Red chalk, within brown ink framing lines (recto);
red chalk and black lead (verso);
bears early attribution in brown ink, lower right: Rubens, and lettering in red chalk, verso: e;
P.O. Dubaut, Paris (L.2103b);
sale, Paris, Drouot, 13 February 1939, lot 74, reproduced pl. VII (as Rubens);
Otto Naumann, New York, his sale, New York, Sotheby's, 25 January 2007, lot 20
When this fine sheet of studies was sold as Rubens in 1939, it was compared in the sale catalogue with two similarly conceived sheets of studies of horses, drawn in black lead with pen and ink accents, in the Louvre (inv. nos. 20.219 and 20.220). Both those drawings bear the same attribution to Rubens as the present sheet, and were at that time held to be autograph works. Ten years later, however, Frits Lugt, while observing that they are excellent drawings, catalogued them as School of Rubens.1 Comparing the present sheet with the Paris drawings, the two partial studies in black lead are very similarly executed, but the technique in the studies drawn in red chalk (a medium not found in the Louvre drawings), is very much more refined.
Another possible attribution emerges from a comparison with a rather weaker double-sided sheet of red chalk studies of horses now in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam, acquired as 'Flemish School, 17th Century', but now held as 'Circle of Jan Brueghel the Elder'.2 Schapelhouman proposes that the drawing in the Rijksprentenkabinet is a studio copy after pen and ink studies by Jan Brueghel, observing that it is not known whether or not Jan Brueghel ever drew in red chalk; if he did, then the present sheet, in which the draughtsmanship is rather more sophisticated, could well be by him, and would therefore be a unique example of the sort of drawing that inspired the artist of the Rijksprentenkabinet's sheet of studies.
Drawings of horses were a particular love of the painter Pierre Olivier Dubaut, whose collection contained a remarkable group of works by Gericault, in addition to a number of much earlier drawings of similar subjects, such as this.
1. F. Lugt, Musée du Louvre, Inventaire Général des Dessins des Écoles du Nord, Ecole Flamande, vol. II, Paris 1949, nos. 1269, 1270, reproduced pls. LXXVII, LXXVIII
2. Inv. no. 1953:292; M. Schapelhouman, Catalogue of the Dutch and Flemish Drawings in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam. Netherlandish Drawings circa 1600, 's-Gravenhage 1987, p. 22, no.11
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