Rubens painting rediscovered after centuries


The newly rediscovered portrait of the Duke of Buckingham by Rubens dates from around 1625

From the BBC in Britain today:

Rubens’ Duke of Buckingham ‘found’ after 400 years

A ‘lost’ portrait by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens has been rediscovered after almost 400 years.

The 17th century Flemish artist‘s “head study” of the Duke of Buckingham was identified by Dr Bendor Grosvenor from BBC Four’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces.

It was in Glasgow Museums’ collection and on public display at the city’s Pollok House stately home.

But overpainting and centuries of dirt meant it was thought to be a later copy by another artist.

The restored portrait of George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, was authenticated as a Rubens by Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubenshuis in Antwerp.

He said it was a “rare addition to Rubens‘s portrait oeuvre, showing how he approached the genre”.

Dr Grosvenor said: “The chance to discover a portrait of such a pivotal figure in British history by one of the greatest artists who ever lived has been thrillingly exciting.”

The portrait of the duke in a doublet with an elaborate lace collar and a sash dates from around 1625.

He was a controversial figure in the Jacobean era who rose from minor nobility to become one of the favourites of James I, who was James VI in Scotland.

The nature of their relationship has been the source of much debate. Some experts claim they were lovers, while others believe it was a close platonic friendship.

Renovation work carried out by English Heritage at Apethorpe Palace in Northamptonshire, one of the king’s favourite residences, revealed a secret passage linking the two men’s bedchambers.

The Duke was assassinated in 1628 at the age of just 35, three years after James died.

Overpainting of the background and other areas by a later artist, along with hundreds of years of dust and dirt, had obscured Rubens’ work.

But scientific analysis of the wood it was painted on dated it to the 1620s, and found it had been prepared in a way done by Rubens’ studio.

Additional cleaning and x-rays of the hair showed it was not a copy but was by the artist himself.

The painting underwent conservation work by restorer Simon Gillespie to return it to its original appearance.

It will return to display at Pollok House.

The painting will feature in the first programme of the new series of Britain’s Lost Masterpieces at 21:00 BST on BBC Four on 27 September.

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Painter Rubens’ mother’s testament discovered in Belgium


Rubens' mother's testament

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

A Belgian amateur historian has accidentally found a testament of the mother of the painter Peter Paul Rubens. The 73-year-old Willy Stevens found the document of Mary Pypelinckx in the National Archives of Ghent.

Stevens looked at records for writing a book on local history when he stumbled upon a bundle of papers from a 16th century notary from Antwerp. The papers were not inventoried, and actually should have been in another archive.

One of the pieces turned out to be a will which Pypelinckx had recorded in 1583 because she was ill. She would eventually remain alive until 1608.

The archive calls the document “a fine addition to the Rubens family history.” So we now know more details about her eldest son Jan Baptist, about whom little was known.

Pypelinckx wanted her son to take over her wool trade. In the will she reminded him to learn more about it, “om heuren zone te beter couragie te geven om hem des te meer daer inne te oeffenen” [to give her son more courage to get more experienced in it].

The testament will now be restored first and then it will go to the appropriate State Archive, the Antwerp-Beveren one.

Australia: Batavia ship from the same oak as Rembrandt’s and Rubens’ painters’ panels


Replica of BataviaFrom the Western Australian Museum:

New research work on timbers from the Dutch ship Batavia show that it was built from the same oak on which famous Flemish artists such as Rembrandt and Rubens painted their 17th century masterpieces.

Tree-ring dating shows that Western Australia‘s oldest ship timbers date back to seedlings growing in a Polish oak forest south of Danzig after 1324. In 1628, they were used to build the Batavia, which sank off Geraldton in 1629 on its maiden voyage to Indonesia.

By the time the ship was built in 1628, the wood beams sourced from the forests growing along Poland’s longest river was already 300 years old – making WA’s surviving timbers some of the oldest splinters in maritime history.

The link has been made for the first time by WA Museum maritime archaeology assistant curator Wendy van Duivenvoorde just after she received the results from a dendrochronology laboratory in The Netherlands.

Batavia struck grief off Morning Reef in the Abrolhos group of islands off Geraldton in 1629.

About 125 men, women and children died of ill health, drowned or were killed by mutineers who were later caught and hanged on the islands, about 60km from the WA mainland.

The wreck was discovered in 1963 and her timbers raised several years later.

Ms van Duivenvoorde said Batavia’s hull is the only surviving example of an early 17th century Dutch East Indiaman to be raised and preserved.

Until now, the hull had never been tree ring dated to determine how old or what type of oak it was, let alone the forest in Europe they had grown in – but a mix of patience and persistence has paid off, the historic timbers traced back to the same forest area on the Vistula River where Dutch painters sourced their solid wood panels or boards.

“Batavia’s timbers perfectly match the chronology established in the 1970s of Flemish painters‘ panels, which were made of oak,” she explained.

“Those Dutch panel painters used wood from a particular forest area in Poland where it was very fine-ringed, straight and easy to work with. So did the Dutch ship builders.”

Captain Cook: here.