde, and De Clippel, Mythological Subjects 1.

McGrath, Elizabeth, Gregory Martin, Fiona Healy, Bert Schepers, Carl van de Velde, and Karolien de Clippel. Rubens: Mythological Subjects 1: Achilles to the Graces. Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard XI. London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers/Brepols, 2016.

Müller-Hofstede, Justus. “An Early Rubens Conversion of Saint Paul: The Beginning of his Preoccupation with Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari.The Burlington Magazine 106, no. 732 (1964): 94-103, 105-106.

Muller, Jeffrey M. Rubens: The Artist as Collector. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Noble, Petria, Jaap J. Boon, and Jørgen Wadum. “Dissolution, Aggregation and Protrusion: Lead Soap Formation in 17th-Century Grounds and Paint Layers.” ArtMatters: Netherlands Technical Studies in Art 1 (2002): 46-61.   Ovid. Metamorphoses. Translated by Brookes Moore. The Theoi Classical Texts Library, https://www.theoi.com/Text/OvidMetamorphoses2.html.

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List of Illustrations

Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612 (Stage 3), National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 1 Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610-1612 (Stage 3), oil on canvas, 98.4 x 131.2 cm. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (photo: Greg Williams) (artwork in the public domain) [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Leonardo da Vinci, A Rearing Horse, ca. 1503–1504, The Royal Collection Trust, London
Fig. 2 Leonardo da Vinci, A Rearing Horse, ca. 1503-1504, red chalk, pen, and ink on paper, 15.3 x 14.2 cm. London, The Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 912336 (artwork in the public domain). Formerly in the collection of Pompeo Leoni [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of rearing horses, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 3 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of rearing horses [side-by-side viewer]
Roman, Aphrodite or Crouching Venus, 2nd century AD, The Royal Collection Trust, London
Fig. 4 Roman, Aphrodite or “Crouching Venus,” second century AD, marble, 125 x 53 x 65 cm. London, The Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 69746 (artwork in the public domain). Formerly in the Gonzaga Collection, Mantua [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of crouching hora, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 5 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of crouching Hora [side-by-side viewer]
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, ca. 1562-1566, Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice
Fig. 6 Jacopo Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, ca. 1562-1566, oil on canvas, 398 x 315 cm. Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail showing overpainted reins and traces, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 7 The Fall of Phaeton, detail showing overpainted reins and traces [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens,The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the lower right
Fig. 8 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the lower right, in visible light and x-radiograph. An arrow indicates the foot of a Hora that Rubens painted over. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of upper Horae, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 9 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of upper Horae. Flickering red and orange brushstrokes between the figures are inconsistent with the golden light behind them. [side-by-side viewer]
Three details, Primary, X-ray, and False Color Infrared Reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 10 Left to Right: 10a-The Fall of Phaeton, detail from the center of fig. 9; 10b – X-radiograph of The Fall of Phaeton, the area shown in fig. 10a reveals flickering brushwork below the surface; 10c-False-color infrared reflectogram (IRR) of The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the area shown in fig. 10a reveals black sky hidden by later paint [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the sky beside Hora and sample location, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 11 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of sky beside the central Horae, with an arrow indicating the location where a microscopic sample was taken from the edge of an existing loss. Layer 1: yellow-tan ground; Layers 2 and 3: black sky in Stage 1; Layer 4: yellow-white streak of light (Stage 1?); Layer 5: blue sky (Stage 3); Layer 6 is later restoration. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of detail of Horae on left, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 12 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Horae on left [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, A Lion Hunt, ca. 1614-1615, The National Gallery, London
Fig. 13 Peter Paul Rubens, A Lion Hunt, ca. 1614-1615, oil on panel, 73.6 x 105.4 cm. The National Gallery, London, bought 1871 (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 14-final Rubens Lion Hunt detail
Fig. 14 Rubens, A Lion Hunt, detail of the brown brushwork Rubens used in his oil sketches and to sketch out the preliminary design of his paintings. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Sketch-like paint creates an unfinished appearance in the hand, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 15 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. Sketch-like paint creates an unfinished appearance in the hand. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the upper left, showing the original blue sky, white clouds, and tawny zodiac, muted by later gray paint, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 16 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the upper left, showing the original blue sky, white clouds, and tawny zodiac, which Rubens later muted with gray paint. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Fig 17 - det Phaeton ruddy smoke-upper right, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 17 The Fall of Phaeton, detail at the upper right, showing elements of Rubens’s original composition (Stage 1): Horae and smoke illuminated by fire [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of falling Phaeton and flames, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 18 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. Rubens transformed the flames behind Phaeton (Stage 1) into a red cloak. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, All Saints, ca. 1614, Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Fig. 19 Peter Paul Rubens, All Saints, ca. 1614, oil sketch on panel, 38 x 58 cm. Rotterdam, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Schenking / Donation: A. J. Lamme 1863, Studio Tromp, Rotterdam (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, detail of figures, ca. 1562–1566, Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice
Fig. 20 Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, detail of figures in fig. 6 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Transfiguration, ca. 1604–1606, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Nancy
Fig. 21 Peter Paul Rubens, The Transfiguration, ca. 1604-1606, oil on canvas, 407 x 670 cm. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, Cliché P. Mignon, Inv. 71 (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, ca. 1605 Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Fig. 22 Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, ca. 1605, oil on canvas, 95.9 x 128 cm. New Haven, CT, Yale University Art Gallery (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612 (Stage 3), National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 23 The Fall of Phaeton as it appears today (Stage 3). The bright, clear colors are not consistent with the dark tonality of Hero and Leander. [side-by-side viewer]
Infrared reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander
Fig. 24 Infrared reflectogram of Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander (captured by Kelsey Wingel) [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander
Fig. 25 X-radiograph of Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of Nerided, c. 1605, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Fig. 26 Hero and Leander, detail of a Nereid [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Horae at left, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 27 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of Horae on left. Rubens often left a gap between figure and setting, revealing lower layers—the painted sketch or the ground itself—to serve as warm, brownish contours. [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander
Fig. 28 X-radiograph of Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail, area of fig. 26 [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail
Fig. 29 X-radiograph of The Fall of Phaeton, detail, area of fig. 27. In both x-radiographs, gaps between the figures and the setting appear as dark halos outlining the forms. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, ca. 1605, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Fig. 30 Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, ca. 1605, oil on canvas, 95.9 x 128 cm. New Haven, CT, Yale University Art Gallery (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Mock up of Stage 1, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 31 Mock-up of the original composition (Stage 1) of The Fall of Phaeton shows a dark tonality that seems more consistent with Hero and Leander. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of the lightning, ca. 1605, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Fig. 32 Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of the lightning, is reminiscent of Tintoretto's work. [side-by-side viewer]
Jacopo Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, detail of lightning, ca. 1562–1566, Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice
Fig. 33 Tintoretto, The Transportation of the Body of Saint Mark, detail of lightning in fig. 6 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of revised lightning with arrows, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 34 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. In his Stage 2 revisions, Rubens used yellowish paint (indicated with a white arrow) to fill in the space around the original whiplash lightning bolt, leaving fringes of the original gray sky. A black arrow indicates a wisp of the Stage 1 lightning, still visible below the later paint. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of revised lightning
Fig. 35 X-radiograph of The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the area in fig. 34. The dense yellow paint Rubens brushed close to the lightning bolt in Stage 2 appears light-colored, while evidence of the original gray sky can be seen in a narrow, dark-colored zone around the lightning. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the space between the Horae at left, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 36 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the space between the Horae at left. An arrow indicates toes still visible after another leg was painted out. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of space between Horae with arrows
Fig. 37 X-radiograph of The Fall of Phaeton, area shown in fig. 36. An arrow indicates a leg hidden when Rubens later added a diagonal beam. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Mock up of Stage 1, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 38 Mock-up of the original composition (Stage 1) of The Fall of Phaeton [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Mock-up of Stage 2 (the first revision) of The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 39 Mock-up of Stage 2 (the first revision) of The Fall of Phaeton. Rubens covered over the flames with gray clouds and expanded the lightning bolt into a diagonal wash of golden light. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of revised blue sky upper left, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 40 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. In Stage 3 Rubens rapidly painted blue sky around the figure, covering the original blackish sky. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of rearing horses, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 41 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of rearing horses [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
False-color infrared reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail
Fig. 42 False-color infrared reflectogram of The Fall of Phaeton, detail. The added white horse covered a complex tangle of harness and traces. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Mock-up of the first revision (Stage 2) of The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 43 Mock-up of the first revision (Stage 2) of The Fall of Phaeton [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, begun ca. 1604-1605, completed ca. 1610–1612 (Stage 3), National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 44 The Fall of Phaeton (Stage 3). In his final, experimental revisions, Rubens rapidly painted blue sky around some figures and introduced the rearing white horse that crowns the composition. [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the added white horse, with an arrow indicating the sample location, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 45 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the added white horse, with an arrow indicating the location where a microscopic sample was taken from the edge of an existing loss. The paint cross section includes layers from all three stages of the composition. Layer 1: yellow-tan ground; layers 2 and 3: smoke in Stage 1; layers 4 and 5: golden light in Stage 2; layers 6 and 7: blue sky and white horse in Stage 3 (layer 8 is later restoration). [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1599-1601, The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna
Fig. 46 Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1599-1601, oil on panel, 72 x 103 cm. © Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna (Scala, Florence / Art Resource, NY) (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1610-1612, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 47 Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (oil sketch), ca. 1610-1612, oil on panel, 57.4 x 78.1 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 48-final Courtauld Conversion oil sketch detail location
Fig. 48 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (oil sketch), detail of fig. 47 showing hasty brushwork reminiscent of the final revisions to The Fall of Phaeton. A white box marks the area shown in fig. 49. [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 49-final Courtauld Conversion oil sketch det sloppy blanket
Fig. 49 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (oil sketch), close detail of area shown in white box in fig. 48 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of the the sky, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 50 The Fall of Phaeton, detail of blue sky added with rapid brushwork in Stage 3 [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (preparatory drawing), The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 51 Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (preparatory drawing), ca. 1610-1612, pen and brown ink with wash and white bodycolor on paper, 32.9 x 22.2 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (drawing- detail), ca. 1610–1612, preparatory drawing, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 52 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (preparatory drawing), detail of light rays in fig. 51 [side-by-side viewer]
Infrared reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of light rays, Yale University Art Gallery
Fig. 53 Infrared reflectogram of Rubens, Hero and Leander, detail of fig. 22, showing similar light rays that Rubens indicated in his painted sketch. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1610-1612, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 54 Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1610-1612, oil on panel, 95.2 x 120.7 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 55-final Rubens Courtauld Conversion painting det horses - arrow - layers
Fig. 55 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (painting), detail. In the final version of the painting, the horse on the right was painted brown. The horse on the left was repainted dapple-gray, but the unrevised foreleg (indicated by a yellow arrow) is still white. [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph of Peter Paul Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (painting), detail, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 56 X-radiograph of Rubens' The Conversion of Saint Paul (painting). A detail of the area in fig. 55 shows that originally the horses were like those in The Fall of Phaeton. The black arrow indicates stippled handling that suggests the horse on the right was originally dappled. The white arrows indicate white highlights in this horse’s mane and a flying white mane on the left-hand horse. The red arrow indicates evidence that the right-hand horse had a long, curling mane. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton, detail of horses-arrows, begun ca. 1604–1605, completed ca. 1610–1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fig. 57 The Fall of Phaeton, detail. Arrows correspond to features appearing in the original depiction in The Conversion of Saint Paul (see fig. 56) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610–1612, pen and ink with wash on beige laid paper, 218 x 327 mm. Bayonne, Musée Bonnat-Helleu
Fig. 58 Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610–1612, pen and ink with wash on beige laid paper, 218 x 327 mm. Bayonne, Musée Bonnat-Helleu (© Bayonne, Musée Bonnat-Helleu/ photograph A. Vaquero; artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610-1612, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 59 Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610-1612, oil on panel, 51 x 65.1 cm. London, The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610-1612, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Fig. 60 Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610-1612, oil on copper, 50.2 x 70.8 cm. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Accepted by H.M. Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1979, http://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/1865 (artwork in the public domain) [side-by-side viewer]
Fig 61-final Rubens Courtauld Conversion painting det horses
Fig. 61 Rubens, The Conversion of Saint Paul (painting), detail of fig. 54. As in The Fall of Phaeton, the horses’ muzzles are aligned. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, detail of horses, ca. 1610-1612, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Fig. 62 Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus (Courtauld version), detail of fig. 59. In this painting Rubens varied the position of the horses slightly: the muzzle of the white horse here turns away from the gray. [side-by-side viewer]
Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, ca. 1610–1612, pen and ink with wash on beige laid paper, 218 x 327 mm. Bayonne, Musée Bonnat-Helleu
Fig. 63 Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus (drawing), detail of fig. 58. However, in the preparatory drawing Rubens planned to depict the horses with their muzzles aligned. [side-by-side viewer]
Infrared reflectogram of Peter Paul Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus, detail, The Courtauld Gallery
Fig. 64 Infrared reflectogram of Rubens, The Death of Hippolytus (Courtauld version), detail. The white arrow indicates underdrawing lines showing that when Rubens planned this painting, he still intended the white horse’s muzzle to be aligned with the other horse. [side-by-side viewer]
X-radiograph, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 65 X-radiograph, The Fall of Phaeton (captured by Douglas Lachance) [IIIF multi-mode viewer]
False-color infrared reflectogram, Peter Paul Rubens, The Fall of Phaeton
Fig. 66 False-color infrared reflectogram, The Fall of Phaeton (captured by John Delaney and Kate Dooley) [IIIF multi-mode viewer]

