261 Who is this man, painted by Rubens?

Head of an Old Man
Topic: Subject or sitter

This portrait at Apsley House is by Rubens, but the sitter is unknown. Can you identify him?

English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Jacinto Regalado,

He looks like a man of business or politics, possibly an intellectual or scholar, or perhaps an artist, but not an aristocrat.

Antoinette Gordon,

Has the air of a self-portrait, although obviously not of Rubens, although of his period....assume the Rubens attribution is sound?

Prana Simon,

Civil servant or church warden/musician? This person is too modestly dressed to be titled. The role is what is making this man notable, his talent.

Faye Newton,

Reminds me of the Van Dyck portrait of Cornelis van der Geest in the National Gallery, but probably just the composition and the ruff.

Martin Holman,

There was a librarian who lived in the period who resembles the man in the painting. Abraham Gorlaeus 1549 - 1608. The painting could even have it's origins with a copper plate engraving by De Gheygin. Significantly if they all knew each other and in terms of their interest in the ideas of printing.

Osmund Bullock,

It's helpful and saves much time if people can give us links (or images) so we can see what they're referring to. Many thanks.

Jacinto Regalado,

Abraham Gorlaeus (or Goorle) was a Flemish antiquary and numismatist, portrayed in engravings by Goltzius and de Gheyn II (both in the collection of the British Museum). While he is a possibility, the resemblance is hardly definitive.



The Wellington Collection Catalogue suggests a date of 1620, a comparable portrait, thought not with the sketchy background, is in the collections of R Crosby Kemper, Kansas City, he died in 2014 and I'm not sure where the painting is now. This is cited in Michael Jaffe's Catologo Completo of 1989. Another suggestion by Rooses (Antwerp, IV, 1890) is a date of 1570 and a comparison with Ruben's Portrait of Baron Henri de Visq, (Louvre). http://cartelfr.louvre.fr/cartelfr/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=8212
Compare also Philadelphia Museum of Art 'Portrait of a Man, Possibly Burgomaster Nicolaas Rockox .https://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/49284.html?mulR=611870936|7
Interstingly the Philadelphia portrait has a similar background and it looks like it was once framed as an oval like the Wellington picture.
This painting has a sound provenance, once part of the Spanish Royal Collection and part of a haul of paintings captured at the Battle of Vitoria in June 1813 from a fleeing Joseph Bonaparte. Later gifted to the Duke of Wellington by Ferdinand VII of Spain. This painting can be found in the royal inventory of the Palace in Madrid where it hung as one of a pair in the King's dressing room.

Jacinto Regalado,

The nature of the portrait, its informality and air of familiarity, suggests this was someone Rubens knew personally, such as another artist or a close patron. It also looks more like a sketch than a finished picture.

Deanna Lloyd,

The portrait looks like an older Nicholaas Rockox 1560-1640 bergomaster of Antwerp who I believe was depicted on the right wing of Rubens triptych 'Presentation in the temple' Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp.

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Jacinto Regalado,

Rockox and Rubens were friends, but the resemblance to known portraits of him is not convincing. Another possibility is a member of the Moretus family, which ran the famous Plantin Press in Antwerp and had close ties to Rubens.

Ricky Pound,

Could the Ruben’s painting be of Horace Vere, 1st Baron Vere of Tilbury (1565 – 2 May 1635)? The eyes and nose are very similar but the time frame is correct. If Rubens had painted Horace Vere it would have been towards of his life accounting for his appearance in senior years, his beard now looking thinner. She attached earlier portrait for comparison.

Ricky Pound,

Could the Ruben’s painting be of Horace Vere, 1st Baron Vere of Tilbury (1565 – 2 May 1635)? The eyes and nose are very similar and the time frame is correct. If Rubens had painted Horace Vere it would have been towards the end of his life accounting for his appearance in senior years, his beard now looking thinner. See attached earlier portrait for comparison.

Nicola Ray,

Rubens’ latter years were spent around Antwerp.
The portrait in question reminds me of the Sir Antony Van Dyck’s 1632 portrait of the painter Martyn Pepijn (1599-1641). Which is housed in The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.


The distinctive hairline, drooping right eyelid, rheumy eyes, wayward eyebrows, long possibly broken nose seem to be shared characteristics. Rubens’ subject shows more humanity and familiarity. Van Dyck’s perhaps more refined with a sense of hauteur.

Interestingly Martyn Pepijn’s daughter Katharina went to become a portrait painter working in a a Rubensesque style – indicating a friendship between her father and Rubens and a bit of hero worship on her part?

Osmund Bullock,

Re the Collection's post a few days ago, Rooses cannot possibly have suggested a date of 1570, as Rubens was not born until 1577 - I think you must have misread the NICE Paintings entry [see link top right], which actually says that Rooses adjudged it a "good painting, probably authentic"; and that Jaffé (1989) "dates WM 1570 to c. 1624–25...". 1570 is part of the accession number, not the date.

Nicola's suggestion above is interesting, though I should point out that 1599-1641 were the dates of van Dyck, not of Marten Pepijn (correctly 1575-1643). But though there are physical similarities, I fear it doesn't work. Van Dyck's portrait of Pepijn is dated 1632, and his age given as 58 (in fact it should have been 57). If our Rubens portrait were also Pepijn, it would show him a decade younger, give or take. Although the beard is longer and fuller, I find it hard to believe that the face in the van Dyck is the same man at least eight years later than he appears in ours - even allowing for a different artistic eye.

Bruce Trewin,

Juan Luna published a book on the Palacio Real de Madrid collection as of 1811. If someone has access to this publication it may list our painting, and hopefully the subject. I do not know his original source.

Las pinturas y esculturas del Palacio Real de Madrid en 1811
Juan J. Luna
Fundación Rich, 1993 - 142 pages

Andrea Kollmann,

Luna’s book is not available online, but the Inventarios Reales of 1794 are [1]; no. 13612 (pdf-page 24), is the one under discussion [2], but the sitter is not identified. In Cumberland’s catalogue printed in 1787 [3] it is also mentioned and described as “Rubens. Two Heads of Old Men; sketch-like and very grand.” (p92).

[1] http://bit.ly/2xStRCT
[2] http://bit.ly/2xbo9gF
[3] http://bit.ly/2xVVew1

Malcolm Fowles,

Look first at the eyebrows, always the eyebrows. They sort out the possibles from the not, unless one of the compared images is unskilled, because a good draughtsman will pay much attention to them. Their shape endures well over time. Remember Mrs Lillian Lingeman née Nutt?

In this case, the most distinguishing feature is the querulous upward kink in the right brow. It may be scar tissue, as it also seems to cause the underbrow to overlap the eyelid. If it is scar tissue, we have to hope it formed before any comparison was painted.

So, in my view:

* van der Geest :not.

* Gorlaeus: not in the Goltzius engraving, but possible in the de Gheyn engraving. Either one artist was not accurate or these are certainly not the same man. Best tell their collection!

* De Visq: not. Although the right brow is querulous, it slopes heavily to the centre and the left eye matches this.

* Rockox (the Philadephia sitter) : no good view of the right brow, but the left suggests not.

* The 1613 Young Man: not with that left brow!

* Rockox (or whoever is the triptych sitter) : quite possible from what we see of the right eye alone. Are there images of further portraits as Jacinto indicates?

* Brueghel: just possible; though the underbrow and lower lid are different as Jacinto says.

* Vere: not

* Moretus: possible; the left brow is lower in the same way. However the right underbrow would be a bit of "cosmetic licence".

* Pepijn: not

* de Momper: not.

Even the possible comparisons don't really convince me, though I do hope we find a frontal portrait of Rockox.

Malcolm Fowles,

Can somebody please pop round to Apsley House and find out definitively what colour the eyes are? They seem brown to me, but I've seen true colours in my local museum that bear little relation to the Art UK image. I ask this because the colour in the Van Dyck portrait of Pepijn (seen in the ...8/8e... link just above) is light, either grey or slightly blue.

Osmund Bullock,

I've resized and put the two portraits (Apsley's Rubens & the van Dyck of Pepijn) side by side - see attached. As I explained above, I find it hard to believe that the Rubens shows the same man at least seven years earlier - the skin and lines around the eyes are surely of an older man, not a younger?

Additionally, by aligning (more or less) the eye and nose heights in the two portraits, some glaring physical differences have become apparent. Most obvious is the visible ear - its height on the head is way higher on the Rubens. Its appearance, too, is very different; and while ears do (oddly) sometimes change in shape and prominence with age, it is in the other direction - if they were the same man, the Rubens would again have to be the older version. Note, too, that the mouth seems lower on the van Dyck - the sitter has a much greater nose to mouth distance, and possibly a longer chin. Moreover Pepijn's distinctly cleft nose in the van Dyck is not apparent in the Rubens.

PS Happy to pop round to Apsley House, Malcolm...as long as you pop round to the Post Office and send me a tenner to get in!

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Malcolm Fowles,

Jan Moretus died in 1610, Our portrait is dated c. 1620, "suggested by the costume". I guess this date has been pored over by scholars, but what do our own dress experts think?

Rubens is more closely associated with Jan's son Balthasar, a lifelong friend, who was about 46 in 1620. Although one might build a case for him based on the lazy right eye, half-hidden in his known Rubens portrait (e.g. https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/moretus-rubens-and-rockox-three-men-three-houses-from-antwerps-golden-age/) and present in an engraving, this age is a sticking point.

Greg Briggs,

I think I agree with William Heap here about this being William Breughel the elder. It's just a hunch but look at the facial expression and his right lug. I believe they were also friends and co-operated in painting.

Malcolm Fowles,

We have just two men left standing from those put forward so far. Abraham Gorlaeus died in 1608 ... so then there was one.

If not Jan Brueghel, it would have to be someone we either haven't thought of, or someone undocumented in the life of Rubens.

What about Jan Brueghel's elder brother Pieter (1564-1638)? He's about 56 in 1620, closer to our portrait.

Googling his name together with "Van Dyck", you'll find three etchings or drawings of him as an older man, at the Fitzwilliam, the Hermitage and Chatsworth. (Maybe you know others?) As one might expect, he bears similarities to Jan.

In all three images there is something not correct about his right eye, and eyebrow structure similar to Jan and to our sitter. He has less kindly eyes than Rubens' family portrait of Jan. Age has lined his face markedly.

One reason for doubting this is that it is too good to be true!

Malcolm Fowles,

Does anyone have access to catalogues raisonnées? I've found two possibly relevant references with Google, but there are surely more in academic libraries.

The first is the "Catalogue of the Works of Art in the Possession of Sir Peter Paul Rubens at the Time of His Decease" by Sir Balthazar Gerbier (1639). No 128 is "The picture of an old man with a white beard, uppon borde". Gerbier's list is repeated by Smith in his 1830 catalogue, where 128 is simply "Portrait of an old man".

The fact that Rubens kept the portrait till he died says to me that either he couldn't shift it, or it meant something to him.

I presume that other works draw on Gerbier, such that the collection can say "This painting has a sound provenance ...". What do they add?

A second online source is "Peter Paul Rubens: The Drawings" by Anne-Marie S Logan (2005). On p.154 is a chalk study for "The Raising of the Cross" (1610) with a bearded man, somewhat younger than ours, from above, whose right eyebrow you might find interesting. Ms Logan says of the sitter - after dismissing Cornelius van der Geest - "a more likely candidate is Jan Brueghel the Elder".

The more I look, the stronger I feel is the case for Jan. Unless the academic works tell us something, I don't see how it will ever be proven.

Howard Jones,

It is unusual to have art historians spending so much time trying to identify a painting by portrait analysis. There should be computer programmes available now which can revolve the face to provide a 3D scan or provide a predicted profile for this man.

There must be many portraits where it might help to resolve issues relating to identification if this technique could be applied. I know that art historians are keen to use infrared, x-ray and spectral analysis,but analysis by digital reorientation and digital identification are ares that art historians have so far failed to develop even for pictures where this might prove to be of critical importance in confirming or refuting claimed identifications.

Neil Jeffares,

They've been investigated but they simply don't work. (Nor for that matter is there much point in a "looks-like" approach to portraiture without documentation or other supporting evidence.)

Malcolm Fowles,

I've only just noticed a compelling reason why this isn't Jan Brueghel. His family portrait at https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/family-of-jan-brueghel-the-elder-207415 is dated 1620, which must be secure because of the children. Our man is dated 1620-1625. Surely even the maximum five years would not age him that much?

Neil, I agree about the "looks-like" approach but not about a "looks-unlike" approach, which has been my focus. Specific features can rule out a person, even though they cannot identify them.

This brings me to Jan's brother Pieter, the last suggestion to date still on its feet. Drawings as older men show similarities between him and Jan. Among them is a strong vertical furrow between the brows, also present in Jan's family portrait. Here, our man is ambivalent. There is certainly a long vertical mark, but Rubens flattened it rather than shaded it.

Hence I still wouldn't rule out Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Has he ever been connected to Rubens in documents?

Bruce Trewin,

There is certainly a strong resemblance, manner of forking the beard, ear shape, nose. The five to eight years would certainly age him to our subjects age. But where is the provenance? I agree with Neil that this may point us towards a potential subject but without a paper trail can an attribution be made?

Jacinto Regalado,

Age aside, this man simply does not look like Jan Brueghel the Elder in the Cortauld portrait. The visual impression of the face and expression are quite different, at least to my eye.

Howard Jones,

If we compare the eyes in the Apsley House Rubens, with the Courtauld family painting mentioned by William Heap above, the eyes appear level in the first portrait while in the family picture the mans left eye is noticeably lower. Did Rubens make mistakes? If it was the same sitter in each picture you might expect a stronger resemblance as Jacinto Regalado suggests.

Malcolm Fowles,

Time for some real detective work. From Andrea's references:

The Inventarios Reales of 1794 actually records "13612-13613 [then the size, then] Dos cabezas = Rubens = 600 [a valuation?]". Translated: two pictures, two heads, same artist.

The Cumberland catalogue (page 92) records "Rubens. Two heads of old men; sketch-like and very grand."

If the provenance is as good as claimed, then somewhere we ought to find (a) why the Apsley House portrait is regarded as coming from this pair and (b) what the other one was. Luna's book (see Bruce and Andrea above) may mention them together.

But, on the face of it, "sound provenance" goes back only as far as Madrid. Does anyone in the world actually know how it got there from Antwerp?

Andrea Kollmann,

There is some more information about the painting, how it came to Apsley House and why the two portraits are probably a pair in Evelyn Wellington‘s
„A descriptive and historical catalogue of the collection of pictures and sculpture at Apsley House, London“ (Vol.I, 1901), p114:

The „other“ portrait was still in Madrid in 1901 according to this catalogue. I have spend some time trying to find it in public Spanish collections, but without success. It might provide a clue.

While searching I came across the portrait mentioned above that used to be in Kansas City in the RKD database: https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/images/252713

Malcolm Fowles,

In Woollett, A.T. & van Suchtelen, A. eds (2006) "Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship", p 30, we read:

"... Rubens' splendid portrait of Jan Brueghel and his family, painted at about the time they resumed their painterly collaborations in 1610-12 ..."

This work was researched for an exhibition of the same name at the Getty Museum in LA and the Mauritshuis, Den Haag.

I make that a spread of a whole decade from different sources.

Malcolm Fowles,

Thanks Andrea. There's one slight anomaly. Wellington says "same subject" while Cumberland says "two old men", as if he did not see a likeness. That other picture starts to look quite crucial. It could of course be hiding under any old misidentity.

Howard Jones,

I did not realise Dutch art could be so exciting but I always did like Brueghel. Jacinto Regalado claims that the Apsley House painting does not match the Courthauld Jan Brueghel in the family picture by Rubins, and he is correct.

One painting shows Jan and the other shows Pieter, but surprisingly it is the Apsley painting that depicts Jan and the Courtauld family painting which portrays his brother Pieter Brueghel. The Courtauld Rubens is incorrectly titled.

There is a very fine drawing or etching of Pieter Brueghel at the Fitzwilliam Museum, P.2751R, which clearly matches the father in the family Courtauld painting.

At the http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk/fourpainting/rubens ... site shows the face of the father (Pieter) is shown in greater detail. It also shows another painting from the Artothek Weilheim said to be Jan Brueghel by or after Van Dyck. If this is correct it should match up with the Apsley painting. If it is cleaned up it might even be by Van Dyck, though that might be wishful thinking.

So to sum up. The Apsley House painting is a 'new' Jan Brueghel by Rubens. The Courtauld family portrait is a 'new' Peiter Brueghel by Rubens, and the Artothek Weilheim (?) Jan Brueghel after Van Dyck is as the [email protected] suggest a portrair of Jan Brueghel.

Besides the pictures described above there are additional drawings and etchings including a fine drawing of Pieter Brueghel by Van Dyck at Chatsworth, and a picture of Jan Brueghel also by Van Dyck in the Strang Print Room, UCL. London.

But the key to all this is that the Rubens portrait said to depict Jan Brueghel with his wife and two children really depicts his brother Pieter and his family. This should make things clearer.

Please excuse the lack of clear links if needed I will try to round some more up later.

Malcolm Fowles,

I think you'll need a lot of evidence that it is Pieter's family. It would be the art equivalent of Einstein's brother's theory of relativity. :-)

Andrea Kollmann,

I didn‘t see the difference in the description, thanks for pointing it out, Malcolm.
Another thing I have tried to understand is the List of Inventories and the accompanying table (plus the description on top of p34) here (pp34)
Does that mean that the painting (I assume „Rubens, Man“ refers to our portrait, p37) was not in the royal inventory in 1772? Or do I interpret the table incorrectly? If not, does that mean it was acquired for the royal Spanish collection sometime between 1772 and 1787 (when it is mentioned in Cumberland‘s report)? That would provide another way to research the painting’s provenance.

Malcolm Fowles,

I would interpret it as you do. It surprises me. I'd want a backstory about why the royal collection was buying Rubens around the time. I'd rather expected to find such works "acquired" (e.g. as tax) during Spanish rule in the 1600s.

Jacinto Regalado,

The portrait linked by Andrea from the RKD database has a softer, kindlier face than the Apsley portrait and, to my mind, would be more plausible as a portrait of an older Jan the Elder (meaning the man in the Cortauld family group). I am not saying they are the same person, however, only making an observation.

Malcolm Fowles,

We do have two clues to help look for the paired portrait. They are recorded as being the same size. They both have a "sketch-like" treatment, which in our man refers to the background and perhaps the hair.

I'm also wondering whether we have any "whereabouts unknown" in recent catalogues raisonnées. I recall that Sickert's Margate "Echo" was one such, while hiding in plain sight in Yorkshire.

Howard Jones,

Does anyone know the full provenance for the Courtauld's, Ruben's, Brueghel family painting?

There are several different etchings for Pieter Brueghel including work by Van Dyck, but the many different etchings for Jan all seem to derive from one original drawing also by Van Dyck.

William Heap,

We could also try trawling through art inventories closer to the creation date. The Antwerpse Kunstinventarissen uit de zeventiende eeuw (Brussels 1984-2004) is a mine of information.

Malcolm Fowles,

Sorry, Detroit. Well, they're both on the Great Lakes :-)

Malcolm Fowles,

Also in Detroit is https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/portrait-head-60007, for which there is no image or description.

The size is 27 1/2 x 20 3/4 in, whereas our is roughly 19 1/2 x 14 1/4 (49.7 x 36.2 cm to save you looking above).

The size issue together with the composition of Philippe's portrait prompt me to question why we have a small oval. I'd have thought this would have been mentioned in the Inventarios Reales (whose measurement unit translates to "stick" - how many sticks to the yard?), Cumberland or Wellington. Being on panel, perhaps it has been cropped in the past, e.g. to remove damage. Can Apsley House tell us whether there is evidence of the painting being its original shape and size or not?

William Heap,

It can be difficult to date paintings using ruffs during this period. This one from the Alte Pinakothek, Munich (Inv. No. 354) is dated 1635. By the way, this particular portrait of Jan Brant (no likeness to the Apsley portrait) was held to be by Rubens but is inscribed 'A. SAL' [Antoon Salaert (1594-1650)].


Malcolm Fowles,

Thoughts from the portrait of Philippe Rubens.

The treatment of the background, clothes and hair are so strikingly similar to our portrait that it hard to believe there is no connection. I have not found another like them online, but probably the missing paired work from the Spanish royal collection was one, given Cumberland's wording.

The clothes and ruff may be studio props, to be thrown on an ad hoc sitter. This would make their dates rather moot.

The Rubens family tree (Wikipedia: Rubens family) shows that Philippe died in 1611 and that there were no older male relatives alive then, let alone at our portrait's date. [His father's date of death is not in the tree, but it is in the linked page as 1587.] This is not absolute proof of date, because Rubens made loads of drawings, and was also famed for his prodigious visual memory.

Malcolm Fowles,

What do you think of the idea that these might be memorial portraits of people who meant a lot to Rubens, of whom he had sketches and clear visual memories? No background, no coat, just the beloved face in a collar designed to highlight it.

Malcolm Fowles,

A memorial portrait is hinted at by Detroit's provenance for Philippe, which begins:

(?) Antwerp, Church of St. Michael's Abbey. Philippe was buried there (Wikipedia: Philip Rubens).

Then nothing until 1817: Cleydael, Collection Peeters d'Aerselaer

Compared with his image in "The Four Philosophers" (by Rubens), in teh Detroit portrait Philippe looks a lot younger, perhaps an earlier portrait or, more likely for a memorial, earlier source drawings.

Inferences for our own work:

1. Seek records of paintings from St Michael's Abbey and other Antwerp churches.

2. Probably the image is not Rubens father, who died at about 57 when the artist was about 10.

3. Our answer may lie in the ton of Rubens drawings lying unlooked at or unrecognised around the world. Not a feasible job unless collections can be interested in it

Malcolm Fowles,

Andrea, thanks. I'm feeling a bit smug about getting the memorial right :-) However, did you also notice the passage about the provenance being contested because "eighteenth-century accounts de­scribe the portrait (on the funeral monument) as *oval* whereas the one at Detroit is rectangular"? This gets more and more intriguing.

Whether or not there were two versions of Philippe, I guess further that an oval format was often required to fit into the design of funeral monuments of the day.

The treatment of background and clothing are also explained. They disappear into the gloom of a side chapel. The image shines out in any lighting, and the ruff provides both a compositional device to avoid the disembodied head effect and a focal point in the monument. Our portrait is deliberate and clever!

I would therefore be very surprised if our painting and its early companion had not come from a church, probably in Antwerp. I have a hunch it is St. Jacob, but I'm still looking for evidence.

Malcolm Fowles,

A message for Apsley House, aside.

I have got just a hint of this on a computer, but may I suggest a test of Rubens' genius:

1. Arrange a few devotional candles and fire precautions at a safe distance from our painting.

2. Gather a small party of interested people. Light the candles.

3. Turn out the room lights.

4. I predict a spine-tingling experience. I suspect Rubens thought through the effect.

5. If it works, please invite the contributors herein for another showing!

Malcolm Fowles,

I should have added: in the evening, and traditional (preferably C17 Dutch :-) candles not tea-lights.

Howard Jones,

Returning to the Rubens Courtauld painting of 'Jan Brueghel and family'.
If we can zoom in on the man's inner right eyebrow we can see that there is not just a crease, but an unusual scar. It can be seen on the image at the Wikipedia site, but a better magnification appears to show it more clearly. There was a very good clear image at the [email protected] or artandarchitecture site but it appears to be hiding on the internet today.

The lower poiint of the scar or birthmark appears to be pink, the same colour his tear duct. Unless this represents an area of damage to the paint it is quite a distinctive mark.

Although other portraits such as the Apsley pictureunder discussion have simillar creases in the same position where this position is often shown as being in shadow I have not been able to see this scar on other portraits. Th e area can be seen on the Apsley picture and no scar is present. Has this scar or whatever it is been noted before?

Malcolm Fowles,

If this is a memorial portrait as I believe, it rather undermines some evidence. The sitter may never have worn the clothes, if Rubens superimposed the head from drawings and memory in a composition purely designed for effect in situ. You may not agree, but I think our head has a certain Photoshopped quality about its relation to the rest, and if it were a life portrait I would expect more indication of status.

Hence, so much for the date! Ruffs came in during C16 and in the Low Countries lasted longer than anywhere else, until around Rubens' own demise in 1640 (Wikipedia: Ruff). They were an indicator of rank, because of the costs of maintaining their shape, but that's all. Our best guide to a date is now Philippe's portrait, after Jan 1611, which is when we know for certain that Rubens had developed this style.

Howard Jones,

At present there is a different woodcut print of Jan Brueghel on eBay. Search eBay for no. 252254579673.
It shows Jan the Elder as a younger man with plenty of dark hair but it appears to match up with the Van Dyck drawings and etchings.

Howard Jones,

In an article in the Guardian, 30th Sept 2011, Tracy Chevalier, author of 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. has a different take on Rubens painting of the Jan Brueghel and the happy family. She argues that the man in a hat appears dissociated from the rest of the family and that he is painted as if he was squeezed into the painting later.

The manner in which the man is painted is very different to Ruben's flamboyant depiction of the others figures. Has anyone checked to see if the gentleman in the hat was added later by a different artist? Clearly the strange left arm does not match the quality elsewhere and the alignment of the hat although altered still appears to be incorrect.

Andrea Kollmann kindly provided (above), provenance and notes for the Courtauld's Rubens picture; CorpusRubenianum, Ludwig Burchard, Part XIX, p.60.

One reference appears to note a copy of the Ruben's painting 'without the figure of Jan Brueghel, whereabouts unknown... Prov. sale, London (Christie's) 22 Dec 1916, lot 132.

This would raise the question whether the figure called 'Jan Brueghel' was omitted because the copiest liked the painting better without him, or whether the man in the black hat was simply left out because he still hadn't been added to the painting at the time it was copied.

Malcolm Fowles,

Where do we go from here?

We’ve used comparison of features to rule out most of the names that we as a group have associated with Rubens. Only the Brueghel brothers remain. A more systematic approach –notables from where Rubens stayed - might yield more. Comparison of features cannot positively identify our man.

Finding Philippe Rubens’ memorial portrait, with its remarkable similarities, suggests that (a) Rubens must have met and drawn our man living and (b) he either felt the need or was paid to produce a memorial after the death. A systematic search of available drawings might work but is a hell of a task, as might a systematic search of notable burials 1609-1640, initially of Antwerp citizens but also close contacts on his travels. A memorial portrait rules out Pieter Brueghel the Younger, who died much older!

Last but not least is that we know our portrait was one of a pair of the same size (and probably shape), showing different old men. We have not yet gone through catalogues systematically looking for this, either Rooses or especially Jaffé’s Catologo Completo. This latter is in the libraries of the V&A, the National Gallery, the Warburg Institute and the universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and St. Andrews.

Combining the memorial and the pairing, it might be possible to detect the pair’s provenance in records prior to 1787, focusing on (a) the period 1772-1787 when the pair appears in the Spanish Royal Collection or (b) portraits from churches, especially in Antwerp.

Can anyone here help?

William Heap,

Interestingly, we do find two items (195 & 196) in the Rubens inventory of 1640. The two items are classed together, suggesting a pair. These are: 'Twee klyne Tronien in schuynsrondekens door den Ouden Breugel'. This translates as, 'Two small oval head studies by Old Breughel'. This had been translated as 'Two Faces in round by Old Brugel' (p.314) but 'schuyn' can be taken to mean 'oblique' hence oval. A 'tronie' could refer to a face, head or bust.

The keyword, of course, is 'door' meaning 'by' rather than 'of' ('van'). Perhaps this could have been an error?

See: Antwerpse Kunstinventarissen Vol. 4 p.297

Howard Jones,

Malcolm Foiwles above suggests making a systematic search through all of Rubens drawings. Before we do that perhaps we should make a search of his paintings starting with the portrait of an old man sold in London at Christie's Oldf Masters Evening Sale, 8th July, 2014, lot 17.

I found this portrait last night. Before I say why I believe it is of special importance for the Aspley House Rubens, I would be interested to know what others might think of this gentleman wearing a chain.

Would anyone agree that this man should also be called 'von' Breughei ?

Howard Jones,

I refer above to a Ruben's painting sold at Christies 8th July 2014. I believe a link for the picture will be found at;

Scroll down to lot 17 for details. I am not certain where the painting went after it was sold.

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, your link is incomplete and doesn't work - try http://bit.ly/2gfxjhf .

I suppose you mean 'van Brueghel' rather than 'von Breughei [sic]' (unless you think they were secretly German aristocrats); and I guess you are suggesting he's a member of the family. Could he be? Well, conceivably...but I imagine it could be a lot of people, and as Neil Jeffares has pointed out, trying to identify portraits by comparing faces alone is generally pretty fruitless (and quite impossible to prove). In this case it's even harder, as it's clear that different artists saw different things - the van Dyck print of Jan (identified on it as him) and associated portrait are not wholly consistent with him in the Courtauld's Rubens family group. Ah-ha, you will say - I told you it was Pieter, not Jan...except that it looks even less like van Dyck's print of Pieter (also identified as such).

As to the Christie's portrait, it is interesting that he seem to have the droopy eye seen in the Courtauld Rubens, and a similarly prominent lower lip; but his beard is of a quite different style to either Brueghel brother in any representation - much shorter and neater (ditto ours, by the way, to some extent). And I'd have thought the chain tends to preclude him from consideration as a Brueghel, since as far as I'm aware neither brother held any significant office (though Jan was dean of the Guild of Saint Luke, but that was when he was in his 30s).

One of the main reasons Neil is right is that until the age of photography there was commonly only one portrait in existence of any individual - most people (except the rich/famous, and those close to an artist) only ever sat for a portrait once, so there's nothing to compare it with. Rubens painted many portraits, and many of them are unidentified. The man with the chain is probably some minor municipal bigwig, now forgotten; without inscription or provenance (or an annotated preliminary sketch or print after it) the chances that he will ever be identified are slim. And I fear the same will prove true of ours.

Malcolm Fowles,

What we can say is that this is another one in the style of Philippe Rubens' memorial portrait, so the sitter is probably a goner and Rubens probably drew him some time previously.

From Christies, the painting is 25¼ x 19 1/8 in. (64 x 48.5 cm.), which is interesting because it exactly matches the dimensions given for our pair in the Inventarios Reales. I have discovered that "vara" is the old 'rod' or 'pole' unit, which varied a bit from place to place in Spain, but Madrid's was 0.843 m.

Also from Christies, this is the Kansas City portrait discussed above. It has a short provenance, starting with Lady Lucas in Bedfordshire in 1917. Interesting again, because this doesn't contradict the proposal also discussed above that one of our pair was still in the Spanish Royal Collection up to about 1900.

But if it is one of that pair, then either our board has been cut down (e.g. to remove damage due to Joseph Bonaparte) or we have wrongly attributed it to the pair. The question I asked earlier, for the collection to check the edge of our board, becomes more important. Was it cut into an oval after the paint was applied? Is somebody here able to nudge the collection? While they're at it, do they perchance know a dendrochronologist?

Thanks Osmund. How do you fancy Antwerp family history? There are short burial lists in Wikipedia for the Cathedral and St Michael's Abbey, but proper records they are not.

Malcolm Fowles,

Sorry, I got my calculations wrong. The Inventarios Reales say the pair is "more than half a rod high and more than a third wide". That's only 42.1 x 28.1 cm. Our man is 49.7 x 36.2 cm, which just about fits "more than". However, this new one is 64 x 48.5 cm - almost the same as Philippe - which stretches it a bit far in my opinion: even the width would be more than half a pole.

Malcolm Fowles,

Nobody has asked the usual question, what exactly is on the back of the portrait, or can we have a good image of it? I ask because Christies list on theirs "the coat-of-arms of the city of Antwerp, with the monogram of the panel makers's mark of Michiel Vriendt (active Antwerp 1615-1637), and with the initial 'A'."

Howard Jones,

Osmund Bullock questions an identification of the Christies Rubens with Bruegel because of the clothes and chain, and he might well be right. Superficially he looks like Pieter Bruegel especially the nose and eyes, but I am not sure about the eyebrows and the right side of the face.
This painting is unusual in that this really does look like a very old man. Pieter Brueghle lived from 1564 to 1636/8, so in 1634 he would have been 70 years old, about the age of the man in the picture perhaps. If the wooden panel could be dated it might help rule him in or out.

There are engravings of the Brueghel brothers Jan and Pieter as young men with full beards. In these portraits Peter's eyes appear normal.

If Peter's lazy eye was not with him since birth but caused by a blow to his eye and head it would have substantially changed his 3D perception. Has anyone ever noted if his later works appear to lack depth in any way, and whether this later art differed from his earlier work in this respect?

There is some confusion between engravings of Pieter the Younger and his father Pieter the Elder no doubt linked to them having the same christian names, but I think they do portray the eyes of the son and not the father.

Malcolm Fowles,

I'm backtracking from assuming that any other of Rubens' portraits with the same stylistic treatment are post mortem, but I still believe that this one came from a funeral monument.

In vander Auwera, J. & van Sprang S. (2007) "Rubens: a genius at work" [from a research project in the Royal Museums if Fine Art of Belgium], the authors look at an example attributed to Van Dyck (and formerly to Rubens), the Portrait of a Man https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/fr/la-collection/antoon-van-dyck-attribue-a-portrait-dhomme . It is a few cm larger than ours, also on wood, and similar in dress and tonal layout. Technical analysis has revealed that the oval frame is not a later addition.

"The portrait may have served as an epitaph painting that was placed in the church were the unknown sitter was buried ... Painted portraits adorning funerary monuments were often oval or round.[followed by numerous references to examples]."

You may also remember that Detroit's provenance of Philippe's portrait is contested (by J.S.Held) on the grounds that older accounts say his funeral portrait was oval. This poses a question to Detroit, but to us it simply underlines the role of this format.

However I do wonder, based on the way our background brushstrokes disappear off the edge, whether ours was originally a larger picture, later repurposed and cropped to fit, unlike the Brussels Van Dyck.

Either way, it doesn't affect the importance to us of finding names from church burials and from acquisitions of paintings from churches.

Howard Jones,

I believe Jan Brueghel and Rubens collaborated on one of Brueghels allegorical seriescalled the Allegory of sight. IWe are shown a large gallery full of statues and paintings. ehind the figure of the goddess lthere is a painting which looks like a double portrait of an older man and his younger wife. Is it known whether this couple could be Jan Brueghel and his second wife.

On eBay no. 142382175518 is a similar portrait called Jan Brueghel from the workshop of Rubens.

If Jan Brueghel and his wife are the couple in the Allegory of Sight this could be very helpful for this discussion.

To see the figures in the double portrait requires a clear reproduction. The best I could find was at ;


I hope this link works for others, but if a more detailed copy is available elsewhere we might get a clearer picture of the appearance of the man and the woman in this painting within a painting.

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, your eBay find is the very well known portrait of Albert, Archduke of Austria, with Tervuren Castle: http://bit.ly/2yAaf59 . It is not *of* Jan Brueghel, it is *by* him in collaboration with Rubens' workshop - you will find images of it on the Wikimedia Commons pages for both "Jan Brueghel (I)" and for "Peter Paul Rubens/Portraits of men", and many, many other places online.

The 'Sense of Sight' allegory is, like the Archduke Albert portrait, in the Prado, Madrid. Even on janbrueghel.net two things can quickly be deduced about the double portrait behind Venus: (a) this is a very high status couple (for one thing they/their clothes are bejewelled) - they are likely to be patrons, perhaps royals; and (b) whoever they are, the picture-within-a-picture must be very small - by roughly measuring the head sizes versus the whole thing you can estimate the faces in it are c.1 cm high or less in the actual painting, and most unlikely to be any help for detailed facial comparisons. And so it proves - I attach a detail copied from an enlarged view of the painting on the Prado website ( http://bit.ly/2yDbTVv ). From that they do indeed look like royals - possibly Archduke Albert again plus wife Isabel.

1 attachment
Howard Jones,

Thank you Osmund. I am less familiar with Dutch and Flemish art than Tudor.

Below is a link to a wood engraving hopefully depicting Jan Brueghel rather than being by Jan Brueghel.

It indicates he had thick dark hair in his youth and his mouth is completely hidden by his whiskers. We can see a high forehead, the shape of his ear, his glancing eyes and the shape of his nose.

There are similar engravings called Pieter Brueghel showing a more heavily built gent, but some of the Pieter Brueghel prints are named Pieter the Elder, so we would need to make sure whether they show the father or son.

As I type this note the print in question has just arrived in the post. Checking the print itself the ear looks and is more rounded in shape than it appears on the computer screen.

The name Brueghel is on the 1870 print itself, and the clothes suggest a date for the man around 1600 but I do not know if there is specific evidence regarding the publishing of the print that this sitter is Jan Brueghel instead of Pieter the Younger.

The image for this print should be available at;


If anyone has additional or different information about this engraving please let me know.

Malcolm Fowles,

The questions below try to determine what we might really be looking for in old records. They are taken from what the RFAMB needed when investigating their possible Van Dyck oval.

Both Art UK and NICE present what seems to be a neat photographic edge of this painting, without a border. Could we have a image of the picture and any frame in context please?

Do we see the whole board to its edge, or is the image cropped for neatness? Or is the board in an oval mount, or a rectangular mount with an oval aperture?

If there is an aperture, how does its size and that of the underlying board relate to the given dimensions of 49.7 x 36.2 cm? Also does the paint stop under the lip of aperture, continue to the edge of the board, or something in between?

Please ask the collection.

Malcolm Fowles,

Howard, this and various others like it are later engravings, whose primary source is the engraver's imagination and need for income, possibly influenced by one of the Van Dyck drawings. If you Google "brueghel portrait engraving" you'll find quite a few by different engravers at different dates. This particular beard and head shape appears variously as Pieter the Elder, Pieter the Younger and Jan the Elder!

They are spam, to be treated as such.

Wikipedia has more reliable drawings of both Pieters (although the Elder is only "possible") and the Fitzwilliam Museum has one of Jan.

Please, with all due respect, if you are still going to pursue this "looks like" approach, despite advice from a respected art historian such as Neil that it is pointless, do research the provenance and reliability of what you've found to weed out distractions. Without a paper trail, we'll never identify our man.

William Heap,

Personally, I believe that 'looks like' input should be welcomed and encouraged. The identity of the sitter may seem blatantly obvious to a 'super recogniser'. This approach is certainly relevant when dealing with an accomplished artist. Their help in targeting research into e.g. Jan Breughel the Elder could certainly help save time.

Neil Jeffares,

This is probably not the place to open a different debate, but perhaps some amplifications of my earlier remark about "looks like" discussions might help.

The first point is the need to adjust for sample bias: if you think a portrait looks like someone famous you already know (and most people reading this will have a visual library of thousands of faces), you've probably started with a 99% fit on biometric parameters - but entirely without significance, since without thinking you have rejected the 99% that don't fit. For any statistical significance, you need your samples to remain unbiased. Apart from a gross and rare physical abnormality (and even then portraitists can rarely be relied upon), unless there's some other anchor to sift your sample (e.g. documents, provenance), this approach is hopeless and has no scientific validity.

On facial recognition techniques, despite the considerable sophistication now obtained for forensic photographic analysis, a project I initiated on some years ago with the leading team at Carnegie Mellon University to apply their techniques to 18th century portraiture produced results so entirely useless that we abandoned further research with nothing worth publishing.

Howard Jones,

In England engraving publishers such Virtue took great care with their identifications and their portraiture. I suspect German and other continental printers took similar care. The engraving comes from an extensive series of artists including well known artists such as Hans Holbein. It also includes Frans Snyder who was painted by Van Dyck. The other artist in this comprehensive series appear to be mostly reliable.

Another option with the Courtauld 'Jan Brueghel and Family' would be to try to find a different painting showing the mother.

There is another portrait which closely matches her but the woman in the picture is not named.

The portrait is at the National Gallery of Victoria, or NGV. in Melbourne Australia, and the painter is Cornelis De Vos another gifted Flemish artist whose work will be familiar to many of you.

The picture shows a mother and young child child, with the mother wearing expensive clothes and jewellery. Although we do not know her name we know her age, she was 24 yrs. as her age is inscribed on the painting.

I am not an expert on jewellery but the one unusual ring on her finger in the Melbourne painting looks very similar to the ring on the.finger of the lady in the Rubens painting. The faces also match very closely.
However it is far from obvious how the Cornelis mother can be connected to the Courtauld 'Brueghel family'. Whether she is connected or not it would still be interesting to discover her identity.

By good fortune as well as giving her age the artist also included the year of her birth. She was born in 1600.

William Heap,

Yes, it is an interesting debate. This is where informed human judgement is important. We know the artist and a lot about his entourage. This is a good point de départ. The 'looks like' approach can certainly be used to help channel and support the 'science'.

Computers probably couldn't compete (yet) with the 'super recognisers'!

Howard Jones,

The lady mentioned above by Cornelis de Vos at the NGV in Melborne can either be seen at the Museum's website, or at ;


The best images available are at the TuttArt internet gallery site which provides exceptional clear close ups, but I can't get the link to work.

I still think the main problem is that the Courtauld's Jan Brueghel portrait does not match the Van Dyck 'Joannes Brevgel' etching.
The Van Dyck etching bears his name and belongs to the series published in 1645 by Hendricx. It is barely conceivable that it has the wrong name for Jan.

Perhaps some more helpful provenance will turn up for the Apsley Rubens. Tree ring dating could also be helpful for these paintings or more information on the different fashions displayed.

The Apsley House painting did not look so specially at first but the more you see it the more impressive it gets.

Howard Jones,

There could be another Brueghel portrait that has not been mentioned yet.

At the Hermitage in St Petersberg there is an oil painting titled Pieter Brueghe II, from the workshop of Van Dyck. (For more info. try Natalya Gritsay and Natalya Babina, The State Hermitage Museum Catalogue of Flemish Paintings).

The painting is oval but I can not see the dimensions. There is some similarity with the Apsley portrait but I would like to see a colour photo before hazarding an opinion as to whether this might be Pieter or Jan.

At the Pinterest sites below the Russian and Apsley House paintings can be seen side by side.


http://www.pinterest.co.uk/howardfrombath/brueghel-jan-and -pieter

William Heap,

We find a possible lead in the Antwerpse Kunstinventarissen (Vol 6 pp.475 & 492):
“Inventaris van de nagelaten goederen van Jeremias Wildens, zoon van wijlen Jan Wildens, kunstschilder”
This 1653/54 inventory of “missing goods” includes the items 548, 549:
“Twee schilderijkens Twee Tronikens van den Ouden Breugel”
[“Two head studies of the Old man Breugel”]


William Heap,

Apsley House refer to a royal inventory. Perhaps they could tell us if this is the one dated 19 March, 1811? (Archives Nationales, France 381 AP/15 dossier 6)

Malcolm Fowles,

William, is it "nagelaten" that gives you "missing"? It is the past tense of "nalaten" and perhaps the translation that best fits the context is "bequeathed".

Congratulations and kudos for finding that! Now we are getting somewhere. At some time in the past there was a pair of head studies of "Ouden Breugel". This is how the Dutch refer to Br[uegh]el the Elder, not "Old man Breugel".

Of course we know two Bruegels "the Elder", Pieter and his son Jan, Rubens' friend. At the time of the inventory, only Jan Breugel the Younger was alive and active in the Antwerp art world, so Ouden Breugel would be Jan, his father. Add to this Pieter's date of death in 1569, and the reference is unequivocal.

It's the pair that convinces most. Somehow, we now need to trace how the works got from Antwerp to Madrid by 1787 (Cumberland's reference). But even now, I think there's enough to say "possibly ..." and perhaps "probably Jan Brueghel the Elder". Lucky old English Heritage!

Malcolm Fowles,

EUGH! I seem to have explored every permutation of those letters. Sorry. But then, so did the writers of the time :-)

William Heap,

Malcolm, thank you for the help with the Dutch! Yes, "bequeathed" makes sense.

Malcolm Fowles,

William, I see that the first suggestion of Jan Brueghel also came from you. Do you realise that you've probably added a digit to a national asset? If it pans out as expected, from an obscure gem this becomes a very fine portrait of one great artist by another great artist. If you're lucky you'll be interviewed by Brenda Emmanus; if you're unlucky, it'll be ..... ? :-)

Malcolm Fowles,

William, to answer your earlier query, the inventory is the Inventarios Reales of 1794 which Andrea Kollmann linked above. For convenience, it is http://bit.ly/2xStRCT. I translated the entry as "13612-13613. More than half a rod high by more than a third wide (i.e more than 42.1 x 28.1 cm). Two heads. Rubens."

Richard Cumberland catalogued the pair earlier, in 1787 (http://bit.ly/2xVVew1), as "Rubens. Two Heads of Old Men; sketch-like and very grand."

The pair does not appear in the previous 1772 inventory of the same palace.

William Heap,

Thank you Malcolm. If we're lucky, the 1811 inventory could provide some more details. The inventory appears to have been in the Wellington Papers sent to France.

Howard Jones,

Thank you to William Heap for the link for the colour photo of the 'Brueghel' oil on canvas at the Hermitage.

A technical point. There is just one highlight on the iris of the right eye but there are two for his left eye. Is this just a coincidence or is this connected to the other eye issues associated with Brueghel portraits.

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry to rain on your Brueghel parade, but almost certainly the correct meaning of the entry for items 548 & 549 in the January 1654 inventory of Jeremias Wildens (d. Dec 1653, 'son of the late Jan Wildens, art painter') is 'Two paintings Two Tronies BY the Elder Breugel'. Look for a moment at how the other paintings in the list are described, instead of solely focusing on the entry that interests you (and Google a bit wider for similar phrases in art historical contexts, and how they are translated). You will see that 'by' is clearly the meaning in the vast majority of cases - indeed the very next entry is "Een ront Lantschapken van de Fluweelen Breugel", which must translate as 'A round (small) landscape by the Velvet Bruegel'. This pairing of entries also means that 'the Elder Bruegel' in this context cannot possibly be Jan the Elder - he was the man nicknamed 'Velvet'. It might possibly mean Pieter, as the elder of the two brothers, though by the time of the inventory both were long dead (Jan in 1625, Pieter in 1638). But I'm not sure that even at this time their being alive or dead would affect the nomenclature of Elder/Younger in an art context (and see below re Wildens) - if it does, then we must have moved on to the *next* generation, or even the one after that...but I don't think so. In fact it's very possible that 'the Elder Bruegel' means the first and greatest of the clan, Pieter the Elder (d. 1569). It doesn't really matter, as whoever it is, it's not *of* him, it's *by* him.

Note that there are other works listed as "van" (by) or "naer" (after) 'the Elder Bruegel', ones that cannot possibly be portraits - most notably #555 "De Triumph van de Doot van de Fluweelen Breugel naer den Ouden Breugel". This can only be the 'The Triumph of Death by the Velvet Bruegel after the Elder Bruegel' - i.e. by Jan the Elder after the famous painting of that name by Pieter the Elder.

I know this is confusing**, as 'van' also means 'of' in the sense you want it to, and sometimes does in the inventory, However, it would seem that in this document the phrase consistently used for any portrait is "contrefeijtsel[ken] van" (which I think means 'likeness of'). There is a group of them on page 488, nos. 360-373, which seem to be of the person named (most are artists, including two self-portraits(?) - there are no other artists attributed in the group); and among other portraits listed is #506, "Het Contrefeijtsel van den Ouden Wildens van Rubbens [sic]", which must mean 'The Likeness of the Elder Wildens [i.e. Jan] by Rubens'. And indeed there are at least two such portraits known, and still around today.

Which brings me to another point. Rubens is mentioned copiously in the inventory as the artist of works listed - either as 'van' (by) or 'naer' (after). If these two heads were of a Brueghel *by* Rubens, I can't believe this wouldn't have been stated. And I should mention that, though the term is variable in exact meaning, a "Tronie" is seldom intended to be a portrait of a recognisable person - they are generally small paintings of portrait 'types'...characters, even caricatures. In fact, here is a tronie by Pieter the Elder: http://bit.ly/2l7Y3p5

Once more I find myself cautioning against the dangers of Confirmation Bias. Good research should include looking hard for reasons you're wrong - for what things probably mean rather what you want them to mean. Oh, and remember at all times Ockham's Razor or the Law of Parsimony, or whatever you want to call it. Search for the most likely meanings and explanations first - only after eliminating them should you move on to the unlikely ones.

[**I was confused, too - I knew practically nothing about Netherlandish art when this discussion began, nor of the Dutch language (C17th or modern). But I've taken some time and trouble to find out.]

William Heap,

Thank you Osmond. I agree that we need to keep digging for evidence. I should point out that the same 1653/54 inventory also uses 'door' to mean 'by' so 'van' meaning 'of' cannot be ruled out completely. It is also worth remembering that Jan Breughel the Elder was known for his landscape and flower paintings. He collaborated with other artists for portraits. Yes, the inventory could also be referring to a pair by Pieter the Elder.

You will just have to forgive my bias for Breughel the Elder!

Malcolm Fowles,

Two actions seem to me worthwhile whatever theory is being investigated:

1. Continue to look for records of a *pair* of portraits leaving Antwerp or arriving in Madrid between 1625 and 1787. A single painting would be an enormous task, but there can't be that many pairs.

Osmund's re-interpretation of 'van' also resurrects the possibility of memorials, and hence a church in the provenance.

2. Search more actively for references to the second of the pair that (is believed to have) stayed in Madrid. Perhaps it is in plain sight.

Malcolm Fowles,

What if ... Rubens painted a pair of head studies on a mission abroad?

Most relevant, in Madrid, he is known to have painted several important works during an eight month stay in 1628-9. In that case, any studies would probably have always been in Spain, so we'd need to account for where they were before Cumberland's 1787 catalogue.

Malcolm Fowles,

Are there clues on the board or in its material as to where it was made? For the third time of asking, please, what other information does the board give apart from the paint?

Malcolm Fowles,

It seems that Gerbier (see above, and https://archive.org/details/catalogueofworks00gerb) took his list of possessions found after Rubens' death from the same original source as did the Antwerpse Kunstinventarissen (Vol 4 p.293 et seq), whose possibly intermediate source is S.A., J. van der Sanden, "Oud Konst-tooneel van Antwerpen, dl. II, pp 279-305".

We have overlooked a tantalising entry that would cover our man, if he were still with Rubens:

"Een menigte van Tronien of Koppen naer 'I leven op doek en pineel, zoo door mynheer Rubens als door mynheer Van Dyck". My translation, "A quantity [can also mean "mass" or "multitude"!] of portrait heads from life, on cloth and panel, some by Mr Rubens and some by Mr Van Dyck. No joy for us there, except confirmation of that there were numerous such paintings.

So, how was Ruben's estate dispersed, and was it documented?

