CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

A case study: a modello for Rubens’ Assumption of the Virgin?

Presentation: 21 March - 25 April 2011


Information from the curator, 26 May 2010

On April 22, 1611 Rubens submitted two modelli to the Chapter of Antwerp Cathedral. We may reasonably presume that a combination of elements from both sketches resulted in the creation of the Assumption of the Virgin(panel, 458 x 297 cm) now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
(inv. 518).Today three modelli can be taken into consideration for this
commission. Two of them are well known and published. Starting with a panel
(transferred to canvas, 106 x 78 cm) in the Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg
(inv. 1703). This modello shows a combination of the Assumption and
Coronation of the Virgin
and is widely accepted as one of the two modelli
submitted by Rubens to the canons of Our Ladies Cathedral in Antwerp on 22
April 1611. The second modello has not been convincingly identified yet.
Much discussed is an Assumption of the Virgin (panel, 102 x 66 cm) in the
Royal Collection in London.

None of both already mentioned modelli refer to the final version in Vienna
which indeed shows a combination of the upper part of the London-painting
and the lower part of the Hermitage-modello. But the London-painting
(certainly by Rubens) is younger than the Hermitage-modello and is not
accepted by several scholars (e.g. Julius Held) as being the so-called
second modello. Therefore the panel presented in the Keizerskapel is most
interesting. Dendro-chronological research pointed out that the wooden panel
(consisting of three planks in oak-wood) came from a tree cut down in 1590.
And therefore in perfect condition to be used in 1611. Finally: the painting
presented in the Keizerskapel stands closer to the Vienna-panel in
comparison with the London-version.