Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:
Sketch by Peter Paul Rubens discovered
Six people look upwards in worship. They stand between two pillars and in the background an angel looks down on them. An oil sketch with this image that was for sale last year at an art shop in The Hague appears to have been painted by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).
Art historian Emilie den Tonkelaar, working for art dealer Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, first saw the canvas and soon thought that it might be a Rubens. “First and foremost because of the details, we see an incredible expertise in them. But an infrared photograph made by the owner was decisive. Under the painting the word adorans can be read, which means worshipping. Rubens often wrote on a panel the subject of his sketch, so he knew which image it would be.”
The work has been given the name The secular hierarchy in worship. Rubens painted it as a design for a tapestry series he made at the beginning of the 17th century for a Franciscan monastery in Madrid. That is why we do not see where the people so full of worship look at: that is visible on another work. They look at a monstrance, a holder in which a host is exhibited.
The people in the painting are the political protagonists of that time: Emperor Ferdinand II [of the Holy Roman Empire], King Philip IV [of Spain], his wife Elisabeth of France and the sponsor of this series of tapestries, Isabella of Spain.
The tapestry series, Triumph of the Eucharist, according to Rubens expert Friso Lammertse belongs to the most beautiful works of the painter’s oeuvre. “It was one of the biggest projects in the life of Rubens.” Of the series of twenty tapestries, up to now 17 oil sketches were known. The newly discovered sketch is number eighteen. The tapestry series is still visible in the monastery.
Where the canvas has been for all these years before the current owner bought it is not known. “We know that Rubens found these sketches so important that he kept them until his death”, says Den Tonkelaar. “So what has happened after that, we do not know. But that this is happening is incredibly rare, really very special.”
The sketch is not in good condition. It is partially overpainted. … “What we are going to do first is to contact the owner to discuss what he wants to do with it”, says Den Tonkelaar. “At least we will have to think about a realistic value for insurance.”
Meanwhile, the Dutch royal family intends to sell a drawing by Rubens at Sotheby’s. Instead of offering it to a Dutch, or Flemish, museum, for a reasonable prize, this masterpiece may now end up in a private collection where the public won’t be able to see it and experts won’t be able to study it.