- Museum number
Drawing connected with 'Fall of the Damned' (Munich); male and female figures, falling with and being attacked by devils and monsters, in two main groups, falling from the upper right towards the bottom left
Black chalk with light brown wash, worked up with brush and oil
- Production date
Height: 707 millimetres
Width: 480 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The initial drawing for this composition is now no longer considered to be the work of Rubens, but rather a studio assistant. This would position it as a workshop drawing and hence merit the attribution to ‘Studio of Rubens’. The same can be said of the further four similar oil drawings all in the British Museum (for which see Oo,3.9 and1994,01514.34-36). All correspond to Rubens’ painting of the ‘Fall of the Damned’ in the Munich Alte Pinakothek (inv. KdK 194) of circa 1620, but were certainly not preparatory to it. The five oil studies may have related to an abandoned project to produce engravings after Rubens’ painting or may have served some other unknown purpose within Rubens’ studio. Another drawing of this type and style (the composition being a finished version of the lower section of the recto of another drawing in the British Museum, 1885,0509.51, containing struggling figures related to the Munich 'Fall of the Damned') is in the Petit-Hory collection (now Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, Inv. RF50875). It is possible that Rubens made subsequent alterations to these compositions with brush to part of the image.
Lit: J. Rowlands, ‘Rubens: Drawings and Sketches’, exhibition catalogue, British Museum,1977, no. 90; ‘Rubens and his Legacy: from Van Dyck to Cézanne", exh.cat. Bozar Brussels and Royal Academy of Arts London, 2015, cat. no. 24.
Entry from J. Rowlands, ‘Rubens: Drawings and Sketches’, exhibition catalogue, British Museum,1977:
These five drawings, although they are not of equally excellent quality, should be considered as a group, because they evidently formed part of the same commission or were executed with the same end in view. The fact that they have not all been worked up to the same degree of finish has created a false division between the flat and uninteresting appearance of those which have not been enlivened by being worked up in oil, and those which have so benefited. In our view, Popham is right in proposing that the work with the brush was probably done by Rubens himself. The painting in oil on these drawings is certainly most impressive and thoroughly worthy of the master.
The initial drawing, however, is not by Rubens, and there is strong internal evidence to suggest that these drawings, so far from being of a preparatory nature, were all, in fact, executed after the painting in Munich. Quite apart from the way in which the groups of falling figures are arranged to fill the sheets of more or less uniform size, and the avoidance of overlapping of the different groups of figures, there is an additional and decisive point to be noted. In the one instance where the string of falling figures is still incomplete at the bottom of the sheet (see 1994,0514.33), Rubens has changed the critical figure, i.e. the lowest of the figures falling on the left, from a damned man who clings desperately to the hair of a woman falling headlong, to a winged devil. This new figure has been freely sketched in with the brush, with some pentimenti of the limbs, but without any supporting initial drawing underneath. This lack of an underdrawing would appear to give further support to the idea that the preliminary work is not by Rubens but that of an assistant. If one compares this point in the drawing with the same point in the finished painting, we find that the falling man who has been replaced by a winged devil is himself seated on other falling figures, which constitute in the painting the lower limit of this string of figures. This is a clear indication that these drawings, which can reasonably be considered as a group, were executed after the painting and not beforehand.
It is not, however, immediately apparent for what purpose they could have been intended. It may be that they were meant to serve as preparatory drawings for five separate engravings. But as no such engravings were apparently carried out, their use in Rubens's studio must remain a matter for speculation.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1977 BM, Rubens drawings and sketches, no.90
1993 May-June, Rubens House, Antwerp, 'Rubens' no. 133
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This drawing along with fourteen others by Rubens and his assistants, originally purchased by the National Gallery from Sir Robert Peel in 1871, was deposited on loan to the Department of Prints and Drawings by the National Gallery in 1935 and formally transferred in 1994.
Possibly Johan van der Marck sale, Amsterdam, 29 Nov., 1773, portfolio P, which includes 4 drawings of the Fall of the Damned by Rubens, in colour.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1972,U.911
Miscellaneous number: NG.853.a