from the university website, 29 January 2010
Prints in the artist’s studio: Rubens’s print collection reconstructed aims to represent the different uses of old master prints in a seventeenth-century European artist’s studio. Peter Paul Rubens’s print collection is a particularly interesting example, in part because of Rubens’s well-known activities as a collector of paintings, sculptures, and antiquities, not to mention the international success that Rubens achieved during his lifetime.
Among the secrets that artists guarded in the seventeenth century were the contents of their print collections. These privately viewed sources often served as vital models. Artists consulted prints—both original designs and reproductive prints—to assist them as they strove to invent new ways of presenting often-familiar narratives. Like drawings, prints were rarely catalogued in seventeenth-century household inventories, and therefore it has been difficult to ascertain which prints a specific artist may have owned.
By analyzing Peter Paul Rubens’s copy drawings, correspondence, and finished works, the proposed exhibition offers the first reconstruction of this great artist’s print collection. Although a great deal is known about his activities as a collector of paintings, sculptures, and antiquities, his print collection has not previously been studied. A selection of the illustrated books and old master prints that Rubens kept in his studio will demonstrate the kind of works that he deemed especially useful. These include fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century German, Dutch, and Italian examples. Comparative material presented in reproduction will show how these objects were studied and employed by Rubens and members of his studio.
This exhibition contributes to our present understanding of the history of print collecting, but also to the history of workshop practice. By providing a look inside the seventeenth-century artist’s studio, this exhibition will emphasize the central role of prints in the training of artists and in their perpetual pursuit of originality.