Somewhere I've read that Philip IV of Spain was an active buyer in the dispersal. If correct, our pair of heads may have gone to Spain right away, perhaps to the royal collection. But not necessarily so, as some pretty avid connoisseurs must have represented Philip. I imagine even Velázquez would want to be there. In which case, Spanish records from 1640 onwards become important to us.

Neil Jeffares,

I'm sorry to come in again on this discussion, but if you do simple calculations such as ratio of eye separation to eyeline/mouth distance you find that the man in the Courtauld painting has a far longer face. "Looks like" suggestions must at the very least survive such tests.

William Heap,

Anne, I'm glad you agree with me about Jan Brueghel the Elder. I believe that the angle of the sitter's head in the Courtauld painting is confusing observers. We really do need documentary evidence to convince others. I am hoping to find a fresh lead in the Spanish inventories.

Howard Jones,

I mentioned above an engraved portrait of Jan Bruegel published in 1870. Another early version of the portrait dating from 1826 turned up on the Italian eBay site. It appears to be a slightly more detailed copy of the same earlier painted portrait. See;

http://www.pinterest .co.uk/pin/134685845090238629

This might suggest there are more portraits of the Brueghel family, perhaps on the Continent, if we can find them.

The link above is not a good reproduction, but it demonstrates that this other version exists, and I will put a clearer view up if needed when I am able courtesy the Italian post. An indication of an arrival date by 29th November has been given!

Malcolm Fowles,

Some may have already read her, but Marjorie Wiseman gives these references for details of the first dispersal of Rubens' estate:

P. Génard, "De nalatenschap van P. P. Rubens," Antwerpsch Archievenblad 2 (n.d. [1865-66]), pp. 69ff.; a transcription and detailed analysis of the Specification is provided in Jeffrey M. Muller, Rubens: The Artist as Collector (Princeton, 1989), pp. 91-146.

[The Specification is the list of 314 individual works with that tantalising footnote about a quantity of sketches, which we met in Gerbier and the Antwerpse Kunstinventarissen. It "was drawn up and printed by the bookseller Jan van Meurs to advertise the forthcoming sale of paintings"]

2. Twenty-nine paintings were purchased privately by Philip IV of Spain; other private sales were negotiated by the Prince of Orange, Justus Sustermans, Peter van Hecke, and the art dealer Matthijs Musson. See Génard pp. 81-85; and Muller, p. 79.

I cannot find the text of either book online. According to WorldCat, Génard exists only in the Rubenianum in Antwerp. Expensive second-hand copies of Muller are available, and in over 20 UK libraries including the BL St Pancras and On Demand.

However, if he was in the legacy, our man is not obvious in the main list and so would have been in the "quantity of sketches". He may not be treated in the above references. Worth a try, though.

Does anyone here have a contact in the Rubenianum?

Malcolm Fowles,

Here's a key passage from Marjorie Wiseman for those looking in Spain:

In Spain, eight [sketches but not portraits] were in the collection of one of the greatest collectors of the seventeenth century, Gaspar de Haro y Guzmán, marqués de Carpio (1629-1687). Haro owned as many as sixteen other paintings by Rubens, as well as drawings and—possibly—six of the cartoons for the Eucharist tapestries produced by Rubens's atelier.

It is possible (but not certain) that Gaspar inherited the modelli from his father, Luis de Haro (1598-1661), ***who had played a key role in acquiring paintings for Philip IV in England and elsewhere, managing in the process to retain many important pieces for his own collection.*** On a more modest scale was the collection of the Madrid painter Felipe Diricksen (1590-1679, grandson of the Flemish painter Anton van den Wijngaerde), which featured three vorrones, or sketches, by Rubens.

Howard Jones,

Sorry. With the link above at the Pinrerest site you need to be logged into Pininterest to see it. You juyst need a code word and email address. It is a useful site for moving internet images around.

I have put an extra space inthe link address by mistake. It should read;

The Pinterest sites have numerous good pictures but navigation at the sire could be clearer.

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, these later prints that you're coming up with (and buying at some cost!?) are merely copies, at ever-increasing removes as the centuries passed, after van Dyck's etched portrait of Jan Brueghel for the 'Icones Principum Virorum Doctorum Pictorum ...'. See the BM's collection of various states of the original etching, plus some later C18th/19th copies after it: http://bit.ly/2i57ZuX

This is the first state http://bit.ly/2gCkCx4 dating from perhaps the early 1630s (and not before 1626/7); there is no point whatever in looking at any other later copies after it, let alone lithograph and woodcut ones from 200+ years later. I'm afraid your latest 1826 find does not in any way "suggest there are more portraits of the Brueghel family, perhaps on the Continent, if we can find them."

Nobody knows exactly when van Dyck began making the prints and/or preparatory drawings for 'Icones ...' (first published 1635/6), but it is generally accepted that it was after his return from Italy in 1626 or 1627, and that much of it (particularly the group of ?15, including Jan & Pieter Brueghel, whose plates he worked on himself) was complete by the time he left for England in April 1632. There are no known sketches for the Brueghel brothers etchings, and may never have been. Pieter was alive and may have been taken from life; but since Jan had died in January 1625, and van Dyck hadn't been in Flanders since 1621, it is clear that the portrait was posthumous. It was either from memory, or based on a much earlier portrait or sketch that he presumably aged up - possibly the younger-looking portrait now in the in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, though that is usually considered a copy after a lost original by van Dyck or Rubens. So even the *original* version of the image you seek to make comparisons with is somewhat unreliable as a true image of Jan Brueghel.

Osmund Bullock,

I am wrong - there *was* a preliminary sketch of Pieter Brueghel II for the 'Icongraphy' etching, and it's in the Hermitage today. See http://bit.ly/2yN7AFc

Howard Jones,

Osmund there is a second drawing of Pieter, said to have been made in connection with Iconography, in the collection of Chatsworth House.

I do agree that the etchings of his brother linked to Van Dyck could have been based on an earlier painting by a different artist, as Jan had died in January 1625 (Wiki).

I must also disagree that the 1846 Italian engraving is linked to the British Museum prints you refer to above . The clothes are different andJan is shown with a full beard.

It is interesting to note that in this engraving Jan is shown with a drooping lower lid in his left eye, this is a feature shared by the man in our Apsley man.

I would also suggest that the two prints from your link to the British Museum, which are based on a self portrait by Jan, appear to closely resemble in several ways the Ruben's Apsley portrait. I think the links you provided above might with hindsight be regarded as a tipping point in the search for the correct identity of the Ruben's Old Man of Apsley House.

(I noted earlier that the engraving on the Italian eBay site dated from 1824, it should have said 1846.)

I am definitely encouraged by the British Museum prints to believe that the Apsley portrait will prove to be a painting by Ruben's of Jan Brueghel the Elder )

Osmund Bullock,

I completely agree, as I have done all along, with Tim Williams and Neil Jeffares that the resemblance between our sitter and any image we have of either of the Brueghel brothers is not sufficient to suggest a match – apart from anything else the huge difference in beard shape and length seems an insurmountable problem for both; nor do we have the slightest evidence that there was ever a portrait of either of them by Rubens**.

Howard, there is indeed an associated drawing (more in profile) mentioned by the BM of Pieter II by van Dyck at Chatsworth – having found the drawing that *directly* relates to his engraving of Pieter at the Hermitage, I didn't think it would add much to the discussion. But it is a bit more detailed as a portrait, perhaps, so here it is if you think it might help your case: http://bit.ly/2zRNMAK

I disagree with the BM’s curatorial comment re their 1858 woodcut illustration ( http://bit.ly/2xpazSQ ); a C19th mass-market art encyclopaedia like Cassell's "Art Treasures Exhibition" is hardly a source to be taken seriously as evidence of a lost self-portrait by Jan Brueghel – as far as I know he didn’t paint *any* portraits. RKD have an image of yet another closely-related woodcut ( http://bit.ly/2izQ8jy ), and at the bottom of the page they note that it is “artistically related” to the van Dyck etching. I have no trouble at all in seeing the development of the van Dyck etching into a host of degraded images to be found in illustrated books from the early C18th onwards. An identical process can be seen with hundreds of portraits of different notables – try a Google Images search for, say, Galileo; the clothing that some engraver or lithographer put on his generic image for a book two hundred years later is irrelevant.

[**The BM curator comments on the van Dyck 1st state etching of Jan Brueghel (http://bit.ly/2gCkCx4 ) suggesting that the Bavarian State Paintings Collection (exact location unknown) portrait of Jan might be a copy after Rubens appears to be erroneous; I can find no support for that idea, and van Dyck (or after) seems far more likely – not least because it does look like it’s the source for his etching (in reverse, of course). RKD does not even mention Rubens as a possible attribution for it, past or present – the date they give (c.1628-1632) suggests that van Dyck painted it (or its original) at the same time as he made the etching, i.e.that both are posthumous. See http://bit.ly/2zFcPGh ]

Osmund Bullock,

I know that none of this, nor any of my previous posts, however logically and carefully argued, cuts much ice with the Brueghelites, so it is time for me to bow out. I will leave you with a composite of heads from relevant portraits (attached) – just for fun I’ve flipped the images of the two etchings so they match the probable/certain source portraits.

This observer actually *wasn’t* confused by the angle of the sitter's head in the Courtauld family group, because very early on he took the trouble to isolate and rotate it, as in the composite. Some of the physiology in that one should be treated with caution – I suspect the lower right eye & ear (as we see it) came about from the artist’s tilting of the head to the left. And I will add that if it were not for a secure provenance going back to the artist’s immediate family, I might agree that the portrait of the man in the Courtauld group looks more like Pieter than Jan. But it cannot be – and bear in mind that two different, highly creative artists were involved, not photographers.

1 attachment
Tim Williams,

Osmund - I think you mean Tim Llewellyn! I've not commented, but you have not misrepresented my thoughts. For me, the only way forward with this picture is backward... attempt tracing the provenance further (possibly impossible, and costly) or uncover the pendant, which is surely possible to find given the status of the previous known owner.

Howard Jones,

Osmund the composite picture you set out above give a very clear representation of the faces. The painting and etching of Jan on the right side match so closely that they might both have been copied from the same earlier original painting. As you note it is likely Jan Brueghel had died a few years before Van Dyck started work on his etchings.

The portraiture of the Brueghel brothers and the Apsley gent has proven to be unusually difficult for everyone, and there may still be some way to go before anyone can be certain of the outcome.

Osmund Bullock,

I'm so sorry, Tims (both of you!) - yes, of course I meant Tim Llewellyn. Incidentally, my withdrawal from proceedings is to do with being exhausted by dealing with the (in my opinion) untenable Brueghel idea, not a sign of disapproval at attempts to find *any* sitter. The efforts, especially by Malcolm, to find a provenance have been commendable; but even if this portrait (and/or its pair) were to be identified in or en route to Spain, I fear the chances of it having a name attached to it are vanishingly small. Good luck, anyway.

Jacinto Regalado,

Our man might perhaps be Pieter, but not Jan Brueghel. The eyes of the latter in both the Rubens and van Dyck portraits are similar to each other but clearly different from the sharper, livelier and more cunning eyes of the Apsley portrait.

Malcolm Fowles,

If the portrait was in Spain before the Royal Collection, it is likely to be in Burke and Cherry's comprehensive "Inventories". However, searching these with the limited facilities provided by Google Books is proving to be one hell of a task. At present, I don't know else is looking, because it might be an idea to divide the work up, and find out who has access to a paper copy.

I agree with Osmund about the low probability of a name. I suppose we might get lucky if (a) we find the pendant (as I now know I should have called the one :-) and (b) they are closer to a Brueghel. However I think that the collection would be pleased even with more provenance.

Howard Jones,

A copy of the 1846 Jan Brueghel engraving can be viewed at;

eBay 121976376750

It may not add much although it does show him as a younger man with a full beard.

Osmund Bullock provides a linkj (see above) for an engraving of Jan, picture 5/15, on the British Museum digital gallery site and printed by Cassell's. There is similar print of at Alte Pinakatothek, Munich.

It might seem schematic but it includes some details worth checking. The first are the eyes which look suitably fierce and more in keeping with our Apsley man. The second feature of note is the shape of the nose. It is quite large and angular and with a distinctive change of angle by the bridge.

If we look carefully at Ruben's Apsley portrait the same step change can be seen where it flattens at the bridge.

Although the eyes in the Van Dyck etchings of Jan might look less lively and 'cunning' in almost all the pictures linked to him he is shown glancing from the corner of his eyes. The eyes for the Courtauld's 'Jan' are very different but I still think that their man in a black hat is the brother Pieter, and that the early records which say otherwise are incorrect.

Malcolm Fowles,

If any of you or your friends are into wills and sales, you might look for some kind of transfer of a pair of head portraits from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_de_Silva,_12th_Duke_of_Alba to the Spanish crown, between 1772 (more likely 1776) and 1787. 1772 is the last royal inventory without the pair, 1787 the first record with them, and 1776 is when Fernando died.

What follows is a bit of a wild deduction, but at least it shows that Fernando has a slightly higher probability of owning the portraits than your average José. Slightly.

Fernando inherited the Marquisate of El Carpio after the de Haro line (its founding family) ran out of direct descendants. Luis de Haro (d. 1661) "had played a key role in acquiring paintings for Philip IV [from Rubens' estate] managing in the process to retain many important pieces for his own collection" (Marjorie Wiseman).

Philip only collected large works fit for a king, but to have got the job Luis must have had good negotiating skills and a discerning eye; he probably had rather different personal buying criteria. Our pair of portraits are described as "very fine", and the Art UK photo hints at just how fine even to my untutored eye. A bargain to a connoisseur. (And - tossing some meat to the pack - if they were claimed to be of the Brueghel brothers, well ... :-).

That, along with his date of death, is why I think Fernando is worth a long shot. Also in the time frame would be his immediate successor, María Cayetana de Silva, 13th Duchess of Alba.

Jacinto Regalado,

In the six-image Brueghel composite given by Osmund 2 days ago, all three images of Jan show that the lateral (towards the ear) aspect of his right eyebrow looks "fallen" relative to the medial (towards the nose) half of that brow, and that is not the case in the Apsley portrait. The eyes in the painting of Jan by or after van Dyck look soft and doe-like as in the Cortauld picture, which is definitely not the case in the Apsley picture. One can speculate that the paintings purporting to be of Jan are of Pieter or someone else, but that would have to established better.

Jacinto Regalado,

Note also that in all the images of either Brueghel in Osmund's composite, the ruff or collar is flattened or "relaxed" relative to the ruff in the Apsley picture, which may indicate a difference in expense and thus in status, although I am certainly not qualified to address that properly. Could a period costume expert help?

Jacinto Regalado,

As for that 1846 Italian lithograph of "Giovanni Breughel" on eBay mentioned above, there is no source given on it, only the name of the presumed intermediary draftsman (one Nannini, named at lower left below the image). It comes from a series of similarly framed lithographs depicting famous artists (one of Rubens is eBay 252377994742, apparently after the self-portrait in the Royal Collection, or some version of it).

Jacinto Regalado,

I was mistaken about the print I mentioned in my last comment. It is based on a 1606 print by Aegidius Sadeler after a portrait by Bartholomaeus Spranger of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, here:


This is actually more helpful, because it shows a Pieter II at a younger age than in the van Dyck etching and indicates his eyes were also rather soft, like those of his brother Jan I in the painted portraits of him.

Howard Jones,

Jacinto, the British Museum describe their print as Peter the Younger. Elsewhere it is usually called Peter the Elder while at another site this print is named Jan Bruegehel. This is a good example of the way the names on early portraits can get switched between the Brueghel men.

I think we can rule out Jan for these engravings, but we need to be sure whether the prints show Pieter the Younger or Pieter the Elder.

If the British Museum is correct in confirming that this is Peter the Younger this should be helpful.

In addition there are two different pictures which are said to depict Pieter the Elder. One shows someone who appears to have more prominent brows or eyebrow ridges. The other picture of Pieter the Elder and said to be a self portrait is his delightful drawing known as the 'Artist and the Connisseur'.

Howard Jones,

The portrait of Pieter the Elder mentioned above dates from 1572 was by Dominicus Lampsonius. See


Jacinto's engraving is identified as by the British Museum as Pieter the Younger, Sadeler, 1606. Getty Images identify a similar engraving as Peiter the Elder, while Alamy claim it is Jan Bruegel.

Getty also have a copy of the eBay Bruegel titled as Pieter the Younger when it should say Jan.

Wikimedia Commons appear to have the wrong identification for Jacinto.s engraving, but the Met Museum call it Pieter the Younger agreeing with the British Museum who we think are correct.

Perhaps Alamy and Getty and Wikimedia should check their titles and sources. Alamy at least are asking substantial charges for the image rights. (If Alamy and Getty are correct then the Met and British Museums are both wrong).

Jacinto above questions the origins of the 1846 print of Jan on eBay but while I am not sure it adds much new information regarding his facial features it does appear overall to match up quite well with the Van Dyck etching of Jan the Elder.

If this discussion of the subject of Bruegel portrait engravings seems unduly complicated it is because past misidentifications have made it complicated.

Malcolm Fowles,

Can someone please explain why it is so hard to trace a Rubens portrait (the pendant of ours) when it is supposed (by the writer of the Apsley House catalogue) to have been in Spain until at least 1901, and for all we know may still be there?

Where can one look?

Jacinto Regalado,

Well, if Spain had something like ArtUK or the French Joconde database, that would be very helpful, but I do not think it does.

Malcolm Fowles,

The painting https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/5381/study-head-saint-ambrose is interesting because it is (a) "Head of an old man", by Rubens, (b) oil on panel and (c) 49.60 x 38.10 cm, almost the same as ours - well within framing or cutting margins [the latter to our present oval]. I cannot find its provenance beyond the Scottish National Gallery purchase in 1947.

I sincerely hope it is not our pendant, because if so it seems to offer no clues. Can you help?

Martin Hopkinson,

There are countless oil heads of old men by Rubens or his studio, quite a number of them survive in more than one version, but they are clearly different from portraits . Peter Black of the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, which owns one of them , another oval [but which was clearly cut down from a rectangle] has written an article on them relatively recently- which I will try to locate. Has the National Gallery of Scotland inspected the panel to make sure that this too was originally rectangular?
I myself wonder if he set heads of old men as studio exercises for the young men with whom he worked

The article was published in 2014 in Leon Krempel and Dagmar Hirschfelder, Tronies: Das Gesicht in der fruhen Neuzeit
Certainly some of these heads were 'Tronies'

Malcolm Fowles,

Martin, thank you. The only thing that marks out the NGS study is that its size is so close to ours. In this case, the head was used as St Ambrose in a major work.

If it were to be traced back to our pair, which I doubt, we'd need to question whether ours is indeed a portrait of anyone we could find. Instead he might simply be "man looking surreptitiously sideways" in preparation for another work. He is not in the St Ambrose painting.

Indeed for some time I've tried to remember - not always successfully, because not done systematically - to look for him, whenever my searches have hit a Rubens crowd scene. But realistically, I reckon that scholars would have noticed him long ago.

Jacinto Regalado,

I now question whether the 1606 print by Sadeler (linked above) is really of Pieter II as opposed to Pieter I. The original portrait is credited to Bartholomaeus Spranger (1546-1611), a Flemish painter from Antwerp who left the Low Countries in 1565 and lived elsewhere the rest of his life. He could not have painted the adult Pieter II (born 1569) before leaving Flanders, and I do not know that the latter ever left Flanders. Spranger could have painted or quite possibly drawn Pieter I (born 1525) at around age 40, albeit as a very young artist himself (the print lists Spranger as "inventor," not "pictor," which means he designed the image but did not necessarily paint it). Also, the 1572 engraving of Pieter I linked above by Howard Jones shows identical facial hair and a similarly restrained ruff.

It is true that the formidable British Museum and Rijksmuseum identify the subject as Pieter II, but I know from past experience that errors associated with print information can occur in both institutions (as they can anywhere, especially given such huge holdings). Thus, I am inclined to believe the image in the Sadeler print is a portrait of Pieter the Elder, for what that may be worth.

Jacinto Regalado,

It did occur to me some time ago that the Apsley portrait could conceivably be a type (or Tronie) as opposed to an actual person, but it seems too unspecific or indistinct for that, except as an old man--but he is not "typical" enough for that purpose, being insufficiently "picturesque" as such and rather too characterful or individualized.

For comparison, here are a much more typical Tronies by Rubens (including a classic "old man" type), albeit posing as the Three Magi:


Martin Hopkinson,

The problem as to which studies were simply Tronies, and which were studies for heads in bigger compositions has not yet been sorted out.
There is no doubt that the Apsley House painting is a portrait.

Howard Jones,

There are two pictures of Pieter Bruegel the Elder with claims to be self portraits. For the one we have the engraving in profile of a bearded man dated around 1572. For the second we have the drawing by Pieter Brueghel more widely known as the picture of 'The Artist and the Connoisseur'.

Osmund Bullock in his posting last week refers to Brueghel's Tronie called the Portrait of an Old Woman. See the link above, or try;

the_Elder (Scroll down to MS38)

The face of the old lady in this painting is very distinctive. She has a lively character with a very prominent nose and extraordinarily thin lips.

If we turn to the 'Artist and the Connoisseur' we can't help but note that the Connoisseur has a virtually identical face to the face of the Old Woman of the Tronie.

The only difference is that the Connoisseur is wearing a pince-nez. Perhaps this picture is in part celebrating the acquisition of the new pair of glasses.

I think Bruegel is having one of his jokes here and that for the Connoisseur or Buyer he has chosen to portray one of his favoured models. Is the Connoisseur a man or a woman? I think she is a woman. She has no observable bust but her hands are very small, so perhaps the gender is unclear.

As this face so exactly matches the face of the Old Woman in the Tronie, I believe Bruegel has simply chosen to turn this same old woman into his Connoisseur.

If this drawing also shows a self portrait of the artist then there is chance that this Old Lady might be his Old Lady. This could be his wife. We need to decide whether the man in the picture is Pieter Brueghel representing himself or some fanciful picture of a different artist.

This picture is such a magical piece, full of warmth and humour with the Connoisseur drawn in to become part of the artist's joy in his own work and achievement that I am sure we would like to believe it to be a self portrait.

Malcolm Fowles,

Howard, perhaps this might be straying a bit far from the matter in hand, which is "Who is this man, painted by Rubens?"

With respect, this isn't an investigation into the Brueghels, Pieter the Elder was long dead, and we are assured that we have a portrait not a tronie by Martin Hopkinson, who is an expert.

I am discouraged by lack of progress and too few answered questions.

Howard Jones,

Thank you Malcolm. These portrait are like a jigsaw puzzle. One misidentification can cause wider confusion.

Anyway we may have a new old man to enter the fray, and its another work linked with the Flemish artist Rubens.

The auctioneers Jackson International sold a painting 24th June 2009 called an 'old man' after Rubens. Their report July 14th 2009 says that it made more than the estimated $1000, but the buyer is not named.

The old man looks slightly dishevelled but he also looks familiar. This appears to be an oil painting of the same man who is depicted in Rubens' portait painting named as Pieter Brueghel the Younger at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg;


If the Hermitage Museum Rubens portrays Pieter Brueghel the Jacksons portrait should also represent Pieter the Younger, and once again we have a portrait linked to Pieter Brueghel where there are issues with his left eye.

In the Jacksons painting the pupil of the left eye extends outwards (towards 3 o'clock) to the very edge of the iris. The painter has shown the eye as if this man had a condition known as 'keyhole pupil'.

On going back and checking the eyes of other Brueghel portraits I was surprised to find that the man in the black hat of Courtaulds' family portrait appears to have the left eye represented in a very similar way. Rubens extends a dark shadow across the iris from the centre of the pupil to the outer edge. Or at least it has been painted in this way unless there is a dark mark on the surface of the paint.

While the Jackson and the Hermitage portraits appear to match up closely, there are some features of the man in the Courtauld portrait that do not match so well. Still I believe the Jacksons' painting provides us with a new portrait of Pieter Brueghel.

It might be helpful if someone with a better knowledge of eye conditions could offer an opinion about the way the eyes are being represented in these paintings. More provenance could also be of interest. For the online image search for Jacksons International Auctioneers, Old Masters Rubens etc. or try;


Howard Jones,

Sorry Jacinto the Hermitage painting named Pieter Brueghel isindeed said to be after van Dyck and is the portrait in the link you provide.

Jacksons' painting is described as a 'Rubens' but presumably this means believed to be after Rubens, otherwise it would have sold for more than it did. I do not know what authority they had for this claim, it might relate to some provenance they had. I certainly believe in terms of portraiture that it was painted by a good artist whether or not it is a copy or the artists original work.

Malcolm Fowles,

To help us to narrow our search I have compiled some questions from this discussion to be forwarded to the collection. Some answers may be enhanced by quick non-professional snapshots, whether of the painting as a whole with any associated frame, or of details in close-up.

What exactly does the back of the portrait reveal? Typical clues (found on other works) include the coat-of-arms of a city or an owner, the panel maker's mark, and incised or other permanent lettering.

Is there a frame around the panel? “Yes” means it can be examined for clues to its age and provenance. If it is older than the Battle of Vitoria, it might confirm Spanish, Flemish or other origins.

If there is a frame, how does it relate to the given dimensions of 49.7 x 36.2 cm? Is that the edge of the panel, or of an aperture? This may focus our search for the companion work described in the Wellington catalogue, which may then enlighten us as to the sitters. Some evidence may be similar to that for the next question.

Was this work *originally* produced as an oval? “Yes” would guide us towards typical uses of this format, such as memorials. Detailed evidence might be found in the way the paint relates to the edge of the panel, i.e. some paint beads overlapping the edge; or stopping short of the edge (in an oval, or otherwise?); or a cut through older paint layers to form the edge.

Osmund Bullock,

I'm sorry, I can't restrain myself. On RKD there are two versions of the portrait called "Pieter Brueghel the Younger", the Hermitage one and another: http://bit.ly/2iqYPJ1 & http://bit.ly/2iXa0gO

On both pages the RKD makes the unequivocal statement "All identifications with members of the Brueghel family are totally unsubstantiated". Since the sitter looks *completely* unlike, in every conceivable way, the only reliable image of Pieter II that we have (van Dyck's print and the associated portrait), this would seem to be the only sane conclusion.

The portrait sold at Jacksons International in 2009 ( http://bit.ly/2h7sRVT ) is not uninteresting, but is quite plainly *not* of the same man. It was actually catalogued as "Manner of Sir Peter Paul Rubens", not "after" - a very different thing (or should be). In any case there would have been little point in wasting a second wondering if Jackson's might know more about it, as their level of art expertise / cataloguing skills can be gauged by this portrait they sold recently, described not as "Studio of", not "After", not "Circle of", nor even "Manner of"...but just plain "Peter Paul Rubens" (which should mean a work in their opinion by the artist): http://bit.ly/2gYhPhK

James Fairhead,

This is a fascinating discussion for understanding methodology and its biases, if not for its successes yet. One way forward might be found in an analysis of the works of Rubens that are given in Spanish inventories that was published in 1874 and is to be found at http://www.filosofia.org/rev/reu/1874/pdf/n037p039.pdf
This describes some inventories of the early 17th century, and a sentence caught my eye that, roughly translated, reads:
“This [1636] inventory records only the two portraits made by Rubens, of the Duke of Lerma and the Duke of Mantua.[but] In other inventories of Valladolid, also earlier, there are paintings that, being portraits of the governors of Flanders, could be believed to be by Rubens; but since the artist is not named, it would be foolhardy to suppose it, lacking the record of such canvases of details that authorize such an assumption, always unfounded.”
As this refers to plural portraits, we might suppose that by ‘governors’, was meant those holding high office in Flanders (governing it), rather than the Spanish ‘Governors’ themselves. As Rubens was (correct me if I am wrong), official painter for the Spanish Governors, he presumably painted members of those holding high office in Flanders for much the same reasons that Holbein did when sketching British courtiers a century earlier. There are several portraits extant by Rubens of such Flemish office holders which are surprisingly similar in genre to the portrait under discussion.
Try this one of Henri IV de Vicq, 12th President in the Louvre, the identity of who is known only because an engraving had been made of it. http://cartelfr.louvre.fr/cartelfr/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=8212
Or try this portrait of Jean Charles de Cordes (de Renialme), Lord of Wichelen that is much admired and copied, including via Van Dyke.
To my eye, these are not dissimilar to our portrait, albeit more ‘finished’. Several other great artists of the era seem to have copied these portraits and this exact style, so the analyst of Ruben’s works in Spain was certainly right to be cautious, but he did leave open the possibility and left this clue, so it would be surely be worth considering whether the paintings of Flemish ‘governors’ in the early inventories of 1624 ad 1636 that are not attributed to any artists refer to any named Flemish people.

Howard Jones,

Regarding the Jackson's portrait above. I had only just found this and I am aware that I made certain errors in my comments. Firstly as Osmund notes Jackson,'s described it as in the 'manner of' Rubens and did not say 'after' Rubens. The second important point is that I expect my use of apostrophes was fairly random. The auctioneers should be named Jackson or Jackson's International Auctioneers not Jacksons.

Leaving aside the identity of the man do the Connoisseurs have anyone in mind as the artist who painted this painting. Is it Flemish, Dutch, a copy, a self portrait, or is it original. My main interest is in the identity of the sitter and not in the identification of the artist.

Osmund Bullock above says that the RKD makes the unequivocal statement that all identifications concerning the identification of the Hermitage Pieter Brueghel painting are unsubstantiated.

The problem for art historians is that they do not have expertise in substantiating identities. Presumably they mean it lacks provenance. Can Osmund name one art institution that has ever run a course or even given a lecture on facial recognition (pre digital analysis). For over one hundred years art historians were adamant that ancient Egyptian artist had no interest in capturing individual faces. Now we know that this is incorrect. But because they assumed that Egyptian artists had no interest in portraiture minimal effort went into looking at their sculptures and in checking the faces. The situation for Tudor artwork is much the same.

Art Connoisseurs focus almost exclusively on the identification of the identification of the artist. As a result there is minimal consideration the faces and so they have minimal experience when it comes to checking the identification of the sitter. The situation for Tudor paintings is much the same.

Sometimes the names historically attached to portraits as hopefully with the St Petersburg Brueghel really are correct.

If paintings have known provenance good, but if we discover a picture from the Brueghel family we may still need to know whether it is Jan the Elder, Jan the Younger or Pieter I, II, or III.

If you compare the St Pietersburg painting, the Jackson painting and the van Dyck I believe they do show the same person. An odd feature of the Hermitage painting is that the whiskered moustache on the left side of the face is in a state of collapse. It is portrayed as dropping straight down. If you check the van Dyck etchings at least one the etchings shows whiskers drooping in a similar manner.

The way the eyes and pupils are depicted in the Jackson picture is very odd for a portrait by a someone who had no problems with the rest of the painting. So did this sitter have a problematic eye condition? Did Pieter the Elder have a problematic eye condition? Was Pieter Brueghel's eyesight, as shown in the van Dyck etchings, so poor that he only had clear vision in one eye?

You refer above to a second version of the Hermitage painting. I had not seen this before and I look forward to seeing a clearer colour version if one is available. I note that at the link you provide above it says that the name Jan Brueghel has in the past been linked with the picture as well that of Pieter Brueghel.

Malcolm Fowles,

Thanks a lot James. The de Cordes portrait raises some intriguing possibilities.

Your link is said to be a studio (bottega) copy, at the RMFAB in Brussels https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/fr/la-collection/artist/rubens-peter-paul-1?letter=r&page=2. There it is attributed to Rubens OR Van Dyck. Some interesting notes are added by Lempertz for their sale of a further copy https://www.lempertz.com/en/catalogues/lot/1067-1/1253-anthony-van-dyck-copy-after.html. The original is paired with a portrait of the wife, Jacqueline, who married in 1617 and died 6 months later. Van Dyck was admitted to the Guild of St Luke in Feb 1618, so he may still have been Rubens' "best pupil" when the portraits were begun.

The finished work is in Warsaw, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rubens_Jean_Charles_de_Cordes.jpg, and is attributed only to Van Dyck. From the online image, I think it inferior, but then I know nothing!

What really matters here is the streaky imprimatura of the Brussels picture, as shared by our own man. This is supposedly classic Rubens, and underpins our man's attribution to him. What if ...

... Our man is but a studio copy, or a preparatory study?

... Our man is by Van Dyck, when he was with Rubens?

... Our man is cut down from a larger work like the de Cordes, perhaps due to damage (in the baggage train at Vitoria as previously hypothesised)? ...

... and if so, the relationship between our portrait and the 1787/94 Madrid pair may be a false deduction. How un/likely is this?

It does make my recent question about the edge of the board more pressing.

Howard Jones,

Concerning the link to the Jackson painting. if you search with Google using... 'Jackson's International Auctioneers lot 0249 manner Peter Paul Rubens' the relevant link comes up top of the first page for me. Otherwise try the same only with lot 249 (instead of 0249) for a Google image search.

The site should show also show the back of the painting which is worth checking. Someone has taken considerable care with the reverse side of this painting.

Howard Jones,

The Jackson painting was sold as an oil painting on panel but there are vertical striations on the cheeks and horizontal ridges high on the forehead. Are these caused by the underlying grain in the wood or is this why it was described as being in the manner of Rubens?

The way the eyebrows are painted looks unusual and distinctive. Did any of the known Flemish artists use this sort of technique.?

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, I gave the direct link to the Jackson's portrait in my post. Here it is again: http://bit.ly/2h7sRVT

Many serious dealers and art historians are extremely experienced in comparing faces, and have spent long professional lives doing so. It's an integral part of research into portraits. I would have thought the post two weeks ago by Neil Jeffares, in which he described an unsuccessful project with Carnegie Mellon University to apply forensic photographic analysis to 18th century portraiture, might have given you an inkling as to how seriously the matter of facial comparisons is taken by those researching portraits. Neil knows a hundred times what I know about the identification of portraits, and - dare I say it - probably even more than you. But if you are convinced otherwise, there is really nothing more to say.

