November 22, 2003
Isabella Brant by Rubens

I own various big art books, in the hope that simply having them in my shelves or in a pile will somehow make me more artistically knowledgeable, despite me not ever reading them very much. One is called A World History of Art by Hugh Honour and John Fleming, mine being the 1991 3rd edition.

On page 500 of this I found a chalk drawing, done in black red and white, but reproduced only in black and white, which I liked but had never known about before. It's of a lady called Isabella Brant, and is by Rubens.

Here it is. It's in the British Museum.

rubisbrc.jpg

So not, as was promised yesterday, an oil painting by a dead guy, because although there is an oil painting of the lady, I prefer the drawing that I assume came first.

No. That's not right. The drawing did come first, but they were two separate operations. Apparently the drawing was done in about 1622, and the painting about three years later. The painting, I think, lacks that final ounce of humour and sparkle and character, and looks as if he'd said to her: "That's the face, hold that", and she did, but not really.

I prefer her hair in the sketch, although I can't tell if this is because I prefer her hairstyle, or prefer how Rubens drew it compared to how he painted it in the final picture. Which is in the Uffizi in Florence.

And guess what. She was his wife! They were married in 1609. And she died not long after the painting was done. I wonder how. In the painting she looks okay.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:17 PM
Category: Painting