Footnotes

  1. 1. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, inv. no. 1990.1.1.

  2. 2. Fiona Healy notes that in addition to Ovid’s telling of the tale, Rubens would also have known versions by Nonnos and Philstratus the Elder (Fiona Healy, “Losing Control of the Senses: The Fifth Horse in Rubens’s Fall of Phaeton,” in Von Kunst und Temperament: Festschrift für Eberhard König, ed. Caroline Zöhl and Mara Hofmann [Turnhout: Brepols, 2007], 86).

  3. 3. Healy suggests that Rubens might have derived the unusual detail of the twelve Horae from Nonnos. Healy, “Losing Control of the Senses,” 86.

  4. 4. Michael Jaffé, Rubens and Italy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 30, 71, 79-80; Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2005), 149-50.

  5. 5. Leonardo’s drawing illustrated here (Royal Collection Trust inv. no. 912336) must have been among the drawings showing Leonardo’s mastery of the anatomy of horses that Rubens described studying in that collection. Roger de Piles, Abrégé de la vie des Peintres, avec des réflexions sur leurs ouvrages, Et un Traité du Peintre . . . (Paris: Chez Charles de Sercy, 1699), 168; for drawing’s provenance, “Leonardo da Vinci – A Rearing Horse,” Royal Collection Trust, accessed June 21, 2019, https://www.rct.uk/collection/912336/a-rearing-horse.

  6. 6. In Mantua Rubens would have known the version of the Crouching Venus illustrated here (Royal Collection Trust inv. no. 69746), which was recorded in the 1627 inventory of the Gonzaga collection. Carlo d’Arco, Delle arti e degli artefici di Mantova (Mantua: D. Agazzi, 1857), 2:169; A. H. Scott-Elliot, “Statues from Mantua in the Collection of King Charles I,” The Burlington Magazine 101, no. 675 (1959): 220.

  7. 7. Musée des beaux-arts de Nancy, inv. no. 71.

  8. 8. Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia, cat. no. 831. Michael Jaffé, “Rubens in Italy: Rediscovered Works,” The Burlington Magazine 100, no. 669 (December 1958): 416, 419; Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 36.

  9. 9. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 415-19.

  10. 10. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 416; Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 71; Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 146, 151.

  11. 11. Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 151.

  12. 12. Julius S. Held, Rubens Selected Drawings (Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1986), 93-94; Julius S. Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens: A Critical Catalogue (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 333-34, 578-80.

  13. 13. Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 146, 151, 152 n. 2, 153 n. 23.

  14. 14. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 146; Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 151.

  15. 15. The original research was briefly summarized in the systematic catalogue of Flemish paintings at the National Gallery (Wheelock, Flemish Paintings). At the start of that project, Adam Greenhalgh, then a summer intern at the National Gallery, joined some initial examination sessions of The Fall of Phaeton and drafted interesting thoughts on the possible evolution of the painting.