Malcolm Fowles,

Indeed, nothing more to say. Howard, perhaps your methodology would be better suited to an investigation where there is photographic evidence, or place recognition is involved? You'll find plenty in the Discussions. Every artist distorts their sitter, and that doesn't fit well with what you do.

Howard Jones,

If we could focus on known details concerning these paintings it might help. Do the striations on the Jackson portrait indicate a link to Rubens and his followers? Was the style of wooden lattice on the reverse used for any other Flemish artwork?

Concerning the doubts of Osmund and Malcolm. I am familiar with the work of Simon Abrahams and his theorey that every painter paints himself (EPPH). But while there might be a few extreme examples where artistic fashion and EPPH influences impose a uniform look, (as perhaps with some of the portraits by Peter Lely ) it is clearly an exaggeration to claim that little or no semblance of the appearance and character of individual sitter ever remain. It is just silly.

Osmund's link above or; :http://bit.ly/2h7sRVT allows close up views of the paintwork. In addition another zoom facility is available via the Jackson's internet site.

I think there has been substantial progress relating to the portraiture and images of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, but to solve the riddle of the Art Detective man we either need more regarding Jan Brueghel's portraiture, or irrefutable proof for the painting's true provenance. Such information should either rule the Brueghel family in or out.

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, the wooden lattice on the back of the Jackson's portrait is called 'cradling', and has nothing to do with the artist or the painting's early history. It was a technique used by C18th, 19th & early C20th restorers (or cabinet makers working under them) to try and support previously warped, but now flattened panel paintings, and the repairs that had been done to their structure. More sophisticated and flexible forms are still used today, but this sort of rigid or semi-rigid latticework - almost universal in the C19th and common up to WWII - has long been discredited as causing more (and serious) long-term problems than it solves.

It is of course much more complicated than that. Not really relevant to the discussion of our painting, but this excellent and detailed Getty publication on the history of the structural conservation of panel paintings may give you (as it did me) an inkling of just how much both you and I do *not* know about the complexities of art historical research : http://bit.ly/2j1FuSU

The first step to knowledge is the recognition of one's lack of it.

Malcolm Fowles,

Following up the possibility that our man is cut down from a original portrait similar to that of de Cordes, as identifed by James Fairhead above.

We are given the dimensions of the paintings to the nearest millimetre. We know the exact pixel dimensions of the images. I have measured the exact pixel dimensions of both heads (tallest and widest extent including hair and beard) using Photoshop. Applying the ratio of head to painting, my results are:

Head of our man: 26.1 cm high, 19.1 cm wide

Head of de Cordes: 26.7 cm high, 18.5 cm wide. He's got bouffant hair.

The hypothesis is definitely not ruled out. It is worth looking for a cut edge. And for "those holding high office in Flanders", especially those denoted Whereabouts Unknown in the catalogue.

That said, what do we know of the standards for sizing portrait heads in Rubens' workshop? Were they the same no matter what size of support?

Howard Jones,

Thank you Osmund for your note on the wooden lattice work on the reverse of the Jackson painting. We just need to identify two artists for the Jackson and Hermitage portraits.

The Jackson painting was described as in the manner of Rubens and some of the tips mentioned by Bendor Grosvenor on the 'Missing Masterpieces' investigation of the Duke of Buckingham painting appear to support this.

There may be little written provenance for the Hermitage 'Pieter Brueghel' painting, but perhaps someone else thought it looked like Pieter the Younger or the name could have been passed down by word of mouth.

The Hermitage painting is described as being after or in the style of van Dyck. Does anyone else think this is fare comment or do better informed art historians believe that this claim might also be imaginary.

Jacinto Regalado above has revised his opinion that the series of engravings generally identified as Pieter Brueghel the Elder. He had previously sugested these engravings portray Pieter the Younger but in later note he proposes that the correct identification is with the father Pieter the Elder.

I agree with Jacinto and do not now consider that these engraving should be regarded as portraits of Pieter the Younger as a younger man.

I know Osmund et al question the relevance of comparative portraiture but I still believe establishing the correct identification for the various portraits of the Brueghel brothers is of critical importance. As I note above incorrect identifications can have a knock on effect.

Malcolm Fowles,

I may have answered my own question about Rubens' standard portrait head size. It is "life size".

In a study whsoe results are in https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HeadAnthropometry.JPG, male heads vary from 21.2 to 25.5 cm, median 23.2 cm. That's without the beard and with a headboard, accounting for the extra inch on my measurements.

To check, I used the same approach with the (posthumous) portrait of Philippe Rubens and the Scottish trony for St Ambrose. Both match. I suspect a measuring stick!

This explains why our man looks a bit cramped on his smaller panel. It also devalues the hypothesis above, but does not refute it.

William Heap,

More intrigue for us from the recently published Spanish royal inventories. Please see p.225 of El Inventario del Alcazar de Madrid de 1666 (2015) attached. This shows the portrait in royal inventories since at least 1686.

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Malcolm Fowles,

Well done indeed. Clearly we haven't found him earlier because he was attributed to Van Dyck (Bandiq[ue] to the Spanish) for about a century. It may now be possible to trace him back to Rubens.

First place to look is the list of paintings by other artists in Rubens' effects. But he's probably one of the "multitude".

Jacinto Regalado,

A note of caution: the footnote (1) in the link provided by William Heap says this picture was among those captured from the baggage of Joseph Bonaparte, and that it came from the Spanish royal collection, but that doubts remain as to whether or not it is the same piece listed in the inventory of 1666.

Malcolm Fowles,

Yes, Jacinto, there are several discontinuities, although most sit alongside other continuities.

The core records that fit our picture are those from 1734 to 1794, always a head portrait, half a vara high by a third wide. The 1734 work had been rescued from a fire. The preceding 1703 record matches height and width.

The records of 1686 (not 1666), 1701 & 1703 are of a group of four head paintings, half a vara high, but the first two give widths of "tres quartas". I don't recognise quartas as a unit of length, but it may of course be today's "cuartos" (quarters). If so, it matches (roughly) if the meaning is 3/4 of the height, but not 3/4 of a vara.

We may surmise that three of the four were lost in the fire. However, we must also bear in mind an alternative: that ours was cut down from a larger fire-damaged work, nothing to do with the three earlier records.

The records from 1808 onwards, especially those after Wellington's rescue of the painting, do not make much sense. It is hard to see why they are included in the list. Perhaps they were left unaccounted for and this seemed like the best place to put them.

Nowhere, as far as I can see, is there mention of an oval. We also have to admit the possibility that it came later, after Wellington had it, and again might be from a larger work. One source says that paintings had been abused in Bonaparte's baggage train, though the example given is that they were used to protect the donkeys, which suggests canvases more than panels.

Malcolm Fowles,

There is an additional discrepancy in the 1772 record. It speaks of a pair of paintings, but, unlike Cumberland's "two heads of old men" in 1787 - not in the Spanish Inventories, but more detailed and thence a bit more reliable - one of them is a boy and one a "Baron" (nobleman?). What evidence is there in our painting of rank? I wonder if 1772 is looking at a different pair.

Also, as from 1686 to 1703, the 1772 pair is "apparently" by Van Dyck, whereas earlier and later records say Rubens.

Furthermore, the 1794 record of a pair of heads matches ours in dimensions, but its valuation is 1500 against 600 in the record we were using. So it may be a different inventory entry, or the one we found earlier is an incorrect transcription (it is typewritten).

This is as bad as family history!

William Heap,

I believe that Cumberland was possibly referring to this pair of "two heads of old men" actually by Van Dyck (see attached). These were previously attributed to Rubens in the Spanish royal inventories.

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Andrea Kollmann,

If these really are the two paintings Cumberland refers to, it would explain why we can’t find a pendant to our portrait and also why they were in the Prince’s bedchamber in 1794. According to Cumberland, this room was decorated with 21 paintings, 19 depicting saints or biblical events, the other two were the two head studies by Rubens; I had wondered how our man fit in there. But in the 1794 inventories posted by William, they are described as “Cavezas de Apostolos”, so that makes sense now.
Evelyn Wellington’s catalogue also reprints the “Catalogue of the principal pictures found in the baggage train of Joseph Bonaparte (p24 in the pdf).
No.140 Old Man’s Head / artist “uncertain” is our portrait. So back to the inventories …

Malcolm Fowles,

The provenance of William's p-209 says "The work has sometimes been attributed to Rubens. Interestingly, it was believed to be his property until 1640, when it was acquired in his auction for Philip IV[2]."

Reference [2] is simply "Diaz Padron (1995), p. 466". If this has a list of what was acquired from Ruben's estate auction, it is important to us.

Probably "El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: Catálogo razonado de pintura flamenca del siglo XVII", 1 Jan 1995
by Matías Díaz Padrón. Volumes 1 & 2 in print, but also a CD version apparently available in English. Does anyone here have access to any version?

Malcolm Fowles,

I have found this new alternative pair in the typed transcription of the 1794 inventory: http://bit.ly/2xStRCT [This takes you to a small page with a further link to the pdf, which - be warned - is huge.]

It is on book page 58, pdf page 64, and says 14001-14002 (73-78)
Media vara de alto y tercia di ancho = Dos cabezas = 1500.

Nothing here about a man and a boy, but the internal reference 73 presumably ties it to the 1772 inventory - and also to the 1811, in which it is alone.

The collection may wish to contact the authors of the new Spanish catalogue raisonné about whether to change the Apsley House catalogue reference to 14001 from 13612, which seems to have been responsible for a massive sidetrack in this investigation.

Are we now to look for records of Rubens or Van Dyck having painted heads of a (possible) nobleman and a boy, as a pair? I don't understand how the 1772 inventory could say Baron, a lower Spanish noble rank, unless the identity was known. There's no clue in the present picture. The title does support James' proposal that this might be someone high up in the administration of Flanders.

Malcolm Fowles,

Of the later inventory entries.

1808, no internal reference, French "une de vieillard, courant". The old man is not 'running', he is 'ordinary'. Tenuous evidence to say the least.

1811, ref 73, Spanish, translates to "A small picture with a man's head. Velasquez." !!

[1813. Wellington intercepts the baggage train after 21 June. He offers to restore the artworks, but the Spanish king declines, appreciating the delicacy and honour of the offer, as keeping spoils of war was normal practice.]

1814, ref 73, Spanish. "Another panel of equal size to the previous portrait of a man, apparently of a clown, of less than half-length. [Rubens]". No reference to which previous portrait; how annoying. Presumably the ruff made him a clown. My previous research here suggests that "less than half-length" and "head" are normally distinct.

1818, ref 43, Spanish. Note of the pictures that have been missing from the Royal Palace of Madrid ... Other: on canvas, two feet high, one and a half wide: A head of a man 'con gor.': "gor" is doubtless short for 'gorguera', a ruff or gorget. The reference and the support don't match, the dimensions are over 5 cm too big. Tenuous, as there were plenty of "men with ruff" in the royal collection.

Malcolm Fowles,

Looking for who was high up in Rubens' Antwerp, one meets Nicolaas Rockox, whose portraits we have already found, and ruled him out. But there's also a new name - Schetz - and I think it worth some research. You might start from http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Schetz for want of something better at the moment.

Three brothers would have been around the right age for our man, very powerful, and bearing noble titles including Baron and Count, conferred by the Spanish king. They are:

Conrad III Schetz (1553-1632), banker to the Spanish monarch, sometime ambassador to England, Baron Hoboken, later a count. 1620 portrait age 67-72.

Nicholas Melchior Schetz (1551-1626), Baron of Wesemael, Lord of Heyst. Portrait age 69-74.

Anthonie II Schetz (1564-1640), 1st Count of Grobbendonk (1637). Portrait age 56-61. There's an engraved portrait that looks not a lot like our man, but we know how the quality of engravings can vary.

The family tree includes a few Spanish marriages. There is also an online connection between the Rubens and Schetz names, but don't get your hopes up. The Rubenshuis website has an imagined article http://www.rubenshuis.be/en/page/constantia-rubens by Rubens' daughter Constantia, written from her convent. It includes the arrival of a new abbess, Claire Schetz.

The article is presumably based on Rubenshuis archives, and if we are ever to find our man, that seems the likeliest place to do it.

Feel free to run with this.

Malcolm Fowles,

On reflection, Conrad Schetz makes sense of some context, even if we hadn't seen "Baron" in an inventory.

There's a compelling reason for Philip IV to acquire the painting. As its banker, Spain must have owed Schetz big time, in both senses. Added to which, the royal court would have known him personally.

Schetz provides the best possible contacts for Rubens' entry into several aspects of his career: diplomatic missions; visits to Madrid; visits to London culminating in the Banqueting House commission.

Somewhere in these past few weeks, I've read (but can't find again!) that Rubens tended to paint only his close circle and royalty personally, leaving his workshop to do much of the rest. Our portrait is intimate, and Rubens seems to have kept it for life. So if there is evidence of Schetz being a mentor and sponsor, it would be something of a clincher for me, the first rung below documentation of the work itself.

James Fairhead,

Thanks, Malcolm. What progress in a day, and closing in, I would hazard. This may turn on Nicholas II Rockox (1560-1640) who was a friend and legendary patron of Rubens (you get the picture from his wiki site: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaas_II_Rockox ) and who was painted many times by Rubens and his studio, including this masterpiece https://www.flickr.com/photos/menesje/37384572996 . As you will see from the Rockox family tree at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockox_family , Nicholas’s father was Adriaan II Rockox (who died so young that Nicholas hardly knew) but his father’s sister Adriana Rockox (a) married Lancelot II of Ursel (a contender for our man?), who was Lord mayor of Antwerp, and (b) adopted her Nephew, bingo, Conrad III Schetz (1553-1632).
BUT I think that it is quite possible that our portrait is actually a late Rubens portrait of Nicholas Rockox himself, and thinking romantically, might suggest that was even painted whilst sitting alongside Van Dyke whilst he, too, was also painting a circular portrait of Rockox. https://www.frick.org/exhibitions/van_dyck/55
(One wonders about funerary monuments that Malcolm suggested....)

Malcolm Fowles,

Thanks James. I ruled out Nicolaas Rockox because of his brow shape, which is generally a stable feature and something that good portraitists MUST get right. Compare the two and see what you think. I also don't see anything in him to match the contextual reasons given above.

If our man was known as a Baron in 1771, we either have to take it at face value or look for other evidence either way.

Lancelot II of Ursel died in 1573. Lancelot II Scetz was the son of Anthonie (see above) and would be too young.

Malcolm Fowles,

Trying to explain this to someone, I've discovered one shouldn't try to say "Schetz sketch". Or vice versa :-)

James Fairhead,

Deanna Lloyd (above) suggested Rockox on the basis of a 1620s painting. You rejected him on the basis of the Philadelphia painting (identified by the museum only perhaps as Rockox, and in my view is probably not) and on the basis of an earlier triptych. Jacinto Regalato rejected Rockox on the basis of a 1615 and 1620 portraits. You asked for a frontal portrait of Rockox. As it happens there are two, and both by Van Dyke (a drawing in the Royal collection, https://www.frick.org/exhibitions/van_dyck/54 and a circular grisaille https://www.frick.org/exhibitions/van_dyck/55 as part of the Frick collection. These were drawn and painted in 1636, when Rockox was much older. This is the picture that warrants comparison with our portrait and in my view they are definitive. The eyebrows in the drawing are perfect. Indeed, in my view the two artists, Van Dyke and Rubens were indeed working together at the same time on this. To show this, I have tried to use a clever tool that turns portraits into 3d images that can then be turned. http://cvl-demos.cs.nott.ac.uk/vrn/ . A bit of a gimmick but interesting no less. There are 5 comparison photos attached.

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Malcolm Fowles,

Trust the drawing, it is the direct record. Van Dyke has put sadness into the grisaille and taken out the stern pride, intentionally or not.

I'm not seeing what you are. I see slopes and distinct peaks in the brows. The mouth line is different. The antihelical fold of the ear is less prominent. A substantial curve of eyelid is visible below the brow fold, whereas (unusually) it is virtually hidden in our man. Either one of the artists is a rubbish portraitist or it isn't Rockox.

As I've said before, you can rule someone out from a portrait but you can never rule them in. So I refuse to reprise the Howard vs. The People argument. This has to be done by documentary evidence.

Howard Jones,

If 3-D rotation can be used on this painting it might provide a new perspective for Ruben's Apsley House portrait. But an alternative approach which might also help would be to try to find a modern lookalike for this man.

If we can find a close match with someone for whom we have photos it should provide a useful guide. I already have a lookalike in mind but perhaps someone else would like to hazard a first guess for a modern doppelganger.

If the 3-D rotation process provided by James Fairhead's link is successful there are many additional historical paintings for which this digital process could be helpful. The system might even help reveal the correct identity for several of Hans Holbein's Tudor drawings for which the identity of the sitter is still in dispute.

Jacinto Regalado,

I do not buy the Apsley man as Rockox. He gives off quite a different "vibe," so to speak--less complex, less "spiritual" and more narrowly focused, such as on money.

Jacinto Regalado,

What I meant to say is that the Apsley man strikes me as less soulful than Rockox, for whatever that may be worth.

Howard Jones,

Can anypne explain the Apsley man's upper lip? He appears to lack a philtrum the grove at the centre pf the top lip. Only one side of what is normally a two sided ridge is shown. Was the portrait unfinished?

Malcolm Fowles,

The explanation is that this is not photography. Our artist was a great painter and knew how to suggest with shadows and lost edges. Any other artist would know what this means. If only I could do a tenth of what he did!

Can we turn our attention to documentary evidence please? Facial recognition speculation did not, does not and will not get anywhere beyond ruling comparisons out. In my opinion only, it is worse than that here: overwhelming serious investigation (see how far we got when it went quiet), putting contributors off (many of our best people are conspicuously absent), and going against the evidence-based ethos of Art Detectives which we sign up to.

If I hear no support, I'll pack this one in, or get thrown out, but I think it needed saying.

James Fairhead,

I agree, Malcolm. Got a little carried away with Rockox images. That these had not been consulted, his proximity to others close to Rubens circle and their similarity was tempting. But basically I'm a documentation sleuth too. Have been tracking Spanish inventories of 1620s to 1640s. Did you access the work by Padrón you sought? Answer may be found there. Schetz is clearly interesting. One point though, there are texts in 17th and 18th century that refer to Rockox, who was knighted, as 'Heer' which is easily translated as 'Lord' into English. When the Churchwardens of St. Jacobs petitioned the executors of Rockox's estate to pay for his chapel, the wardens referred to him as 'the very noble lord, Nicholaas Rockox, knight' (Muller, J St. Jacob's Antwerp, 98), and one engraving at least refers to him as the 'most noble and serene Heer Nicolaas Rockox. https://archive.org/stream/rubens01roos#page/n199/mode/2up/search/noble+and+serene
It is thus not entirely inconsistent that a Spanish inventory might have referred to him as Baron in 1771.

Howard Jones,

I will return to the question of appearances at a later date. This note refers to a possible lost painting of Jan.

One of the engravings in the series of prints provided by Osmund Bullock's British Museum link : http://bit.ly/2i57ZuX shows a triple portrait with Frans Snyder, Jan Brueghel and a third artist.

The engraver reproduces not just the portraits but also the outlines of the three different paintings being copied, and it is clearly shown that the Jan Brueghel picture was an oval painting.

The much later Cassells' engraving shows the same portrait but adds that the portrait was by Brueghel (although it looks like the style of van Dyck). This later engraving suggests the oval painting of Jan Brueghel might have survived to a later date.

So a missing painting of Jan Brueghel should be the oval portrait copied for the engravings made in the 18th and 19th Centuries

William Heap,

Malcolm, I have checked Padron, 1995 p.466.
According to Padron, the Van Dyck head of an old man (now Museo del Prado 1791) was acquired by Felipe IV. It came directly from the Rubens auction with other portraits on canvas and panel.

"Une quantité des visages au vifs, sur toile et fonds de bois, tant de Mons. Rubens que de Monsr. Van Dyck"

He cites Denucé, 1932 p.70

Malcolm Fowles,

Unfortunately Denucé, 1932 p.70 is yet another copy of the Jan van Meurs auction specification (Een menigte van Tronien of Koppen ...). It sets the Dutch and French texts side by side, which is helpful, but no sign of what Felipe bought.

That the king acquired two tronies now in the Prado is actually bad news for us. I had been thinking that such insignificant works (in terms of size & genre as viewed at the time) would have to mean something, e.g. a known Spanish noble. But as it is we must ask again why ours is a portrait rather than a tronie.

Martin (Hopkinson), I wonder if you could explain a little deeper why you said this is a portrait (and hence recognisable to some viewers) rather than just any old bloke from the Antwerp street?

Martin Hopkinson,

More a feeling than any proof. What we need is the view of experts on tronjes

Malcolm Fowles,

Funny, I was just composing the email. There is a good test. The Corpus Rubenianum has not yet published on Study Heads or Portraits of Unidentified Sitters, but we know who the authors are. The question is easy: "Which volume will study the work - or is that in itself an interesting question?"

Howard Jones,

There is an alternative photo of the Apsley portraiton a Pinterest site which shows the painting within its frame.

To one side is the number 1570. Under the portrait I think it says Head of an Old Man Peter Paul Rubens and then some words I can not read on this screen.Within its frame the mans head is tilted to one side.

I do not have a link but if you image search...'Peter Paul Rubens painting Apsley House Old Man Kunts Fur Alle' and scroll down you should find the portrait in its silver frame.

Howard Jones,

Sorry, word blindness long time issue.

Osmund Bullock,

OK, Howard, one last try.

The three portraits of Frans Snyders, Jan Brueghel I and Cornelis Schut in the BM print you draw attention to are in a book - page 350 of Vol I of Weyerman's 1729 "Levens-Beschryvingen ... " ('Life Descriptions ...') of Dutch Artists. They are book illustrations, they are not accurate portraits - all three are loosely copied from van Dyck's portraits of the same three men for 'Icones Principum Virorum...', but in reverse (as is common) and cropped to head-and-shoulders. 'Icones' was first published in 1635/6, nearly a century before Weyerman's book, and with many later editions. See attachment 1 for a comparison – I have flipped the three 'Icones' portraits (from a later edition) so you can see more easily how they relate to the 'Levens' ones.

The portraits in 'Icones' are much more accurate (a) because it is just a book of portraits (there is no text), (b) because they were made or worked on by van Dyck himself, and (c) because the sitters were either still alive or not long dead. 94 years later no-one living had known them personally or much cared exactly what they looked like – a general resemblance was enough for illustrations in a huge, multi-volume encyclopedic work, especially as the images are very small. The important thing was the text – Jan Brueghel’s biography is nearly three pages long. The shapes of the portraits are fanciful – the engraver has just played around with the imagery to make a more interesting visual composition, turning the etchings into imaginary framed portraits, and with their varying sizes making a statement about the artists' relative importance. The original Jan Brueghel portrait was not oval, any more than the original Schut portrait was round or the Snyders octagonal; nor were they of different sizes. Equally the engraver did not have a small half-naked boy posing in his workshop at the end of a pulley rope attached to the top of Snyders' portrait.

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Jacinto Regalado,

The Apsley picture is not "typical" or generic enough for a tronie, or not a stereotype, but it is highly individualized and seems quite specific, as would be the case with a portrait of an actual person. Of course that is not proof, but it is decidedly my opinion.

Malcolm Fowles,

Thanks Martin and Jacinto. Your intuitions will be helpful if the Rubenianum engages with us. I have minuscule experience compared to you, so I tend more towards logic.

I could accept this as a study head, because a portrait looking aside is very unusual, although I have seen a couple of others in these searches. If it were a study, it would more likely be for a specific composition than a type, because it doesn't have the latter's contrived feel to it. Any painting would at present have to be "whereabouts unknown", because so far none of us has remembered or found this pose in a larger Rubens.

However, a portrait is more likely: not only because of its immediacy, but also because it resembles others that we know. The posthumous portrait of Philippe Rubens shares exactly this background and clothing. My guess would be a fur wrap kept as a prop in the workshop to keep sitters alive in a Flanders winter c. 1620. The Brussels portrait of De Cordes discussed above is similar. I guess more will come to mind

Martin Hopkinson,

A head looking sideways might suggest the existence of a pair, of course - but I doubt it

Howard Jones,

Hello Osmund et al. Last night I found another portrait of Jan Brueghel at the Musees Royaux Beaux Arts Belgique.

It is not an engraving but a Bronze Head by the sculpture Pierre Donion. There is just one photo from directly in front which could be clearer. Yes I believe on first sight that the portrait is taken from the van Dyck etchings, but it should provide us with this artist impression of the face in 3-D.

If you wish to check it image search for; 'Musees Royaux Beaux-Arts Belgique Jan Brueghel Pierre Dunion inv 3155'.

There is also a head of David Teniers le Jeune by the same artist.

Regarding the engravings you show above. For the van Dyck etching Jan the Elder is shown wearing a buttoned tunic. In the other three prints which include the Houbraken and Cassell's the images are shown with a cloak and so do not have buttons. The faces in these three engravings are basically very similar. They are also similar to the etchings. I will check again if Osmund is correct.

I still believe that Jan Brueghel as depicted in the van Dyck etchings is the closest facial resemblance we have found so far with the Apsley Ruben's, but the match is not so close that we can be 90 % certain. Whether the later engravings are accurate or not does not affect this probability much as van Dyck's etchings presumably provide a good guide. I will check the attachment you give for the 1729 illustrations more carefully as I only looked at it briefly.

If anyone can provide profile photos of the Pierre Donion's Bronze Head it could be helpful to see this artist's 3-D impression of the way Jan Brueghel looked. It might not be the most detailed portrait but the angle of the forehead and the shape of the nose should at least be clear in a photo showing the profile.

James Fairhead above suggests that the download from Nottingham which attempts a 3-D rotation for portraits might just be a gimmick. There are plenty of other portraits on which this can be tried and tested so I will try to check to see how well it works for portraits by Holbein and others.

Jacinto Regalado,

Malcolm, while it would flatter me, I do not wish to be taken for any sort of expert, let alone authority. I have no scholarly or professional art credentials--I am simply someone who's looked at a lot of art out of personal interest, which I expect is true of most people who take part in these discussions.

Malcolm Fowles,

At https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2015/04/25/apsley-house-puts-on-the-waterloo-banquet/ is an image of an Apsley House interior (scroll down). If you click on it you'll get a magnified view.

Notice the bottom picture to the right of the daylit window.
That's our subject. You can make out the characteristic pattern formed by the light head and ruff against the darker elements, and a raised oval frame-within-a-frame.

Of all the oval pictures visible in online interiors of Apsley House (and there seem to be quite a lot) this is the only one I found within an oval frame. The rest seem to be under oval mounts.

This answers one question. Yes, it is an oval board. Unfortunately, the key question - was it always so, or has it been cropped? - remain unanswered. We still await the collection's reply.

This matters. There are plenty of references to ovals in Burke and Cherry's transcriptions and indexes of historic inventories as a whole, but nothing of the kind in William's find https://static.artuk.org/_file/art_detective/1666-p-225.pdf. Surely one at least of the inventories would have mentioned this obvious feature?

While we remain in this doubt, I don't think we can be truly certain of the provenance before 1813. We can make a working assumption, but ...

Howard Jones,

I noted above that the wording below the Apsley painting read Head of Old Man Sir Peter Paul Rubens but said the rest was not clear.
I believe the other lines read '1577 1640' (the dates for Rubens birth and death ?) and on the last line the initials W M followed by what looks like '1670' and a second number like --48. At the lower left corner of this label is a mark like a crown which might indicate the name of the collection. This second set of numbers is not very clear. With a better photo of the frame it should be possible to read them all.

The wording on the label is in English. Is this also an English frame that was added after Wellington acquired the painting?

Jacinto Regalado,

If I am looking at the right picture in that photo of Apsley House, both it and the picture above it look like square frames with an oval opening or mount, but perhaps I did not understand what Malcolm meant.

Osmund Bullock,

Jacinto, I think it's more the other way round - unlike the others, the oval shape seems to be quite heavily moulded and basic to the structure, with corners added to the outside to give an overall square outline to the frame. It's clearer in the cropped and enlarged version I attach.

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Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Osmund, I see your point. Ideally, of course, one would be able to inspect the board outside the frame.

Malcolm Fowles,

Jacinto, one would set off an alarm!

The collection has been asked to image and provide information on what clues are to be found on the edge and back of the board, and on the frame if it is old enough. Perhaps a more authoritative voice than mine could add its ha'porth?

I guess that this has never been done, or at least recorded. So finding a recognisable coat-of-arms might be a distinct possibility. Don't forget that the 1772 inventory speaks of a Baron, and I can't think of many other ways that this could be known.

James Fairhead,

Whilst still firmly of the view that documentary evidence will be the gold standard for identification of the sitter, some paintings may help in generating hypotheses. I am no longer convinced by Rockox (sorry to distract you), but in trawling the 15+ independent images of Rockox, I encountered the curious painting ‘the Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest’ by Willem van Haecht, that most of you probably know. A good interactive version is here https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Gallery_of_Cornelis_van_der_Geest.JPG
As you will see, this gathers the great and the good of the art world (Rubens, Van Dyck), Royalty, fellow collectors and the like in front of a job lot of masterpieces, many by Rubens. A good analysis of ‘who is who’ in this magnificent and enigmatic painting (that was the anti-war Guernica of its day) is at: https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=nl&u=http://www.kunstbus.nl/kunst/willem+van+haecht.html&prev=search
Take care, as this is a less-than-perfect google translation of a Flemish site, so if you speak Flemish, go to the original.
Standing behind Queen Isabella are a couple of men. The one of the left, as you look at the picture, is Nicolaas Rockox, looking like he does in most of his portraits, but especially the one by Van Dyck to be found in the Hermitage (see my comparison in the attached document). But who is the person on the right? Is it the Aspley figure? Well, I don’t expect you to yell ‘yes’ straight away, indeed, I'm not entirely convinced myself. Currently, however, this person is thought to be Jan van den Wouwer (a.k.a. Jan Waverius or Jan Wowerius 1574-1636, a humanist scholar but also a diplomat who was appointed financial advisor to the archdukes Albert and Isabella in 1620). If we look at a portrait thought to be by Van Dyck, thought to be Wouwer and his son, one can see a close resemblance to the picture. I have been wondering whether our portrait might be a Rubens sketch of whoever is depicted in this portrait, in part because the Aspley picture may have been paired with one of a boy (according to the Spanish inventories), and this portrait of Wouwer is also with a boy. Of course the person next to Rockox might not be Wouwer, but someone else. In the Louvre, where the portrait is to be found, the identity of the portrait is left uncertain. http://cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=8772&langue=en
I’m not sure this gets us anywhere. But it might it spark some ideas.
There are some very well known portraits of Wouwer by Rubens such as in The Four Philosophers, 1615 and sketches for this,. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rubens_-_Portrait_of_Jan_Wowerius_(Jan_van_den_Wouwer).jpg
And portraits by Paulus Pontius: https://art.famsf.org/anthony-van-dyck/jan-van-den-wouwer-iconography-19633015251 and by Gainsborough : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Jan_van_den_Wouwer#/media/File:Thomas_Gainsborough_-_Portrait_of_Jan_Wowerius_(Jan_van_den_Wouwer).jpg None of them bear strong resemblance to this portrait of a man and his child...

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Jacinto Regalado,

For what it may be worth, I considered Wouwer early on, but didn't bring him up because I thought he was not a strong enough candidate, meaning he cannot be ruled in based on the known portraits of him. I personally do not think he is our man.

Malcolm Fowles,

Jan van den Wouwer (1574-1636). Painting 1620-25.

1620 - 1574 = 46 = No way. Even 1636 - 1574 = 62 = I don't think so.

Nice fit to other context though (diplomat, Spanish connections).

Jacinto Regalado,

I'm not convinced the picture with the boy is of Wouwer, and the best picture that is definitely of him shows a rather more elegant, refined, and reserved man than the Apsley portrait.

Howard Jones,

I think we are not only having some trouble finding a portrait of the face we are looking for, but we are also not completely certain what sort of face this should be.

It might help if someone could find a photo or picture of a 20th Century man who closely matches the Apsley subject. With luck this would be someone for whom we have different photos from different angels and include a profile view. Even if certain features are a bit different it might help act as guide.

I have a man in mind but perhaps someone else would like to hazard a first guess. If we can find one or more modern doppelgangers, whose faces match up with of our man, it could help with the search.

Malcolm Fowles,

Having seen Osmund's magnificent magnification, it is likely that an examination of the panel and frame is not something to be undertaken lightly. Except for the frame exterior, it may involve disassembly by a conservator. However, I suggest to the collection that this may be the best or only chance of identifying their man. The reasons are:

The only clue found in the Spanish inventories is one reference to a baron, in 1772. Because no other inventory refers to it and also the baron is not named, this is unlikely to have come from written records. Whatever it may be, it is something visible to inspection but which we do not see in the Art UK image. A Spanish baron could be generically identified by an heraldic device, even if the specific baron was beyond the inventory taker’s field of knowledge.

We know from a documented example (https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/fr/la-collection/antoon-van-dyck-attribue-a-portrait-dhomme in Vander Auwera, J. & Van Sprang S. (2007) "Rubens: a genius at work”) that the back and sides of a panel can reveal a surprising amount of information, such as the makers mark, a coat-of-arms, and whether the panel is in its original state or has been trimmed, etc.

I strongly commend such a study to the collection.

Howard Jones,

Thank you Malcolm. You mention above that it would be helpful to look at the edge and the side of the panel to see if it has been cut down. There is another photo of the Apsley portrait at;


This does show the edge of the painting, though not the side of the panel. It also shows certain details such as the eyebrows more clearly than the Art UK photo. I am sure, as you say, it would help if the back and the edge of the Apsley picture could be checked carefully and photographed

Howard Jones,

That seems to be working. Scroll down to about the 24th picture.

