Partnership of contrasts - Rubens and Brueghel
By Thomas P Spieker Oct 22, 2006, 10:43 GMT
The Hague - Diana, goddess of the hunt, sits pink and voluptuous among her naked nymphs - the scene is typical Rubens. Around her a pack of dogs wag their tails in rich detail and resplendent colour - typical Brueghel.
These two great Flemish painters regularly worked together, allowing their contrasting genius to unfold on the same canvas, like this painting that shows Diana preparing for the hunt.
Twelve of a couple of dozen paintings that remain from this unique joint production effort are being shown in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
The exhibition is rounded out by solo paintings of the two and by the joint efforts of other artists.
Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) and Peter Paul Rubens (1577- 1640), who both lived in Antwerp, were close friends. Both had learned the secrets of their craft in Italy and had achieved fame early in their lives.
At the time it was not unusual for a painter to collaborate with a fellow-artist, but here two completely contrasting styles meet.
'Rubens was a painter of the human figure, while Brueghel painted landscapes and animals,' says the curator of the exhibition, Ariane van Suchtelen.
And this is how they divided the work, as modern techniques, like X-ray, now reveal to art experts.
In the case of the Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man, Brueghel first drew a rough sketch. Then Rubens placed Adam and Eve in position, before Brueghel created the animals and plants that filled out this picture of paradise.
The work is signed with Latin abbreviations that reveal the painting was done by Brueghel with the figures by Rubens.
Brueghel began The Return from War with the detritus of battle and the background. When Rubens painted Venus, showing her disarming Mars, he painted over parts of what his collaborator had done, and Brueghel had to do it all over again.
Van Suchtelen says that only when Brueghel worked with him did Rubens allow another person to have the last word. Usually Brueghel started the painting and also put the finishing touches to it.
'It was a unique combination of contrasts, based on a firm friendship,' she says.
The two artists were both so famous that their works were in high demand and only the very rich could afford them.
For this reason the pursuits of the rich are a constant theme, like the hunt.
It is no longer known who commissioned the paintings, but the pictures do sometimes give a hint.
Five of the joint paintings have as their themes the five senses, and one of these is shown in the Mauritshuis.
The depiction in the background of the hunting lodge of the Archduke Albert and his wife Isabella in Tervuren near Brussels suggests he might have commissioned it.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur