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Jeune femme tenant un éventail

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Author(s):
Chabod Christine

Executed in chalks of three different colors, this study illustrates the evolution of Rubens's work, from about 1630 to 1633, towards a more lyrical, intimate style. Overly exposed to light in the past, the drawing has lost some of its original freshness, but it remains nonetheless a highly seductive image of arrogant beauty. Rubens's characteristically harmonious combination of worldly elegance and opulent sensuality anticipates Watteau's fêtes galantes of the early eighteenth century.

The Garden of Love

The drawing is one of a number of preparatory studies for a painting now in Madrid, The Garden of Love, an allegory of marriage and fertility (Museo del Prado.) Rubens seems to have taken exceptional pains in preparing the composition, to judge from the unusually large number of surviving drawings and oil sketches relating to the finished work. Two large group studies are now in New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art), and carefully-executed drawings exist for virtually all of the principal figures, including this lady holding a fan. In the finished painting, the woman stands beside the fountain on the right of the picture, threatening a small putto with her fan. Another drawing in the Louvre relates to a female figure kneeling at the foot of a flight of steps, on the left of the painting.

Similarities and variations

There are many similarities, but also slight differences between the figure in the drawing and that in the finished painting, notably the positioning of the arm gesturing with the fan and details of her costume. The broad collar is absent from the painting, while the jewels visible in the painting are not seen in the drawing. The model for the figure was most probably Hélène Fourment, the artist's second wife, although the face in the finished work is a profile portrait of her sister, Suzanne.

The essential Rubens

As Rubens's paintings became more lyrical around 1630, his approach to drawing underwent a significant transformation. Inspired by his passionate admiration of the Venetian master Titian, Rubens explored the possibilities of a softer, modulated line and chiaroscuro, using chalks in three different colors. This technique enabled him to render the soft, luxurious textures of fabrics, the effects of light on opulent velvets and satin silks, and the ample forms essential to his vision of Flemish female beauty.

Bibliography

Frank Louis, in Visages du Louvre. Chefs-d'oeuvre du portrait dans les collections du Louvre, cat. exp. Tokyo, Musée national d'Art occidental, septembre-décembre 1991, notice 85.
Lugt Frits, Musée du Louvre. Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du Nord. École flamande, vol. II, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1950, notice 1023.
P. P. Rubens. Peintures, esquisses à l'huile, dessins, sous la dir. de Roger-Adolf D'Hulst, cat. exp. Anvers, Musée royal des beaux-arts, juin-septembre 1977, notice 121.
Sérullaz Arlette (Calvet), in Dessins du Louvre, école allemande, flamande, hollandaise. Paris, Flammarion, 1968, notice 57.
Sérullaz Arlette (Calvet), in Rubens, ses maîtres, ses élèves : dessins du musée du Louvre. LXVe exposition du Cabinet des dessins, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, février-mai 1978, notice 25.

Technical description

  • Petrus-Paulus RUBENS(Siegen [Westphalia], 1577-Antwerp, 1640)

    Young woman holding a fan

    1630-33

  • Brown ink, black chalk, white highlights, red chalk, and brush

    H. 53.5 cm; W. 34.5 cm

  • John Barnard (d. 1787) collection; entered the Louvre during the French Revolution

    3920196

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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