Twice reunited after 400 years: the Rubens House presents two new acquisitions

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). Both artworks have a link with the Rubens House. 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.

The museum was able to supplement its collection with two eye-catching artworks thanks to the support of the Friends of the Rubens House. Each of the works has a historic kinship with the museum collection or with the Rubens House itself. One is reunited with an artwork in which it is represented after 400 years, while the other literally comes home.

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. 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 enchanting young boy now returns to his former home.

Bert Watteeuw, director of the Rubens House: “Being able to display Paul Bril’s landscape alongside the masterpiece in which it was depicted four hundred years ago is obviously a stroke of luck for the museum. So is being able to return the superb trapezophoros, or ‘our boy’ as we have taken to calling him, to the sculpture gallery where he was once displayed. We couldn’t think of a better tribute to Ben van Beneden.”

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 was more active than some of the wealthiest citizens in the city, building his own art collection during his lifetime. He 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. To a certain extent his collection also cemented his status in addition to serving as inspiration for his own work and that of his workshop.

Rubens also tremendously admired the landscape specialist Paul Bril (1554-1626) whom he had met in Rome. He even reworked one of this landscapes. Rubens often retouched the paintings and drawings of other masters, something that not many people are aware of. This was common practice and Rubens’s way of expressing his high regard for these masters. He similarly reworked The Feast of Saint Martin, by a follower of Marten van Cleve (1527-1581). The work is also held in the collection of the Rubens House.

The two works were acquired thanks to the generous support of the Friends of the Rubens House and in honour of the museum’s former director Ben van Beneden. They are a lasting tribute to his achievements, in addition to highlighting his own research interests. ​

Headerimage: Rubens House-Bril photo LUCID


Practical information

From 5 April in the Rubens House

For the press: the media is most welcome at the Rubens House. Kindly contact to arrange a visit or an interview.

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Twee nieuwe aanwinsten Rubenshuis
In dit stadspaleis woont de briljante en veelzijdige kunstenaar Rubens met zijn gezin. Hier schildert hij met zijn collega’s en assistenten. Veel van zijn omvangrijke oeuvre ontstaat in dit huis, in hartje Antwerpen. Het museum heeft niet alleen een interessante collectie, maar toont ook hoe de meester leefde en werkte. Over Rubenanium De rijke artistieke traditie van de Zuidelijke Nederlanden telt duizenden kleine en grote meesters. Om hun nagelaten werken blijvend te begrijpen en waarderen, zijn onderzoek en kennis essentieel. Het Rubenianum verzamelt en ontwikkelt deze kennis en stelt ze ter beschikking voor zowel een professioneel als een in erfgoed geïnteresseerd publiek.

Bert Watteeuw

Directeur Rubenshuis, stad Antwerpen

About Rubenshuis

The master lived here in this house with his family for years and painted with his colleagues and assistants in a studio that he designed himself. He created many of his paintings in this house, in the centre of Antwerp.