Lot 5
  • 5

Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens

30,000 - 40,000 USD
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  • Sir Peter Paul Rubens
  • Study Head of Caspar, the Eldest Magus
  • oil on paper laid down on canvas


Julian Acampora, New York;
From whom purchased by Clarence Y. Palitz, New York, on 8 February 1933;
Thence by descent to the present owners.


New York, World's Fair, Masterpieces of Art, 1939-40;
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1942-1944.


W.R. Valentiner, ed., Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800. Masterpieces of Art, exhibition catalogue, New York 1939, cat. no. 323 (as by Rubens, where erroneously described as a sketch for one of the group in The Descent from the Cross in the Antwerp Cathedral);
W.R. Valentiner, "Rubens' Paintings in America," in The Art Quarterly, vol. 9, Spring 1946, p. 160, cat. no. 60 (as by Rubens);
J. Goris and J. Held, Rubens in America, New York 1947, p. 51, cat. no. A.55 (under Appendix);
E. Larsen, P.P. Rubens, Antwerp 1952, pp. 119 ,164, and 225, cat. no. 42, reproduced, plate 93 (as by Rubens).


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This beautiful sketch is in very healthy condition. The face and hair are the only fully painted areas, and even the hair and beard were most likely quite loosely applied. Some thinness has probably developed in the beard, but the hair and the face are very well preserved. Across the nose and lower forehead there are eight thin diagonal scratches which are slightly visible at present. It seems un-likely that there are any retouches of note and none are visible under ultraviolet light. However, there are a few spots visible in the forehead, a few tiny retouches addressing the scratches on the nose and in the lower cheek, and possibly some attempt has been made to reduce some thinness in the lower part of the beard. This painting is distinguished by its skilful technique and the dirt and attempts at restoration do not help to show it off to its best advantage, so cleaning and careful retouching is recommended.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This accomplished oil sketch is a study for the head of Caspar, the eldest Magus, as seen in Rubens' triptych the Adoration of the Magi. The full scale triptych was executed by Rubens for Saint Jean Cathedral at Mechlin during the years 1616-1619.  The figure of Caspar can be seen in the center panel of the Mechlin composition kneeling before the Christ Child and presenting a vase containing gold.  Though Julius Held included this work in his Appendix (a section of doubted pictures) of Rubens in America (see Literature), multiple leading scholars of the twentieth century supported the attribution to Rubens when it was in the collection of Clarence Palitz. Photo-certificates were provided by Gustav Gluck (dated 28 September 1929), W.R. Valentiner (dated 2 April 1932), and Ludwig Burchard (undated,) all of whom attributed this painting in full to Rubens, similarly dating it to circa 1617-18.