Lot 146
  • 146

Follower of Sir Peter Paul Rubens

8,000 - 12,000 USD
12,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Sir Peter Paul Rubens
  • Thetis dipping the infant Achilles into the River Styx
  • oil on canvas
  • 43 3/4  by 35 1/4  in.; 111.2 by 89.5 cm.


Acquired in Los Angeles by the father of the present owner in the late 1960s.

Catalogue Note

Rubens’s composition of Thetis dipping the infant Achilles into the River Styx is one of eight designs he produced in circa 1630-35 for a tapestry series depicting the History of Achilles. Thetis, an immortal sea goddess and mother of Achilles, knew that her son was mortal.  Through an oracle, she learned that, though her son would achieve glory and fame on the battlefield, he would likely die young.  In an attempt to ward off this fate, she dipped him in the River Styx to make him invincible, holding him upside down by the ankle and, thereby, leaving that one spot vulnerable.  Despite her effort, Achilles would indeed die from an arrow shot into his ankle by Paris during the Trojan War.

The original oil sketch by Rubens of this subject is in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam (oil on panel, 43 by 36.5 cm.), and the modello, by Rubens and an assistant, is in The John and Mable Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida (oil on panel, 109 by 89.5 cm.). The present work is closer to the modello in both size and details, such as the reduced number of background figures and changes to the drapery of the female figure holding the torch.