PROPERTY FROM THE FAMILY OF EMILE WOLF
Jeremy Wood, who agrees that this drawing appears to be retouched by Rubens, has also kindly pointed out, the provenance of the other version may provide the explanation as to why Rubens might have wanted to have a high quality second version made. It seems very likely that the other drawing and another reworked copy after Giulio, the Hylas captured by the Nymphs, in the Lugt Collection3, were sold, still during Rubens’s lifetime, to Bishop Anthonius Triest of Ghent (1576-1657), and it is therefore totally plausible that Rubens would have had a member of his studio make copies of the drawings before they left, and also that he would have gone to the effort of working these drawings up in his characteristic way, to inject them with greater power and life. Although Rubens frequently reworked copies after compositions by earlier artists, these were normally copies from a different period, which he needed to rework to inject them with his own visual idiom. This would not normally be necessary for copies made in his own studio, which would by definition be copying works that were also accessible to him in the originals, but in this case the imminent departure of the original drawings could have justified his making an exception.
The studio member most likely to have been charged with the task of making these copies is Erasmus Quellinus, who was heavily involved, during the 1630s, in the copying and interpreting of many of Rubens’s designs for engraved frontispieces, and who frequently drew in the combination of broad, rather flat washes and extensive gouache highlights that we see here. A rather comparably executed copy after the Lugt Collection drawing, though seemingly not as extensively reworked, was formerly in the collection of Michael Jaffé, and is now on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.4 It was also probably made as a record for Rubens when the prototype passed to the Bishop of Ghent.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this imposing sheet passed through several of England's finest drawings collections. In precisely what order remains slightly unclear, since three of the collectors whose marks it bears (Spencer, Peart and Greville) lived at much the same time, but we have given above what we believe to be the most likely sequence of ownership.
1. J. Wood, op. cit., pp. 350-3, no. 75, pls. 11, 16, fig. 189
2. Sale, New York, Christie's, 24 January 2017, lot 86
3. Inv. 1044; Wood, op. cit., pp. 301-7, no. 49, pls. 8-9, fig. 128
4. Wood, op. cit., p. 301, fig. 129
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