  16. 16. In addition to the colleagues thanked in the Acknowledgments, Clare Richardson and Kate Stonor have kindly discussed their new technical research on the Conversion of Saint Paul series at the Courtauld. Their findings are forthcoming in an future article in the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art (hereafter Richardson and Stonor, forthcoming).

  17. 17. Yale University Art Gallery, inv. no. 1962.25.

  18. 18. The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (inv. no. P.1978.PG.358).

  19. 19. The Courtauld Gallery, Bequest of Antoine (Count) Seilern (oil sketch: inv. no. P.1978.PG.356; drawing: inv. no. D.1978.PG.57; painting: inv. no. P.1978.PG.357).

  20. 20. Jeremy Wood, “‘Damaged by Time and Rubens’: Rubens’s Restorations and Retouchings,” Apollo (1995): 16-23.

  21. 21. The painting’s surface was examined by the author using a stereomicroscope at up to 50x magnification. Digital x-radiography was carried out by Douglas Lachance using a Comet XRP-75MXR-75HP unit (at 35 kev, 8 mA and 30-second exposures) with Carestream Industrex Blue digital imaging plates. Kate Dooley mosaicked the fifteen plates by registering (i.e. spatially aligning) the sub images to a high-resolution color image using custom registration software (Damon M. Conover, John K. Delaney, and Murray H. Loew,“Automatic Registration and Mosaicking of Technical Images of Old Master Paintings.” Applied Physics A 119 (2015): 1567-75.Infrared reflectograms were captured by Kate Dooley and John Delaney using a custom IRR system consisting of a 55 mm EFL near infrared lens (Stingray Optics, Keene, NH) and an infrared camera (model IRC912, IRCameras, Santa Barbara, CA) that has a 1280 x 1024 pixel InSb focal plane array of detectors. An interference filter at the cold stop of the dewar limits the spectral sensitivity to 1000-2500 nm. Three IR reflectograms were collected using IR interference bandpass filters that pass only portions of the IR spectral range (1100-1400 nm, 1500-1800 nm, and 2100-2400 nm). Kate Dooley mosaicked each IR reflectogram to a high-resolution color image as above, and combined these in a false-color IRR.The false-color IRR image was created by placing the three individual IR reflectograms into the red, green, and blue color channels of a digital RGB color image. This is a useful way to visually distinguish areas painted with different artists’ materials. Because different materials have different reflectance in the three IR spectral bands, a “false-color” image results from overlaying the reflectograms.

  22. 22. A small number of microscopic paint samples were analyzed by the author using a Leica DMRX polarizing light research microscope at up to 500x magnification. Dispersed samples, consisting of a few grains of pigment removed from the paint surface, were mounted in Cargille Meltmount (n=1.66) for microscopic examination in transmitted light. Paint cross-section samples were mounted in polyester resin, then ground and polished to expose the sequence of paint and ground layers.

  23. 23. The fine, plain-weave canvas measures 17.3 threads/cm in the warp direction and 14 threads/cm in the weft direction. Automated thread counting analysis was carried out by Kelsey Wingel (Yale University Art Museum) with the assistance of Dr. Don H. Johnson (Thread Count Automation Project, Rice University) using the protocols and software developed by Dr. Don H. Johnson and Dr. C. Richard Johnson (Don H. Johnson, C. Richard Johnson, and Robert G. Erdmann, “Weave Analysis of Paintings on Canvas from Radiographs.” Signal Processing 93 (2013): 527-40. ). Kelsey Wingel, email message to the author, February 14, 2019. SEM-EDS analysis of the ground identified a translucent matrix of siliceous earths, calcite, and traces of dolomite, colored with small amounts of ochre and charcoal black.

  24. 24. Although the literature on Rubens’s painting materials and techniques is extensive (for comprehensive overviews, see Hubert von Sonnenburg, “Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, I: Bildträger, Gruniereung un Vorskizzierung,” Mahltecknik Restauro 85, no. 2 [1979]: 77-100; Hubert von Sonnenburg, “Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, II: Farbe und Auftragstechnik,” Mahltecknik Restauro 85, no. 3 [1979]: 181-203; Nico van Hout and Arnout Balis, Rubens Unveiled: Notes on the Master’s Painting Technique, exh. cat. [Antwerp: Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten], 2012), technical studies focused on early works, including works from Rubens’s years in Italy, are limited. Typically, oak panels in Antwerp were prepared with a white, chalk-based lower ground, lightly toned by an upper ground, or imprimatura. Kirby, “The Painter’s Trade in the Seventeenth Century: Theory and Practice,” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 20 (1999): 17-22, 27-28; Nico van Hout, “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer in Seventeenth-Century Painting,” in Looking through Paintings: The Study of Painting Techniques and Materials in Support of Art Historical Research, edited by Erma Hermens, Annemiek Ouwerkerk, and Nicola Costaras. Leids kunsthistorisch jaarboek 11 (1998): 199-225.”; Von Sonnenburg, “Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, II,” 77-83.

  25. 25. The recognizable “streaky imprimatura” that Rubens left visible in most of his oil sketches is often thought of as characteristic of the artist’s personal painting practices (Von Sonnenburg, “Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, I,” 89-92). However, such preparations appear in works by many painters active in Antwerp in the first half of the seventeenth century (Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 42-45; Van Hout, “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer,” 205-10). This raises the possibility that artists could have purchased panels already prepared with a streaky imprimatura. The author has observed a case, Vista from a Grotto by David Teniers (early 1630s; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), in which an artist seems to have obscured a translucent, brownish imprimatura with a thick, opaque, gray preparation layer, completely changing the visual effect of the painting surface (E. Melanie Gifford, “Style and Technique in the Evolution of Naturalism: North Netherlandish Landscape Painting in the Early Seventeenth Century” [PhD diss., University of Maryland, College Park, 1997], 86; Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 232). It seems possible that this sequence is evidence of an artist modifying a commercially prepared panel. For an investigation into the materials and processes used for such preparations, see Maartje Stols-Witlox, Tiarna Doherty, and Barbara Schoonhoven, “Reconstructing Seventeenth-Century Streaky Imprimatura Layers Used on Panel Paintings,” in Preparation for Painting: The Artist’s Choice and its Consequences, ed. Joyce H. Townsend, Tiarna Doherty, Gunnar Heydenreich, and Jacqueline Ridge (London: Archetype Publications, 2008), 79-91.

