Peter Paul Rubens, Sir Theodore Mayerne, a portrait drawing

Flanders, around AD 1630

Rubens made this sketch in black chalk and some wash. He then painted the head in oils to a high degree of finish. The head is poised securely on the shoulders, the flesh is pink and the white beard full and flowing. The sitter looks to his right and not out at us and his full, rather fat face sits comfortably on the large bulk of the body. This is suggested by a few economical lines and parallel shading with some wash.

Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne (1573-1655) was born near Geneva, and became the royal doctor to the English kings, James I (who knighted him in 1624) and Charles I. He lived in England from 1611 until his death and met Rubens during the artist's stay in 1629-30. He was interested in the chemistry of pigments and wrote a book on painting in which he included a number of recipes given to him by Rubens.

This drawing, or oil sketch, was used for two different types of portraits of Mayerne. One is a half-length figure with a plain background and the other three-quarter length with a statue of the classical god of medicine, Aesculapius, and a harbour view. Rubens painted the latter type for Mayerne in Antwerp in 1631. Versions of these portraits are preserved in the National Portrait Gallery in London and in the North Carolina Museum of Art.

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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)

L. Stainton and C. White, Drawing in England from Hillia (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


Height: 311.000 mm
Width: 218.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1860-6-16-36



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