Peter Paul Rubens, Eight Turkish Women, a drawing

Flanders, about AD 1610-15

The figures are simply drawn in pen and brown ink. Like Gentile Bellini on his drawing of a Turkish woman, Rubens has written some notes on the colours and materials of the costumes. But, unlike Bellini, Rubens did not actually visit Turkey. For the study of exotic figures from the Near and Far East, Rubens had to rely on copying from books and manuscripts. This sheet comes from a 'Costume Book' in which Rubens copied some replicas of watercolour drawings of Turkish costumes. The volume of original drawings was made by an unknown artist in Constantinople and dated 25 June 1587. The woman on a carpet is taken from another book on Turkish life and customs.

The upper half of this drawing shows a few figures from a procession of women going to the baths. This is almost the only occasion when they would have been visible to visiting Europeans.

The central figure of the lower half of the drawing has ‘Sultana' written below her, but in fact she is neither the mother nor one of the wives of the Sultan, but is simply a member of the harem. The girl to her right is her servant. The gipsy on the far left plays castanets. The woman with a veil on her head is a Jewess.

Find in the collection online

More information


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)


Height: 413.000 mm
Width: 319.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1841-12-11-8 (37; Hind 119 (38))



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore