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A Man Threshing Beside a Wagon, Farm Buildings Behind
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Peter Paul Rubens
Flemish, 1615 - 1617
Red, black, blue, green, and yellow chalk with touches of pen and brown ink on pale gray paper
10 x 16 5/16 in.
84.GG.693

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While this wagon recurs in several paintings, Peter Paul Rubens may have intended this drawing as an independent work of art, rather than a study. Although its composition is simple, this humble genre scene displays Rubens's characteristic lively technique. The sharp perspective, unusual rear view, and lack of alignment between front and rear axles draw the viewer into the space. The splayed side rails and wheel spokes all thrust outward in repeating lines, charging the stationary wagon with energy. Rubens's experiments with different positions for the rustic wagon and the farmer's flail further increase the effect of motion and symmetry.

Rubens varied both his materials and his technique to give the scene immediacy and vigor. The man's red shirt adds to his sense of animation and becomes a focal point of the drawing. Subtle highlights appear in other colors of chalk: yellow inside the wagon, a bit of blue on the barn roof, and touches of brown on wagon wheels and the ground. Rubens's chalk strokes ranged from the stronger, more precise forms of the wagon, whose iron bands and nails are accented in pen and ink, to the light, rapid, strokes employed for the stable and hay.