Rus Articles Journal

Rubens, “Self-portrait with mantuansky friends“. And where girlfriends?

1600. Italy. Mantua. To the yard of the duke Vincenzo Gonzago there arrives Peter Paul Rubens. His position - the court artist. Its duties - to fill up a collection of the patron of science and arts with copies of creations of great masters of the past and original pictures.

Rubens carried out in it to captivity of 9 years (captivity it is impossible to call bitter because it brought to the artist popularity and glory in the Royal Courts of Italy and Spain). For all that that the speed of its work amazes, from its stay in Mantua there were literally cat`s tears: hardly couple of tens of cloths. Practically you will not see drawings and etudes in free access (very much can be, they are in archives or private collections).

Among the known works - “A self-portrait with mantuansky friends“. A background - the sky before sunset in black clouds, big structures: not fortress, not monastery. Except the artist (it the second on the right), on a cloth five more sad characters. Only Rubens has some similarity of a smile and an open look.

Who these people? What connects them? What role they played Rubens`s lives? Oh, if the author of a cloth designated names! Need about the one who near it would not be to guess.

All are dressed equally or almost equally: they belong to one estate, namely - hired workers. Neither bright clothes, nor jewelry rely them. Black jacket, black cape, white collar.

Along with Rubens in Mantua from 1600 to 1608 worked Frans Pourbus - younger (the painter, generally - the portraitist), the composer Monteverdi (his works can be heard presently), Giovanny Antonio Magnini (the cartographer, the astronomer, the mathematician, the court astrologer, the teacher of mathematics at the duke`s children). Monteverdi and Pourbus - almost Rubens`s age-mates, Magnini - are 22 years more senior. Two more - without names and surnames, perhaps, it is journeymen of artists or choristers.

Portraits of this three remained. With big degree of probability it is possible to say that to the left of Rubens - Monteverdi.

It is impossible to tell about Frans Pourbus that it he on Rubens`s self-portrait: the shape of a nose, an arch of eyebrows do not coincide.

And what on the right, - can be, is Giovanny Antonio Magnini?

The lifetime portrait of Giovanny Antonio Magnini does not give too the grounds to think that it so: arches of eyebrows and a shape of moustaches and a beard differ too markedly. The right portrait is written much later (Magnini grew old), but hardly the shape so changed.

Who stands behind Rubens`s back? The artist as if separated, this character from the others fenced off. Why? For what reason? And all of them as if are in the field of his sight. Perhaps, in it a solution? It is possible to assume that he watches all. Annibale Cyeppo, the minister of the yard of the duke Vincenzo could be such person quite.

“When Vincenzo Gonzago came to the power, with him also the state minister Annibale Cyeppo (Annibale Chieppo) came. It was the person with a quiet look, equal pulse, and any person from numerous suite of the duke could find it at any time. He was the diplomat, the soldier, the financier. You could not reach the duke, did not pass Cyeppo yet.“ (Elbert Hubbard, “Rubens“)

“As for Annibale Cyeppio who on behalf of Vincenzo I carried out communication with Monteverdi, he was a patron and Rubens`s friend, the duke`s secretary, and then, since 1611, the state minister. It was the person deep, noble temper“. (Romain Rolland. “Monteverdi“ (chapter of the book “Opera History in Europe to Lully and Scarlatti“)). Annibale`s

in detail penetrated into all needs of the wards, the certificate to that is Rubens`s correspondence:

“Rubens - Annibale Cyeppio. Florence, on March 18, 1603 [ital.]

the Most nice Signor my and venerable Patron.

In - the first to obey his Grace which resolutely ordered me to report on it as my trip is made and, besides, in view of the important incident which happened to me, I decide to bother your Favour rather, than to somebody to another because I rely on your kindness and courtesy.

I am sure that among the extensive sea of your numerous and important issues you will not refuse to be engaged in my small castle, hitherto so badly operated thanks to councils of some unreasonable person“.

“Rubens - Annibale Cyeppio. Rome, on July 29, 1606 [ital.]

The most nice Signor and venerable Patron.

I do not know to whom else, except you, I could appeal: you already executed one my similar, or rather the same request. I mean a salary in four months which according to the order of your Favour was immediately paid to me. However time goes also a salary, and since then there passed four more months, from April 1 to August 1.

I beg your Favour to petition before his Grace that it had a kind feeling still to patronize me and I could continue my studies, without looking for other earnings which I without effort would find in Rome. As always, I will be extremely grateful to you.

Respectfully whole hand also I ask to give as a sign of your favor to me an order to execute something to you pleasant.

Your Favour devoted servant Pietro Paolo Rubens“.

did not manage to Find Annibale Cyeppio`s portrait, but... Rubens wrote a portrait of family of Gonzago (write what such exists in Dukale`s Palace in Mantua). Andrea Mantegna who in hundred years prior to Rubens painted Dukale`s Palace on the frescos left a portrait of the state secretary. It is not excluded that Annibale Cyeppio is on a portrait of work of Rubens too.

Possibly, “The self-portrait with mantuansky friends“ was the first (or one of the first) experiences of a group portrait. Color scale, uncharacteristic for the artist, strange composition. The color scale - at all is not present red and gold (it cannot be carried to paints, the remained cloths of those years shine both red, and gold). The strangeness of composition is that characters on this cloth exist as if in itself.

The only binding element - Monteverdi`s palm on Rubens`s hand. It seems that they were amicable among themselves more, than with other characters. Monteverdi`s eye is turned somewhere in space. Such feeling that he at this moment heard something and put the hand on Rubens`s hand not to lose motive.

It is unlikely this work can be referred to the highest achievements of Rubens. However at all its shortcomings it spills though some light on the artist`s life in Italy.

As for girlfriends, there are no doubts that they were. It is possible to claim that in Mantua Rubens received a fair share of knowledge in the field of a sensuality of which lists of the palace of work Antonio Mantegna were full.

It is possible to assume that Rubens`s girlfriends were girlfriends of the wife of Monteverdi who was at the beginning of the career in Mantua by the chorister and a gambist, then the conductor and some kind of animator - the inventor, organized all holidays and married the chorister. It is possible that on a family portrait of family of Gonzago someone from them is represented.

There is no personified portrait or drawing of girlfriends of Rubens. And as it would be curious to get acquainted with them!