The Rubens House has recently added two new acquisitions to its collection: Mountainous Landscape with Satyrs and Goats by a Cascade by the Flemish landscape artist Paul Bril (1554-1626) and Trapezophoros, an antique sculpture (2nd century AD).
Bril’s landscape painting is prominently featured in the The Art Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest and is now displayed alongside this painting. The Trapezophoros, meanwhile, is listed as being in Rubens’s collection from 1618 until 1626, with the painter drawing on it on several occasions as inspiration for his work.
The museum has now succeeded in permanently acquiring both these works with the Friends of The Rubens House in honour of Ben van Beneden, the former director of the Rubens House. They are a lasting tribute to his achievements, in addition to highlighting his own research interests.
A unique landscape for the Rubens House
The newly-acquired painting Mountainous Landscape with Satyrs and Goats by a Cascade (c. 1616–1619) is a masterpiece by Antwerp landscape painter Paul Bril (1554-1626). He spent most of his career in Italy where he became internationally famous. After completing his training in Antwerp, Paul Bril left for Rome in his early twenties, where his typically Flemish specialism, the landscape, was in great demand. There he received commissions for frescoes from popes and cardinals in addition to painting smaller landscapes on copper, panel or canvas. Rubens met Bril in Rome and admired his art. He even reworked one of his landscapes. This was common practice and Rubens’s way of expressing his high regard for these masters.
The new, signed acquisition dates from c. 1616-1619. Bril died in 1626 in Rome. Two years later, this work was depcited in The Art Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest. This metapainting is one of the showpieces of the Rubens House’s collection, offering contemporary visitors a unique insight into the 17th century Antwerp art world. For the first time in nearly 400 years, these two paintings are reunited in the museum again. Bril’s work is also an important addition to the Rubens’s House small collection of landscapes.
Antique sculpture returns home
The newly-acquired sculpture is a Trapezophoros, a luxurious sculpted support for a wall console or tabletop. This antique marble sculpture was produced in Greece or Asia Minor in the 2nd century AD. The young boy with his torch and basket with flowers and fruits depicts the light and blooms of spring. An inscription from c. 1600 identifies him as Hesperus, the evening star. The sculpture is listed as belonging to Rubens from 1618 until 1626. He purchased it from the British collector Dudley Carleton, who acquired it in Venice. Rubens used this pagan statue as inspiration to paint a standing Christ Child, for example. In 1626, he sold it to the Duke of Buckingham. Four hundred years after leaving Antwerp, the sculpture now returns to his former home.
An insight into Rubens as an artist and a collector
The two acquisitions give us an insight into Rubens’s practice as an artist and his activities as a collector, thus having a key role in the museum’s collection. Rubens owned several antique sculptures and also took a keen interest in the work of the great Italian masters. His collection also included works by his Flemish or German predecessors.