Saturday, December 4

Rubens, from all angles


The virtue of Rubens is that it brings the values ​​of his time closer, according to an expert

The virtue of Rubens is that it brings the values ​​of his time closer, according to an expert

Escritos sobre Rubens (Madrid, Instituto Moll, 2021) is the first volume published by the Flemish Painting Research Center within its Scripta Selecta collection. The book, which has been in bookstores since September 1, collects the studies published by the art historian Matías Díaz Padrón on the painter Pedro Pablo Rubens over a wide time span that spans from 1964 to 2019. This monograph it shows the sustained interest of the scholar, a pioneer in works on Flemish painting in Spain, in the figure of what was probably the most recognized artist of the seventeenth century in Europe. In addition, it makes available to the reader a scattered scientific production that, created over more than fifty years, now takes the form of a monograph to facilitate its consultation. Just as Titian had done in the previous century, Rubens marked the artistic development of the vast monarchy of Spain and its areas of influence during the seventeenth century. A diplomat and painter who was able to act as a melting pot between his training within Antwerp’s late Mannerism, the richness of Venetian color and dynamism, and the most innovative proposals of Roman figurative culture from around 1600, was undoubtedly destined for the success. His unquestionable technical perfection, an easily recognizable exuberant and dynamic style, and his naturalism and abilities to capture human psychology, made Rubens the most complete artist of the sixteenth century. Not only did he triumph as a painter of altars in Rome or Antwerp and the creator of fabulous mythological poetry for Philip IV, but he became, together with his disciple Van Dyck, the most sought-after portraitist on the continent. Few times throughout history have there been a level of refinement and seduction as high as that achieved by flamenco in portraits of Genoese nobility at the beginning of the century.

Writings on Rubens collects, among others, the investigations of Matías Díaz Padrón linked to the great exhibitions Pedro Pablo Rubens (1577-1640) of 1977 and Rubens and his century (1998-1999). Here, as in other publications, the author dazzles with his complete mastery of sources, both literary and iconic, which allows him to link the pictorial work with previous or contemporary pieces, to reconstruct the origin, dating and historical evolution of each painting or to delineate the Rubens, Wildens, Brueghel or Snyders hands in a masterful way. This is the same line that Díaz Padrón maintains in other studies such as the enlightening one on the Immaculate Conception of the Prado published in 1967. Here, the historian knew how to reconstruct its provenance from the collection of the Marquis of Leganés at the time that he began the revaluation of Don Diego de Mexia as a privileged client of Rubens and a fundamental piece in the dissemination of flamenco work in Spain.

On the other hand, the set of essays published in the eighties of the twentieth century in which Díaz Padrón, through particular case studies, analyzed the critical fortune of Rubens in Spanish literature deserves particular mention. From the opinions of Pacheco or Palomino, to the perception of writers such as Lope de Vega y Calderón, or the very favorable judgments about his copies of Tiziano, Díaz Padrón knew how to reconstruct in a very convincing way the imbrication of the Antwerp painter in the Iberian environment of the first decades of the seventeenth century.

Escritos sobre Rubens was born in 2021 with the aim of becoming a reference book on the Flemish painter and being a historiographic milestone within the production of Matías Díaz Padrón. However, it is more than that. It is a scholarly walk through the corridors of the Alcázar de los Habsburgo and the Escorial rooms where the author has managed to perfectly reconstruct environments and protagonists. Rubens only visited Spain twice, in 1603 and 1628, but through these pages he presents himself to the reader as a painter as Spanish as Velázquez. A skillful interpreter of a time and a space, the Catholic Spain of the Austria, of which flamenco knew how to immortalize an image more vivid than any other painter.


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