The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Height: 368.000 mm
Weight: 277.000 mm
PD R.4-98 (Hollstein 121)
Prints and Drawings
Paulus Pontius, Self-portrait of Rubens, an engraving
Flanders, AD 1630
After a painting by Rubens
Pontius's particular skill was to convey in engraving much of the quality of the painting he was reproducing. The different textures in the cloak, hat and lace-trimmed shirt in Rubens' canvas, are finely distinguished here as is the sitter's skin and beard. Pontius preserves their modelling in light and shadow. This is a remarkable technical achievement in an engraved portrait which includes such large areas of dark tone. Rembrandt was impressed and based one of his own self-portraits on this print. Rubens presented his original painting to Charles I (1625-49), and it remains in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.
Pontius (1603-58) had been trained in Antwerp by the distinguished engraver Lucas Vorsterman, who had himself engraved Rubens's work. After Rubens and Vorsterman quarrelled and parted in 1624, the young Pontius took over his master's job, lodging in Rubens's house for seven years. This close association with Rubens was clearly a key factor in honing his skill in reproducing paintings.
In the 1630s Pontius engraved twenty-two plates for van Dyck's series of portraits known as the Iconography: only Vorsterman, with thirty plates, engraved more. Van Dyck clearly admired Pontius, for he not only included Pontius's portrait in his Iconography, but he etched the entire plate himself.
This engraving is signed and dated.
J. Rowlands, Rubens: drawings and sketches (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)