from March 22 2014 until April 27 2014
Sixty years after Rotterdam-based collector Willem van der Vorm purchased a portrait by the famous Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, the museum is showing the secrets behind this painting of a lady with a hat and plunging neckline. Infrared and X-ray images provide the visitor with new insights into how the painting was made.
View the painting in the Collection Online.
There are many unanswered questions surrounding the Rubens portrait. We do not know, for example, the identity of the woman. Furthermore, it is clear that the painting has been altered in numerous places. What did the woman look like originally? What has been changed, when, by whom, and why? And which parts were actually painted by Rubens himself? His large workshop in Antwerp employed numerous assistants, who did much of the work for him.
In 2006 the painting was photographed using X-rays and infrared reflectography in order to provide more information about the various phases in the painting process and to determine how the layers of paint were built up.
Comparative research shows that Rubens himself painted the face and a provisional sketch of the clothing, hands and background. Someone else probably completed the painting during the master’s lifetime or after his death. These and other new discoveries are explored in the exhibition.
The research also revealed that the lady’s décolletage has been altered at least twice. The infrared images show that the edge of the dress was higher at a certain point in the painting process. The X-ray images show something above the scalloped edge of the woman’s chemise: probably a ribbon connecting the two sides, as can be seen on a portrait from Berlin. Pearls were extremely popular at the time the painting was made. The X-ray shows two strings of pearls. It is possible that the woman wore two, as in the portrait from Berlin, or the position of the necklace may have been changed during the painting process.