Peter Paul Rubens, The 'Coup de Lance', a drawing

Flanders, around AD 1630

This drawing was made in preparation for an engraving by Boetius a Bolswert (about 1580-1633). The dead Christ has his side pierced by the lance plunged in by St Longinus, a Roman soldier on horseback. The drama of the episode is reinforced by the white heightening which stands out boldly on the bodies and the crisp drapery of the figures. In particular, the head of the dark horse to the left is silhouetted against the paler horse behind. All the forms are clearly modelled to help the engraver follow the drawn design.

Rubens had already painted the picture (now in the Museum voor schone Kunsten, Antwerp) but he employed engravers so that his work could circulate throughout Europe. This would bring him to the attention of new patrons and connoisseurs who might not otherwise have been able to see and buy his work.

Rubens worked closely with the major Antwerp printmakers of his day. The task of producing drawings after his finished pictures was usually given to one of his studio assistants or even the engraver. Rubens would then rework the sheet, using grey and brown washes and heighten the figures with white bodycolour. He thus tranformed them into works of high quality. The outlines of the drawing were then pressed through with a sharp point in order to transfer the design onto a plate or woodblock for printing.

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More information

Bibliography

J. Rowlands, Rubens: drawings and sketches (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)

C. White, Peter Paul Rubens: man and art (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1987)

Dimensions

Height: 603.000 mm
Width: 432.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1994-5-14-39

PDO1494

Transferred from the National Gallery, London

Location

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