  26. 26. Richard Symonds, who traveled to Rome between 1649 and 1651, commented on the popularity of coarsely woven canvases in Italy, but finely woven canvases, some exported from Flanders, were also used (Mary Rose Sylvia Beal, “A Study of Richard Symonds: His Italian Notebooks and their Relevance to Seventeenth-Century Painting Techniques” [PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, 1978), 85; Kirby, “The Painter’s Trade,” 25]. It is possible that in choosing a finely woven canvas Rubens continued to use Flemish canvas (either from a supply he had brought with him or purchased locally), but this ground seems typical of Italian practices. Symonds describes a ground for canvas paintings used by his mentor, Giovanni Angelo Canini, that is very similar to the ground of The Fall of Phaeton: based on earth pigments (“the earth that bricks are made from”) and creta, which could indicate siliceous earths and clays as well as chalk (Beal, “Richard Symonds,” 87, 218).

  27. 27. Some fifteen years later, Anthony van Dyck also used finely woven linens during his time in Italy (Carol Christensen, Michael Palmer, and Michael Swicklick, “Van Dyck’s Painting Technique, His Writings, and Three Paintings in the National Gallery of Art,” in Anthony van Dyck, ed. Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Susan J. Barnes, and Julius S. Held, exh. cat. [Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1990], 47). The grounds of Rubens’s Italian paintings are often described as dark-red “bolus,” but both his Italian grounds and Van Dyck’s seem to have been more varied, suggesting perhaps that they used local suppliers as they traveled. For Hercules and Omphalec, 1602-1605; Louvre RF 1938-46), Rubens used an earth ground described as “red-orange” (Ségolène Bergeon, Science et patience, ou la restauration des peintures [Paris: Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1990], 233-35); for the Baptism of Christ (c. 1604-1605; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerp, inv. no. 707), “ochre-brown” (Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 47); and for the Transfiguration (c. 1604-1606), now in Nancy, a double ground with a red-brown first layer and a gray upper ground (La Transfiguration de Rubens, exh. cat. (Nancy: Musée des beaux-arts, Nancy, 1990), 94, cited by Van Hout, “Meaning and Development of the Ground Layer,” 224 n. 106). Van Dyck used a dark ground rich in umber for St. Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo, c. 1624; Maryan Wynn Ainsworth, Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, John Brealey, Pieter Meyers. Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of Paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Vermeer. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982, 12, plate 3, color plates G, H), but used lightly tinted whitish and gray grounds for two Genoese portraits, Elena Grimaldi and A Genoese Noblewoman and Her Son (1623 and c. 1626, respectively; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1942.9.92 and 1942.9.91; Christensen, Palmer, and Swicklick, “Van Dyck’s Painting Technique,” 47, 49: pls. 1, 3, and 4).

  28. 28. National Gallery, London, inv. no. NG853.1.

  29. 29. Dark lines reinforcing many of the contours were observed in figures Rubens contributed to The Battle of the Amazons, executed with Jan Brueghel c. 1598-1600, before Rubens left for Italy (Tiarna Doherty, Mark Leonard, and Jørgen Wadum, “Brueghel and Rubens at Work: Technique and the Practice of Collaboration,” in Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship, ed. Anne T. Woollett and Ariane van Suchtelen, exh. cat. [Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum and The Hague, The Mauritshuis, 2006], 223-4). Judging from images reproduced in that publication, these lines might have served not as an independent underdrawing but as a reinforcement to a brown painted sketch, similar to the selective reinforcement that a more confident Rubens used some years later in The Fall of Phaeton.

  30. 30. The very fine particles of indigo were characterized through polarizing light microscopy by the author (see Nicholas Eastaugh, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, and Ruth Siddall, The Pigment Compendium: Optical Microscopy of Historical Pigments [Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann, 2004], 116-7) and confirmed by fiber optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) carried out by Kate Dooley. The pigment can be recognized in various areas across the painting’s surface using a stereomicroscope: under high magnification it is seen as smears of dark blue in the paint matrix, rather than the individual particles typical of blue pigments such as ultramarine, azurite, or smalt.

  31. 31. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 416.

  32. 32. Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 36.

  33. 33. Joyce Plesters has identified several types of dark grounds in paintings at the National Gallery, London: a charcoal black upper ground over a gesso lower ground (Christ Washing His Disciples’ Feet, c. 1575-1580, NG 1130); a single-layer ground of ochre with mixed pigments, perhaps “palette scrapings” (The Origin of the Milky Way, c. 1575, NG 1313); and a double ground of dark palette scrapings over gesso (Portrait of Vincenzo Morosini, c. 1575-1580, NG 4004). Joyce Plesters, “Tintoretto’s Paintings in the National Gallery: Part II,” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 4 (1980): 36, 39, 41.

  34. 34. Like a number of Tintoretto’s works, this was painted on canvas prepared with a thin gesso (Joyce Plesters and Lorenzo Lazzarini, “Preliminary Observations on the Technique and Materials of Tintoretto,” in Conservation of Paintings and the Graphic Arts: Preprints of Contributions to The Lisbon Congres 1972 [London: The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1972], 155); in combination with the underlying canvas color, this would have been a mid-toned painting surface.

