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Oil painting - Head of a Youth (Christ Child)
  • Head of a Youth (Christ Child)
    Rubens, Peter Paul, born 1577 - died 1640
  • Enlarge image

Head of a Youth (Christ Child)

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Antwerp (city) (painted)

  • Date:

    late 17th century -early 18th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rubens, Peter Paul, born 1577 - died 1640 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on paper on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce

  • Museum number:

    DYCE.84

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The head of a young boy with curly blond hair, looking upwards to the right with mouth open and strongly light falling from the left. Peter Paul Rubens, (1577-1640) was a Flemish painter, draughtsman and diplomat. He was a versatile and influential 17th century Baroque artist of northern Europe. An educated and urbane member of the Antwerp patriciate, he was employed by the rulers of the southern Netherlands as their ambassador and became painter to the courts of Europe. Rubens’s art blends features of the Italian High Renaissance, which he studied closely during a prolonged visit to Italy, with northern realism and a love of landscape. Apart from his paintings—which included altarpieces, history and mythological scenes, portraits and landscapes—he designed tapestries, book illustrations and pageant decorations. He had an immense workshop to help meet the demand for his work, so that often a composition would be executed by assistants from a drawing or sketch by Rubens, who then added the finishing touches to the work. His numerous pupils and assistants included Anthony van Dyck. Dyce.84 appears to be a study or copy after Rubens of the figure of the Christ Child in The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt now in the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. There is also a drawing Head and Feet of a standing boy in Besançon which is believed to be a study for the Christ Child in the same paiting dated ca. 1615-17. It has been argued that Rubens made the drawing from life of son Albert whom he used as a model for the Christ Child.

Physical description

The head of a young boy with curly blond hair, looking upwards to the right with mouth partly open and light falling from the left

Place of Origin

Antwerp (city) (painted)

Date

late 17th century -early 18th century (painted)

Artist/maker

Rubens, Peter Paul, born 1577 - died 1640 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on paper on panel

Dimensions

Height: 12.5 in estimate, Width: 9.75 in estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce, 1869

The Reverend Alexander Dyce :
South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Dyce and Forster Collections. With Engravings and Facsimiles. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 193, Piccadilly, London. 1880. Chapter I. Biographical Sketch of Mr. Dyce. pp.1-12, including 'Portrait of Mr. Dyce' illustrated opposite p.1.

Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, South Kensington Museum.A Catalogue of the Paintings, Miniatures, Drawings... Bequeathed by The Reverend Alexander Dyce. London, 1874. A 'Note' on page v comments, 'This catalogue refers to the Art portion of the Collection bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum by the Reverend Alexander Dyce, the well-known Shakespearian scholar, who died May 15, 1869'. The Catalogue. Paintings, Miniatures, &c. by Samuel Redgrave notes of the 'Oil Paintings', 'The strength of Mr. Dyce's valuable bequest to Department of Science and Art does not lie in [this] portion ... which is in its nature of a very miscellaneous character. The collection was made apparently as objects offered themselves, and without any special design.' Dyce's main interest was in literary subjects, and this is reflected in many of the paintings he bequeathed to the V&A

Historical context note

Peter Paul Rubens, (1577-1640) was a Flemish painter, draughtsman and diplomat. He was a versatile and influential 17th century Baroque artist of northern Europe. An educated and urbane member of the Antwerp Patricia, he was employed by the rulers of the southern Netherlands as their ambassador and became painter to the courts of Europe. Rubens’s art blends features of the Italian High Renaissance, which he studied closely during a prolonged visit to Italy, with northern realism and a love of landscape. Apart from his paintings—which included altarpieces, history and mythological scenes, portraits and landscapes—he designed tapestries, book illustrations and pageant decorations. He had an immense workshop to help meet the demand for his work, so that often a composition would be executed by assistants from a drawing or sketch by Rubens, who then added the finishing touches to the work. His numerous pupils and assistants included Anthony van Dyck.

Dyce.84 appears to be a copy on paper after Rubens' figure of the Christ Child from The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt now in the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. There is also a drawing Head and Feet of a standing boy in Besançon which is believed to be Rubens' study for the Christ Child in the same painting dated ca. 1615-17. It has been argued that Rubens made the drawing from life of his son Albert as a model for the Christ Child. The Return from Egypt is a theme similar in treatment to the Rest on the Flight to Egypt but is easily distinguished by the age of the Child, who is now no longer an infant but a small boy.

The V&A painting is painted in oil on paper which has then been affixed to panel. The bottom two corners are made up with additional sheets of paper (probably when it was affixed to the panel) and may not be original to the painting. Recent x-ray of the painting (June 2010) revealed that these corners are made up from fragments of a larger painting (on the reverse?). The bottom left fragment was painted with three fingers while the painting on the bottom right is not clearly identifiable, it may be a foot. Further, either the panel or the sheet of paper appears to have originally been painted with a sandalled foot (rotated 180 degrees with respect to the current painting). The presence of the feet and fingers indicate that painting was originally a study or a sketch rather than a finished work. It is possible that the artist also copied these elements from Rubens’ painting as the sandedoot resembles that of the Virgin. It is likely therefore that the artist originally made a copy of the whole painting which was cut down at some point and pasted onto panel in order to create an independent portrait.

History painting, i.e. depictions of non recurring events based on religious, classical, literary or allegorical sources, particularly developed in the second half of the 17th century in the Netherlands. Although, history painting began in the Netherlands in the late 15th and early 16th centuries with such artists as Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), Jan Mostaert (ca. 1475-1555) and Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533), it had long been overshadowed by the genre painting. Netherlandish artists’ new interest in naturalism transformed distant history into contemporary scenes of everyday life, situating classical and biblical scenes in Netherlandish settings with figures in contemporary costume and sometimes even including historicised portraits.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Head of a Youth', late 17th-early 18th century ?, after Peter Paul Rubens

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Summary catalogue of British Paintings. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 39

Production Note

formerly described as 'after van Dyck' and 'follower of van Dyck'

Materials

Oil paint; Panel

Techniques

Oil painting

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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