Rubens’ 1612 masterwork heads to auction

New York, Dec 19 (IANSlife) Classic Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens’ masterwork “The Virgin and Christ Child, With Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist” will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s Masters Week in New York in January 2020, marking the first appearance of the work at auction since 1946.

The newly-rediscovered painting is estimated to achieve $6-8 million (Rs 42-56 crore approximately).

Rubens (1577-1640), one of the most well-known and revered artists of the Flemish Baroque style that flourished in the early 17th century. Though he resided in Belgium, Rubens travelled throughout Europe and his influence was felt for generations.

The painting is a large-scale work on panel depicting the popular subject of the apocryphal meeting of the Christ Child and young John the Baptist, which is believed to derive from the Meditationes Vitae Christi, attributed to St. Bonaventure. The scene was particularly common in Italian paintings of the time, and Rubens would have drawn inspiration for his work from Leonardo’s well-known depiction of the subject as well as a version by Guilio Romano.

While the present painting was studied by renowned Rubens’ scholar Ludwig Burchard just after the end of World War II, it was not widely known to other scholars and researchers. Having remained in private collections since it was last sold at auction in 1946, and only publicly exhibitted once in 1951 in New York, the painting was unseen by the scholarly community.

Working with Rubens scholars, Senior Vice President for Old Masters, Otto Naumann, has concluded that the present painting is the prime version of the composition, and that other previously known examples are either copies or can be attributed to his workshop.

Naumann commented, “The painting has remained a secret for seven decades, and the opportunity to have the work included in the Corpus Rubenianum is a wonderful achievement for the Old Master department at Sotheby’s. We have now established this painting’s rightful place in the artist’s corpus, and are especially excited to provide the public their first opportunity to see the painting in person.”

The painting was on view at Sotheby’s London this year and goes to auction during the annual week of auctions at Sotheby’s New York features masterworks spanning six centuries of the pre-Modern period, including impressive Old Master Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture and 19th Century European Art. The week runs from January 24-31.



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