  35. 35. Plesters and Lazzarini, “Technique and Materials of Tintoretto,” 156; Joyce Plesters, “Tintoretto’s Paintings in the National Gallery: Part I,” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 3 (1979): 10-11, 14-16; Plesters, “Tintoretto’s Paintings in the National Gallery: Part II,” 40, 43.

  36. 36. Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. 1738 (OK).

  37. 37. Ovid, Metamorphoses, translated by Brookes Moore, The Theoi Classical Texts Library, https://www.theoi.com/Text/OvidMetamorphoses2.html, book 2, 319.

  38. 38. Automated thread counting carried out Kelsey Wingel (as in n. 23) established that the plain-weave canvas measures 9 threads/cm in the warp direction and 9.4 threads/cm in the weft direction (personal communication, February 14, 2019).

  39. 39. Because the ground of Hero and Leander has not been analyzed, it has not possible to establish whether the materials are identical to those analyzed in Phaeton. However, under high magnification with a stereomicroscope the appearance is comparable, suggesting that Rubens either purchased similar grounds or prepared both grounds himself. In Hero and Leander the ground has been described as “bolus,” which would suggest the use of predominantly red earth, but the reddish tone seen in photographs of this painting is actually the combined color of the brown painted sketch and the lighter-colored ground below.

  40. 40. Analysis of samples from The Fall of Phaeton (as in n. 30) confirms that the blue pigment is typical of indigo rather than ultramarine or smalt. Samples from Hero and Leander were not available for comparative analysis, but in magnified examination of the paint surface and in IRR the blue of Hero and Leander shows the same characteristics as the blue used for Stage 1 of The Fall of Phaeton.

  41. 41. These lines are visible in IRR: in the upper center of Hero and Leander (above the angular lightning bolt and around the curved lightning) and above the far left figures in The Fall of Phaeton.

  42. 42. Gregory Martin, “Hero and Leander,” in Rubens: Mythological Subjects 2, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard XI (London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers/Brepols, forthcoming). I am grateful to Gregory Martin for the opportunity to consult his draft before publication and for fruitful discussions of the issues raised by the present technical study.

  43. 43. Two of these are discussed below (in n. 60 and n. 61).

  44. 44. Elizabeth McGrath, “Rubens and Classical Myth: An Introduction,” in Elizabeth McGrath, Gregory Martin, Fiona Healy, Bert Schepers, Carl van de Velde and Karolien de Clippel, Rubens: Mythological Subjects 1: Achilles to The Graces, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard XI (London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers/Brepols, 2016), 43-44.

  45. 45. Now in a French private collection, this work measures 89 x 135.5 cm (McGrath et al., Mythological Subjects 1, no. 7, 132-40).

  46. 46. Both paintings have been relined with the tacking margins removed and are likely to have been slightly trimmed, which would account for small differences; The Fall of Phaeton now measures 98.4 x 131.2 cm and Hero and Leander measures 95.9 x 128 cm.

  47. 47. In first publishing the two paintings, Michael Jaffé described only their close compositional relationship (Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 416, 419), but in 1993 he also wrote that they were “almost certainly conceived as pendants c. 1605” (Jaffé, “Samson Destroying the Temple of Dagon: A Rediscovered Rubens,” Apollo 139 [December 1993]: 382). Since then, the two paintings have been described as possible pendants by some (Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 151; David Jaffé, Elizabeth McGrath, Amanda Bradley, Ulrich Heinen, Veronika Kopecky, and Delfina Bergamaschi, Rubens: A Master in the Making, exh. cat. [London: National Gallery, 2005], 72). Other scholars make no mention of a relationship (Held, Oil Sketches, 1:292, 589), and the two paintings frequently appear in adjacent discussions or catalogue entries without a relationship mentioned explicitly (for example, Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, exh. cat. [Cologne: Museen der Stadt Köln, 1977], 145-6, 147-9; Guy Bauman and Walter A. Liedtke, Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America [Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1992], 172-4, 175-7).

  48. 48. Fiona Healy and Gregory Martin each have generously discussed this point in personal communications, April 2019.

  49. 49. A drawing recording Rubens’s early ideas for Hero and Leander places even more emphasis on broad arcs defining the setting c. 1600-1603, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh: inv. no 4936, recto; Keith Andrews, Catalogue of Netherlandish Drawings in the National Gallery of Scotland [Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland, 1985], 1:69-70, 2: fig. 464). Note that, based on the script used for the Latin inscription, Kristin Lohse Belkin dates this drawing to before Rubens left Antwerp, which would suggest that he developed this composition over an extended time, as he did other subjects, including The Conversion of Saint Paul, discussed below (Kristin Lohse Belkin, “Rubens’s Latin Inscriptions in his Copies after Holbein’s Dance of Death,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 52 [1989]: 246).

  50. 50. The alternative explanation is that Rubens could have picked up the touch of light-blue paint from a detail on Leander, such as seafoam. However, in the only place near this stroke of lightning that he mixed wet paints, he pulled yellow paint (depicting a beam of light), and not white, through the dark-blue sky paint.

  51. 51. National Gallery, London, 2005; Jaffé et al., A Master in the Making.

  52. 52. The full form of this sinuous lightning bolt is now visible only in the x-radiograph. Wheelock described this as “the S-shaped curve indicating the wayward path of Phaeton’s flight.” Wheelock, Flemish Paintings, 153 n. 22.

  53. 53. Since the evidence for the twelfth Hora is limited, no attempt was made to recreate this figure in the schematic representation of Stage 1.

