British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 396.000 mm
Width: 235.000 mm
Transferred from the National Gallery, London
Prints and Drawings
Peter Paul Rubens, Lioness, a drawing
Flanders, AD 1613/15
This is a magnificent drawing in both scale and style. It is drawn in black and yellow chalk, though Rubens also used a grey wash and some white heightening in order to bring the animal to life on paper.
The lioness is drawn from behind. Her front paw is raised and her mouth open, the fangs clearly visible. White heightening brings out the lighted area around the tail and the joints of the back legs. Both short and longer chalk strokes are used to suggest the different textures of the fur and mane.
Rubens used this drawing for a lioness in his painting of Daniel in the Lions' Den (1613/15; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). The vividness of the drawing is even more remarkable given that Rubens probably based his drawing on a bronze statue of a lion and not a living animal. The strong contour line in black chalk around the animal suggests that he was studying a model. However, Rubens had the gift and genius to invest an unmoving object with both life and movement, even if the highlights give the impression of a metallic sheen.
M. Caygill, The British Museum A-Z compani (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)
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)