Information from the museum, 2 March 2009
Between March 13th and April 19th 2009, the Rubens House will be exhibiting four drawings by Rubens, as well as an album containing 44 copies after designs by the great German artist Hans Holbein, which Rubens drew during his apprenticeship. This small but exclusive exhibition is organized on the occasion of the publication of a new volume in the prestigious Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard series, which will also be presented to the public at the Rubens House.
The Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard is published by the Centrum voor de Vlaamse Kunst van de 16de en de 17de eeuw (Centre for Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Flemish Art), which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year. The series offers the most comprehensive catalogue raisonné of the work of Peter Paul Rubens. When completed, more than thirty specialists will have collaborated on the 29-part series; the present publication of the first of the two parts of volume 26 marks an important addition to the series.
A new volume
The new volume highlights Rubens’s copies and interpretations of works by Northern European artists – and inspired our small but choice exhibition of drawings from Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, and Rotterdam as well as the album of 44 drawings after Holbein’s Dance of Death. The exhibition will provide the public with the rare opportunity to view an aspect of Rubens’s work that is seldom shown. As reproductions of the originals copied by Rubens will also be displayed, visitors will literally be able to see the artist at work. Instead of simply copying a composition, Rubens tended to “pluck” motives that interested him from the original or make slight changes that gave the subject a new “twist”. In his time, copying was quite normal, whereas today artists would most likely be accused of copyright infringement.
The new volume in the Corpus Rubenianum series was compiled by Kristin Lohse Belkin, an internationally recognised specialist on Rubens. She discusses the artist’s copies and adaptations of the works of German and Dutch artists. Drawing after the old masters was an essential component of a painter’s training, though Rubens continued to do so long after he had become an established artist. In this way he built up an immense ‘database’ of motifs and designs which he incorporated into his own compositions throughout his long artistic career. But Rubens often went one step further by reworking drawings and paintings by his predecessors so as to bring them in line with his own wishes.
Imposing publication of Rubens’s collected works
first volume of the Corpus Rubenianum series was published in 1968, and since then 18 more volumes have appeared, all written by internationally renowned Rubens specialists. This comprehensive catalogue highlights every aspect of Rubens’s work: in addition to his painted oeuvre, the series also examines his Book Illustrations and Title-pages, Tapestry Designs, Copies after the Antique, etc.
The series is named after Ludwig Burchard (1886-1960), the great authority on Rubens, whose impressive collection of documentation on the artist was donated to the city of Antwerp in 1962. Over the years this documentation has considerably grown, so that today it has become the most important collection of material on Rubens. While the City of Antwerp is responsible for the Rubens documentation, which is housed in the Rubenianum, the publication of the Corpus is overseen by the Centrum voor de Vlaamse Kunst and published by Harvey Miller Publishers, an imprint of Brepols Publishers.
Fiftieth anniversary of the Centrum voor de Vlaamse kunst van de 16de en de 17de eeuw
The Centrum voor de Vlaamse Kunst van de 16de en de 17de eeuw was founded in 1959 as a non-profit organisation by Frans Baudouin, the then curator of the Antwerp City Art Museums, in collaboration with Professor Roger-A d’Hulst. From the outset, they saw the publication of the Corpus as one of Centre’s most important goals. Housed in the Rubenianum, the Centre is made up of a group of Flemish and foreign art historians. It coordinates the research associated with the publication of the Corpus and undertakes all the editorial work necessary for the publication of individual volumes. The Centre also processes new research material and makes it available to the scholarly world. With the appearance of volume 26 in the 29-part series, and the forthcoming publication of other volumes, the Corpus Rubenianum is slowly edging towards completion. The results of this titanic effort are gradually filtering through to the wider public, in particular through exhibitions and more general publications.