  54. 54. Jaffé et al., A Master in the Making, 72.

  55. 55. In Aristotle’s theory of the four elements, each was assigned two of four defining characteristics – hot, cold, wet, and dry. Water and fire are opposites, while in the alternative pair, air (hot, wet) is the complement of earth (cold, dry). David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 52-56.

  56. 56. Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 97; on the Chiesa Nuova commission, see 85-99.

  57. 57. Jaffé, “Samson,” 378.

  58. 58. Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 421; Hans Vlieghe, Saints, Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard VIII (London and New York: Phaidon, 1973), 2:35-38. This painting appeared in the inventory of his collections, the “Specification” (Jeffrey M. Muller, Rubens: The Artist as Collector [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989], 122).

  59. 59. Amy Golahny, “Rubens’ Hero and Leander and its Poetic Progeny,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (1990): 27-29. While Golahny has explored three different seventeenth-century poetic responses to Rubens’s Hero and Leander composition, there is no equivalent literary record of the impression The Fall of Phaeton might have made on his contemporaries.

  60. 60. Jaffé notes that this larger variant, now in Dresden (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Gal.-Nr. 1002) was painted on a canvas prepared with a light-colored ground (more typical of northern practice), and not the earth ground typical of Italy. He dates the handling of the flesh tones in particular to around 1610 (Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 419-20).

  61. 61. The plan for the engraving appears in a letter to Pieter van Veen, January 23, 1619 (see The Letters of Peter Paul Rubens, trans. and ed. Ruth Saunders Magurn [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955], 36-37). A drawing (Louvre, Inv. 20369) was presumably made in preparation for the engraving that was never executed. Based on the studio replica now in Dresden, the drawing follows numerous details that appear only in that version (Golhany, “Hero and Leander,” 27 n. 18).

  62. 62. In analyzing the provenance of the two versions of Hero and Leander, Jaffé lays out evidence that suggests that after Rubens used the smaller, Yale version as the model for the studio replica around 1610, it may have been among the paintings he sold to the Duke of Buckingham in 1627. A version was owned by the Duke’s heirs in 1635, and measurements listed in a sale catalogue confirm that that smaller version was in England sometime later, as it appeared in the sale of Peter Lely’s collection in 1682 (Jaffé, “Rediscovered Works,” 420).

  63. 63. See, for example, Ixion, King of the Lapiths, Deceived by Juno (c. 1611, Louvre RF2121).

  64. 64. Examination at high magnification showed that, like the lightning in Hero and Leander, this original ochre paint was applied wet-in-wet with white lead paint.

  65. 65. The crudely brushed green just above the Earth has yet to be deciphered, but it seems likely to have been introduced in this first revision.

  66. 66. There also are no layers of surface dirt that could have documented an extended time lag between paint layers.

  67. 67. Varnish has seeped from the paint loss (the void at the right edge of the sample) into the tiny gap. As this extends only a little way into the sample, it is not a complete varnish layer between the two stages, which would have been evidence that the painter considered the work completed (and ready to varnish) before the final paints were applied.

  68. 68. In a comparison of three versions of The Flight of Lot and his Family from Sodom (Rubens and Studio, c. 1613-1615, The John and Mable Ringling Museum, Sarasota; Studio of Rubens, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach; Jacob Jordaens(?), National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo), also painted within a few years of Rubens’s return to Antwerp, analysis found ultramarine used for a sky-blue sleeve in the autograph painting, but indigo was used for the comparable passage in two workshop compositions. For a darker, mauve-blue sleeve, all three used an alternative blue pigment, smalt (Nobuyuki Kamba, “Scientific Examination of the Ground, Pigments and Painting Techniques Used in Three Versions of The Flight of Lot and his Family from Sodom,” in Rubens and His Workshop: “The Flight of Lot and His Family from Sodom,” ed. Toshiharu Nakamura, exh. cat. [Tokyo: The National Museum of Western Art, 1994], 69-94).

  69. 69. Without further sampling and analysis this difference cannot be characterized in more detail, but it is interesting to note that although white lead was manufactured by the same process in the north and the south, there is evidence that differences in purification methods made white lead produced in Venice different from the northern product (Barbara Berrie and Louisa Matthew, “Lead White from Venice: A Whiter Shade of Pale?” in Studying Old Master Paintings, Technology and Practice, ed. Marika Spring [London: Archetype Publications, 2011], 295-301; on the effects of various production methods for white lead, see Maartje Stols-Witlox, “‘From Reading to Painting’: Authors and Audiences of Dutch Recipes for Preparatory Layers for Oil Painting,” Early Modern Low Countries 1 [2017]: 201-10).

  70. 70. Petria Noble, Jaap J. Boon, and Jørgen Wadum. “Dissolution, Aggregation and Protrusion: Lead Soap Formation in 17th-Century Grounds and Paint Layers,” ArtMatters: Netherlands Technical Studies in Art 1 (2002): 46-61. On lead soaps in lead-tin yellow specifically, see Catherine Higgitt, Marika Spring, and David Saunders, “Pigment-medium Interactions in Oil Paint Films containing Red Lead or Lead-Tin Yellow.” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 24 (2003): 75-95.

  71. 71. As in n. 12.

  72. 72. Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna, inv. no. GE-40; Justus Müller Hofstede, “An Early Rubens Conversion of Saint Paul: The Beginning of his Preoccupation with Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari,” The Burlington Magazine 106, no. 732 (1964): 94-103; 105-106. In 2000, Daniel Fabian presented results of his technical study of the Liechtenstein Conversion at a conference on Rubens’s painting practices at the Rubenianum. The painting is on an oak panel, prepared with a white ground and an imprimatura of lead white toned with black and earth pigments (personal communication, February 25, 2019).
    There is disagreement in the literature on both this Conversion and Rubens’s early Judgment of Paris (National Gallery, London, 6379) as to whether he painted either work in Antwerp shortly before he left for Italy, or in Italy shortly after he arrived. He used oak panels for both, but as Gregory Martin noted, he also used oak for St. Helena (now in Grasse), which was commissioned in Italy in 1601 (Gregory Martin, The Flemish School: Circa 1600-Circa 1900 [London: National Gallery, 1970], 213-15). These oak panels, and in particular the light-colored double ground used for the Conversion, seem characteristic of painting supplies available in Antwerp. However, it is possible that Rubens brought a stock of materials with him when he traveled to Italy and used these for some of his earliest Italian paintings.

  73. 73. Pierre Génard, P. P. Rubens: Aanteekeningen over den grooten Meester en zijne bloedverwanten (Antwerp: Boekhandel van P. Kockx, 1877), 373.

  74. 74. Müller-Hofstede, “An Early Rubens,” 97.

  75. 75. As in n. 19.

  76. 76. The author examined the oil sketch and painting in 2000 and in 2017 using a stereomicroscope, and by consulting x-radiographs and IRR images on file. The drawing was examined in 2017 with an Eschenbach handheld microscope equipped with an auxiliary lens giving magnification up to 25x; a transmitted-light IRR was available for comparison. X-radiography was carried out by Robert Bruce Gardner in 2007. Infrared reflectograms were captured by Clare Richardson and Kate Stonor using an Osiris camera (InGaAs detector array with a spectral sensitivity of 900-1700 nm).

  77. 77. Richardson and Stonor, forthcoming.

  78. 78. The freedom of the revisions has also been noted in other examples of Rubens revising his own earlier paintings. In The Prodigal Son (1618; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerp, inv. no. 781), Van Hout and Balis described the handling in revisions as “slapdash” and suggested this was more characteristic of works from his last decade (Van Hout and Balis, Rubens Unveiled, 77-79). However, the early examples described here suggest that throughout his career he used such free brushwork in moments of informal experimentation.

  79. 79. Many authors propose that the drawing preceded the oil sketch: Held, Oil Sketches, 578-80; Antoine Seilern, Flemish Paintings & Drawings at 56 Princes Gate, London SW7 (London: Shenval Press, 1955), 34-38; Seilern, Corrigenda & Addenda to the Catalogue of Paintings & Drawings at 56 Princes Gate, London SW7 (London: Shenval Press, 1971), 25; David Freedberg, Rubens: The Life of Christ After the Passion, Corpus Rubenianum VII. (London: Harvey Miller, 1984), 121-22; Friso Lammertse and Alejandro Vergara, Rubens: Painter of Sketches, exh. cat. (Madrid: Museo del Prado; Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2018), 80-81; and Jaffé et al., A Master in the Making, 152-54. Stephanie-Suzanne Durante described the conflicting opinions on the sequence of oil sketch and drawing and suggested that Rubens might have created still another preparatory work before the final painting. Stephanie-Suzanne Durante, “The Conversion of Saint Paul,” in Peter Paul Rubens: A Touch of Brilliance: Oil Sketches and Related Works from The State Hermitage Museum and the Courtauld Institute Gallery, exh. cat. (London: Courtauld Institute of Art, 2003), 67.

  80. 80. Held, Selected Drawings, 93-94: pl. 60; Freedberg, Life of Christ After the Passion, 118-20.

  81. 81. Richardson and Stonor, forthcoming.

  82. 82. Rubens also later revised the sky of The Conversion of Saint Paul, and this may have been when he repainted the horses with their present, darker colors. Held proposed that around 1620, as Rubens undertook a new version of the subject in the oil sketch now in Oxford, he made extensive revisions to the upper part of the painting and perhaps to some of the figures: Held, Oil Sketches, 1:580-82; Freedberg, Life of Christ After the Passion, 129-31. Richardson and Stonor consider this question more deeply (Richardson and Stonor, forthcoming).

  83. 83. In another intriguing analogy, he seems to have narrowed the focus of the light emanating from the heavens by covering over rays at the left and right with dark paint, as he did in Phaeton.

  84. 84. Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, inv. no. 1441; Held, Selected Drawings, 93, pl. 58.

  85. 85. As in n. 18. The author examined the painting in 2000 and 2017 using a stereomicroscope and consulting x-radiograph and IRR images on file (x-radiography was carried out by Aviva Burnstock in 2016 at 20 kev, 4.3 mA and 60 second exposures. Infrared reflectogram as in n. 76).

    There is disagreement in the literature on the function of the Courtauld painting: Held included it in his catalogue of the oil sketches but noted that the severely worn surface may contribute to its “sketchy” appearance: Held, Oil Sketches, 1:333-34, 2: pl. 245. To this observer, it seems more like a damaged painting than a sketch. The painting’s heavily abraded surface suffered from old restorations. At some time in the past it was completely repainted, overpaint that was removed some time before 1955 (Seilern, Flemish Paintings & Drawings, 32).

  86. 86. Fitzwilliam Museum, inv. no. PD.8-1979.

  87. 87. Von Sonnenburg, for example, emphasizes the efficiency of reusing motifs and established techniques in the context of a busy workshop (“Rubens’ Bildaufbau und Technik, II”, 187).

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DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2019.11.2.1
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E. Melanie Gifford, "Rubens’s Invention and Evolution: Material Evidence in The Fall of Phaeton," Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 11:2 (Summer 2019) DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2019.11.2.1