Four Studies of a Male Head

Object Details

Title:

Four Studies of a Male Head

Artist/Maker:

Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577 - 1640)

Culture:

Flemish

Date:

about 1617–1620

Medium:

Oil on panel

Object Number:

71.PB.39

Dimensions:

25.4 × 67.9 cm (10 × 26 3/4 in.)

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Skillfully copying a study by Peter Paul Rubens, this unknown artist, probably an assistant in Rubens's studio, explored a variety of facial expressions and poses while retaining the liveliness and immediacy of Rubens's original sketch. Using a single dim source of light, he created strong contrasts of brightness and shadow on the man's skin, varying these along with the different expressions. He aptly captured Rubens's great achievement--the three-dimensional quality of his modeling and the pulsating vitality he bestowed on painted human flesh.

Rubens produced a celebrated series of studio heads, executing some from life and inventing others from imaginary stock figure types. He kept these preliminary studies permanently on hand in the studio for reference. These studies of an African may have been used as a source for one of the kings in the Adoration of the Magi, who was often depicted as a Moor. Aside from this subject, images of African figures were uncommon in European Renaissance and Baroque art.

Provenance
- 1777

William Anne Capell, fourth earl of Essex, 1732 - 1799 (Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire, England) [sold, Essex sale, Christie's, London, January 31, 1777, lot 65, to Edward Smith-Stanley, twelfth earl of Derby.]

1777 - 1834

Edward Smith-Stanley, twelfth earl of Derby, 1752 - 1834 (Knowsley Park, Lancashire, England), by inheritance to his son, Edward Smith-Stanley, 1834.

1834 - 1851

Edward Smith-Stanley, thirteenth earl of Derby, 1775 - 1851 (Knowsley Park, Lancashire, England), by inheritance to his son, Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, 1851.

1851 - 1869

Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, fourteenth earl of Derby, 1799 - 1869 (Knowsley Park, Lancashire, England), by inheritance to his son, Edward Henry Stanley, 1869.

1869 - 1893

Edward Henry Stanley, fifteenth earl of Derby, 1826 - 1893 (Knowsley Park, Lancashire, England), by inheritance to Frederick Arthur Stanley, 1893.

1893 - 1908

Frederick Arthur Stanley, sixteenth earl of Derby, 1841 - 1908 (Knowsley Park, Lancashire, England), by inheritance to Edward George Villiers Stanley, 1948.

1908 - 1948

Edward George Villiers Stanley, seventeenth earl of Derby, 1865 - 1948 (Knowsley Park, Lancashire, England), by inheritance to Edward John Stanley, 1948.

1948 - 1971

Edward John Stanley, eighteenth earl of Derby, 1918 - 1994 (Knowsley Park, Lancashire, England) [sold, Derby sale, Christie's, London, June 25, 1971, lot 12, to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]

Exhibitions
Flemish Art, 1300 - 1700 (December 5, 1953 to March 6, 1954)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), December 5, 1953 to March 6, 1954
Exhibition of Pictures by Sir Anthony van Dyck (July 27 to August 10, 1963)
  • Fermoy Art Gallery (King's Lynn), July 27 to August 10, 1963
Sir Anthony van Dyck (November 7 to December 7, 1968)
  • Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London), November 7 to December 7, 1968
The J. Paul Getty Collection (June 29 to September 3, 1972)
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis), June 29 to September 3, 1972
Bibliography

Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters [...]. 9 vols. (London: Smith and Son, 1829-42), vol. 2 (1830), p. 272, no. 919.

Smith, John. Supplement to the Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters [...]. 9 vols. (London: Smith and Son, 1829-42), vol. 9 (1842), p. 327, no. 305.

Scharf, George. Pictures at Knowsley Hall (London: Bradbury, Agnew, & Co.,1875), p. 294, no. 469.

Rooses, Max. L'Oeuvre de P.P. Rubens. 5 vols. (Anvers: J. Maes, 1890), vol. 4, pp. 88-89, no. 858.

Cust, Lionel. Anthony van Dyck: An Historical Study of His Life and Works (London: George Bell and Sons, 1900), p. 15.

Flemish Art, 1300-1700, exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1953), p. 97, no. 326.

Haverkamp-Begemann, Egbert. Olieverfschetsen van Rubens, exh. cat. (Rotterdam: Museum Boymans, 1953-54), p. 49, no. 17.

Exhibition of Pictures by Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1599-1641, exh. cat. (London: Bradbury Agnew Press, with Fermoy Art Gallery, 1963), p. 6, no. 4.

Le Siècle de Rubens, exh. cat. (Brussels: Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, 1965), p. 208.

Millar, Oliver, ed. Sir Anthony van Dyck: A Loan Exhibition of Pictures and Sketches [...] in Aid of the National Trust Neptune Appeal and the Kings Lynn Festival Fund, exh. cat. (London: Thomas Agnew and Sons, Ltd., 1968), p. 17, no. 10, cover ill.

Jaffé, Michael. "Commentaires sur l'exposition Jordaens." Bulletin of the National Gallery of Canada 13 (1969), pp. 9-10 (as Jordaens).

Fredericksen, Burton B. Catalogue of the Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972), pp. 68, 69, no. 84, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Collection, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1972), unpaginated, no. 48, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), pp. 70, 109, ill.

Held, Julius. "The Four Heads of a Negro in Brussels and Malibu." Miscellanea in Memoram Paul Coremans (1908-1965) -- Bulletin de l'Institut royal de Partimoine artistique 15 (1975), pp. 180-92, no. 25, ill.

Frel, Jiri, Burton B. Fredericksen, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), p. 55.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), pp. 58-59, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed., Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), pp. 74-75, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Masterpieces of Painting in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), unpaginated, no. 28, ill.

Held, Julius. The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens--A Critical Catalogue. 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), vol. 1, p. 608.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 5th ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), p. 62, ill.

McNairn, Alan, ed. The Young van Dyck, exh. cat. (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1980), p. 15.

Held, Julius. "The Four Heads of a Negro in Brussels and Malibu." In Rubens and His Circle: Studies by Julius Held. Anne W. Lowenthal, David Rosand, and John Walsh, Jr., eds. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), pp. 149-55.

Bodart, Didier. Rubens (Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1985), no. 344.

Larsen, Erik. The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck. 2 vols. (Freren: Luca Verlag, 1988), vol. 2, p. 427, under no. A48.

Bodart, Didier, ed. Pietro Paulo Rubens (1577-1640), exh. cat. (Rome: De Luca, 1990), p. 110n2.

Chalmers, F. Graeme. Celebrating Pluralism: Art, Education, and Cultural Diversity (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust, 1996), p. 24.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 112, ill.

Sutton, Peter C., et al., eds. Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens, exh. cat. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), pp. 110-12, fig. 2.

Hindlip, Charles. An Auctioneer's Lot: Triumphs and Disasters at Christie's (London: Third Millenium Publishing, 2016), pp. 79-81, ill.

McGrath, Elizabeth. "Black Bodies and Dionysiac Revels: Rubens' Bacchic Ethiopians." In Rubens and the Human Body. Cordula van Wyhe, ed. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), p. 298n28.