Malcolm Fowles,

Thanks. Although clearly still a photographic crop, it does show a bit more area, and some of it seems to be close to or on the edge, especially bottom left, where one sees what might be damage to the paint from trimming.

I wonder where he got it from. Russians casing the joint? :-) But seriously, if someone has got that much of the edge they may well have had the picture out of the frame. Could the collection please comment on who has studied it in the past?

Jacinto Regalado,

I expect a conservator would have to handle the business, but surely someone at the National Gallery could do it easily enough if the Wellington Collection does not employ its own staff for such a job.

Malcolm Fowles,

There are other less promising translations of 'barón' from Spanish. I think we can discount the double sirloin, but "magnate", "chief" and "big cheese" are relevant.

A very obvious clue in the painting could have led to a 'barón' of that variety - the ruff. It was effectively a badge of wealth. In general only wealthy people could afford to have one or more ruffs kept in presentable condition (Wikipedia). Maybe in places it was even a formal badge, who knows?

This doesn't actually reduce by much our interest in hidden marks on the panel or frame, because any big cheese may still have been identified by one.

Jacinto Regalado,

It is also conceivable, though less likely, that we are dealing with a misspelling of "varón," which simply means a male person.

James Fairhead,

Working on this without details on the picture is like having an arm tied round the back. That Russian sites picture is wonderful.

There is another intriguing possibility concerning the ‘Baron’. From what I can work when Ruben’s close friend Nicolaas Rockox married Adrienne Perez (d. 1619) his mother-in-law became Marie Perez de 'Baron' and his father in law Marc-Antonie Perez (Chevalier). One of his wife’s brothers was Jean–Baptiste Perez de 'Baron' (the „Baptistae Baronio” of Anvers who visited Rubens in Italy after finishing study in Louvain with Juste Lipse) and another was Louis Perez de 'Baron' (who died in Madrid May 21 1634, who was (or had been and but sold the title of) Seigneur de Loenhout, husband of Louise Cassina. These four were children of wealthy Luis Perez (1532-1601, himself son of Aragonese Luis Perez, rich trader, arrived Flanders 1496). Alas the ‘de Baron’ bit is left off most of Rockox’s genealogies, but detail is given (with Google) books in “Généalogie de la famille de Coloma » … by José Felix Antonius Franciscus Azevedo Coutinho y Bernal pp 208-8; details of Jean Baptiste in Italy are given http://diglib.hab.de/content.php?dir=edoc/ed000083&distype=optional&xml=cdr/CDR-Band-1.xml&xsl=dela_rubens.xsl&metsID;= ).
There are a lot of cousin marriages making this all rather complex, as these relationships can thus be represented in other ways.

Rockox’s brother in law, Louis Perez 'de Baron' married Louise Cassina (11 March 1585). As Seigneur de Loenhout, he administered the Presbytery in the Old Town of Antwerp. He was close to Rockox. For example, when his son? visited Paris in March 1623, Rockox’s and Ruben’s friend Peiresc tried to look after him. http://diglib.hab.de/content.php?dir=edoc/ed000083&distype=optional&xml=cdr/CDR-Band-3.xml&xsl=dela_rubens.xsl&metsID;= .
He has to be a strong contender - having died in Madrid. I'd rather think he is a good contender as the subject of some other portraits too (such as that man and his boy)

Malcolm Fowles,

Jacinto, now you mention it, there is lots of interchange between 'v' and 'b' in the Spanish inventories. One crops up all the time when searching, as I have, for portrait heads: head = cabeza / caveza.

I think you are right. Head of a man. No baron.

Thwarted at every turn. I think I'll retire, let someone else look.

William Heap,

Indeed, the autograph letter 'v' of the sixteenth & seventeenth centuries frequently resembles a 'b'.

In Spanish 'b' and 'v' are pronounced similarly, the 'v' being a soft 'b' and apparently are sometimes interchangeable even in modern script. StudySpanish.com expands: "The Spanish “b” (be larga) and “v” (be corta) are pronounced exactly alike. These letters have two separate sounds, hard and soft. At the beginning of a word and after “m” or “n”, the hard Spanish “b/v” closely resembles the “b” in the word “boy,” except that the lips are held tense. In other situations, the “b/v” is pronounced like an English “b” in which the lips are not allowed to touch. (This is a sound that does not exist in English.)"

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, thank you - those are wonderful high (or at least higher) res images. I tend to shy away from Russian websites, fearing that they are more likely to be up to no good, and to go there runs the risk of allowing some unpleasant virus into my computer. But perhaps that is an outdated belief.

Re your difficulty with links: forgive me if I'm barking up the wrong tree, but are you trying to type out the link address by hand? This is not only laborious (impossibly so with a long address), but prone to errors - the problem with your last failed attempt was that you put a full-stop after 'http' rather than a colon. I don't want to clog up the thread with computer use advice, but you could ask Art UK to forward an email on to me, and I will happily respond with instructions on how to copy a whole web address directly easily. Or you can find instructions online - just google 'how to copy a web address' or something similar.

Jacinto Regalado,

As has already been noted, there is probably no better or more potentially productive way to pursue an identification here than to examine the panel out of its frame, assuming that is done properly. Given the quality of this portrait, the effort would be justified.

Howard Jones,

I have finally found someone who looks as if he could be our man. If it is correct it will be quite a bizarre but exciting result.

I will put his picture on later today or tomorrow.

Malcolm Fowles,

Kamele, we are asked to "Please support your comments with evidence or arguments". Henri De Vicq had already been introduced in the discussion above and ruled out.

To rule him in one must account for the portrait in the Louvre, also by Rubens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_de_Vicq,_Lord_of_Meuleveldt#/media/File:Petrus_paulus_rubens,_il_barone_henri_de_vicq,_1625_ca..JPG

The Louvre work shows a man of the right age for his portrait (even if painted a few years before 1625) with a pronounced natural right hand hair parting, strongly arched brows and visible eyelids. These things don't change much. This is not our man.

Howard Jones,

I believe the man in the Rubens painting may be Jan Bapiste van Helmont. Some of his portraiture closely matches our Apsley House man. He ticks many of the boxes.

An image search should reveal a surprising number of different pictures, but the double portrait of Jan and his son, and the engraving of him seated and holding some sort of cane or rod are of particular note.

There are several different images for this sitter so I have not picked one out for a link. I am surprised how this gentleman has managed to keep his head beneath the radar for so long. Check his Biog.. In Belgium he was and still is a man of consequence on the World stage.

There appear to be certain armorial devices with which he was linked. Perhaps its to much to hope there could be something similar on the back of the painting.

I believe there is a strong possibility that this is the man in the Apsley House portrait. i only found his other pictures a few hours ago so please excuse if this turns out to be a false lead, but if this identification is correct this should be a good result especially for the Belgians.

Plan B is to keep looking for a a different portrait of Jan Brueghel. I realise that the images for Jan van Helmont generally show him
clean shaven unlike the Apsley man.

Howard Jones,

Publish in haste regret at leisure. Jan Baptiste van Helmund in the double portrait looks promising, but not so good in the 'Hooke' painting and some of the other engravings. Perhaps as Osmund might agree some of the engravings don't provide so much detail. Perhaps I got a bit carried away at the sight of the the coat of arms, van Helmont is an interesting candidate but the uncharacteristic beard and eyelids are less encouraging.

A few years ago a painting thought to be a newly discovered portrait of the English scientist Hooke turned out to be a painting of the Belgian scientist Jan. If the double portrait in the book published by his son is accurate then Jan might have looked similar to the Apsley man, but some of the other images are less helpful.

Howard Jones,

I suggested that it might help if we could find a modern face to match the Apsley portrait. Someone from the same period with certain similar features is Johann Tserches, Count of Tilly and a leading general and later commander of the forces of the Catholic League in the Thirty Years War.


We have many different engravings and even statues of Tilly and a good engraving said to follow a portrait by van Dyck.

The overall shape of the face appears appropriate but the Spanish style beard, the eyebrows and eyes should all rule him out. As there many different engraved portraits from different paintings these pictures show how portraits can vary for different painters and when copied by different engravers. Hopefully the Apsley painting provides us with an exceptionally reliable portrait as Rubens like Holbein must be one of the greatest of all portrait painters.

A slightly unusual feature of the Apsley man is that the lower lids for both the eyes fall away. With the man in the Courtauld family painting just the one lower lid droops, but in the Jan Brueghel portrait by van Dyck the lower lids of both eyes fall away in a similar manner.

Howard Jones,

One man suggested for this Rubens portrait i was Jan Bruegel a friend and fellow artist who worked closely with Rubens. The Bruegel family portrait in the Courtauld collection is supposed to show Jan Bruegel and his family but I suggested that the man in the black hat is a better match with his brother Peiter the Younger.

One possibility is that the Courtauld painting shows Jan's wife and children a few years after Jan's sudden death from cholera. I have been unable to find any pictures of Jan's surviving wife, but one or two portraits of his youngest daughter Anna may be available.
Anna was christened a couple of years before Jan's death in 1624.

One of the most highly regarded pictures by David Teniers is the painting called 'The Shepherdess' at the Hermitage. David Teniers came from the succeeding generation of Flemish artists and he married Anna while she was still quite young. I believe Anna might have been the model for the surprisingly well attired young shepherdess who is shown holding a tambourine in the painting.

As the name of the young lady is not supplied this might be considered to be a case of wishful thinking. However we have another portrait of Anna at the British Museum which is clearly identified as Teniers wife. This engraving or etching shows a young lady who looks quite similar to our Shepherdess except that her eyes look bigger.

This british Museum picture 1850,0713.25 is identified as the wife of David Teniers and Fille de Jean Breughelde Velours although her first name has changed to Catherine. It is a copy of a picture by Teniers linked to the Conte de Vence.

Why she is now called Catherine instead of Anna I don't know, but the identification with Jan's youngest daughter is clearly made.

While it is good if we have now have an adult portrait from the next generations of the Brueghel line it provides an opportunity to consider whether the young girl in the Courtauld family painting could have become the young lady Catherrine Brueghel who is depicted in the British Museum print as David Teniers wife.

It has been suggested that the young girl in the Courtauld painting would have been one of the family members who died with their father in the cholera epidemic, but if the the young child in the painting is Anna she would have grown up to become Catherine the young bride depicted by her husband the artist David Teniers.

Howard Jones,

Today the York Museum Trust is putting some or all Old Masters images into public domain (see Bendor Grosvenor, Twitter). Perhaps we can put this to good use.

I suggested above that David Teniers' Shepherdess at the Hermitage might portray the artist's wife, Anna the daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder.

York Museum also has a portrait of an unknown woman by Teniers that is worth closer study.

Teniers' Hermitage Lady is shown wearing a pair of unusually large pearl earrings. His unknown woman in York Museum also wears similar oversized pearls and a third painting a self portrait of Teniers and his wife Anna (or Catherine) is again shown with large teardrop earrings.

Unless Teniers like Vermeer in the Scarlett Johansson film was in the habit offering his wife's best jewellery to his models I presume that these three paintings all depict Teniers' wife.

The lady in the York portrait looks as if she could be pregnant, but the quality of the picture available is limited. If the Museum could release a higher resolution image it might help to resolve whether this is really Jan Brueghel's daughter.

It has been noted that the pearl earring for Vermeer's portrait was too large to have been a real pearl. Some sort of porcelain or metallic alternative was suggested by Vince Icke. The tear drop pearl earrings in the David Teniers' paintings are also unrealisticly oversized. Teniers' Hermitage painting dates from about 1640 more than 20 years before Vermeer painted his own more famous 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'.

Howard Jones,

In the note above I question whether the young girl in Courtauld's Brueghel Family painting could be Anna Bruegel who married the renowned artist David Teniers. There are several paintings of Anna including a self portrait of the Teniers family, but these suggest that his wife Anna had a more rounded forehead than the little girl depicted by Rubens.

The details for Jan Bruegels children are not entirely clear and I suggested above that Anna was born shortly before Jan died in 1625. But the date given for Anna's birth is 1619 and it was the youngest daughter Clara-Eugenia who born in 1624. Both these girls became wards of Rubens, and Jan's widow only outlived her husband by two years.

I also suggested above that David Teniers painting called the Shepherdess at the Hermitage might portray his wife, or future wife, Anna. But it is claimed this picture was painted in the 1650's after Teniers became a court artist. This would be too late for it to be a portrait of his young wife though it might portray one of Tenier's daughters. In the family portrait of Anna holding a lute the daughter sitting with her looks remarkably similar to her mother.

Of Jan's children Elisabeth, Marie,and Pieter all died with their father in the cholera outbreak. I believe Katarina, Anna 1619-1656, Clara-Eugenia 1623-1693, Ambrosius, Paschasia, and Jan the Younger 1601-1670 all lived fuller lives. (See 'The Brueghels', Emile Michel and Victoria Charles, and 'Repertoire Internatioal d' Iconographie Musicale' RIdID, record id 3130 .)

To return to the Brueghel Family picture, if it was painted after Jan's death the little girl should be Clara-Eugenia who would by then have been made a ward of Rubens. If this family picture was painted much earlier it is suggested the girl might be Elisabeth who died in the cholera outbreak of 1625.

Perhaps the Tenier's portrait of a woman in York Museum which is identified as his wife Anna/Catherine by a leading London art auctioneers would provide a suitable discussion for the Art Detective. I believe the Museum still describes it as an unknown woman.

Howard Jones,

By chance Sotheby's have a David Teniers painting in their Old Masters Evening sale Wed 6th Dec, or the day after tomorrow, and the auctioneer's notes claims that Anna Brueghel the artists wife is included amongst the figures in the garden.

Perhaps it is easier to make out her identity from the painting itself than from the internet image. i would be less certain about their claim and I am also surprised that they note that Anna is the daughter of Jan Brueghel the Younger. Anna is more usually said to be the daughter of Jan Brueghel the Elder. Sotheby's themselves said that Anna the artists wife was the daughter of Jan the Elder in earlier notes for the sale 9th July 2008 in which they mention the York Museum portrait of Anna. (See David Teniers painting 'Terrace.....' Self portrait).

The estimate given for the painting is for a substantial sum.
At times the various complex branches of the Brueghel family can confuse us all.

Howard Jones,

I should have noted that the painting by David Teniers in the Sotheby's Old Masters Evening sale tomorrow is lot 43, in case anyone wishes to check it out or buy it.

James Fairhead,

I want to make a case that this is Jan Moretus (a.k.a. Johannes Moretus or Jan Moerentorf, died September 22 1610). I am not the first in this discussion thread to suggest it. Jan Regalado suggested that our portrait may be a member of the Moretus family (which ran the Plantin Press in Antwerp and had close ties to Rubens). And Jeffery Zenker suggested that our portrait could be Jan Moretus, based on a comparison with the portrait (said to be) of Moretus, attributed to Rubens. http://www.thehistoryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Jan-I-Moretus-by-Peter-Paul-Rubens-1612-1616.jpg . Zenker notes similarities of the face, and “when also comparing the ears I find a definite similarity of the shape and structure of the ears.” Malcolm Fowles’ considers that this is at least ‘possible’ in one comment, but in a later comment, is concerned that Jan Moretus died in 1610, but that our portrait, by internal evidence ‘of the costume’ is usually thought to be more probably c. 1620.
I would like to revisit this suggestion, on the basis that an oval funerary portrait of Jan Moretus of about our dimensions did exist but is now ‘lost’. Malcolm Fowles has suggested in this thread that our portrait may be a memorial portrait of someone who meant a lot to Rubens, of whom he had sketches and a clear visual memory. Malcolm encouraged us to consult Auwera’s book “Rubens, l’atelier du genie…” (2007: 145), which argues and provides evidence that Rubens and Van Dyck produced such funerary monument portraits and that they were often oval or round (or were set in painted faux oval frames). One such attributed to the young Van Dyck of 1619 is given on page 144 of Auwera’s book. This is it: https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/fr/la-collection/antoon-van-dyck-attribue-a-portrait-dhomme?letter=v&artist=van-dyck-antoon-1 Other similar portraits are referenced, including an oval portrait by Van Dyck of Jan Snellinck (died 1638, for which alas I can’t find an image), and the portrait of a 70 year old man. https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/fr/la-collection/antoon-van-dyck-portrait-dun-homme-age?artist=van-dyck-antoon-1
Malcolm Fowles suggested that we find names from church burials and from acquisitions of paintings from churches. The most obvious is that of Jan Moretus. Details of his monument are given at:
In short, Jan Moretus died in September 1610 and his funeral monument was raised in Antwerp cathedral by his widow in the following years. Rubens contributed both a triptych (his Resurrection, 1611-12) and an OVAL portrait of Moretus. There is a portrait of Moretus currently in this monument, but this one was painted in 1819 by Willem-Jacob Herreyns, and is a rather poor copy of the other, fuller portrait of Moretus attributed to Rubens. It is currently the view of the cathedral that the original painting by Rubens, “got lost in the course of time”.
The current portrait is at: http://balat.kikirpa.be/photo.php?path=M203636&objnr=87295&nr=21
I have found no precise details of when the original by Rubens was removed from this monument (though I’m sure that Antwerp cathedral must have some records of this picture, monument and the circumstances of its loss!. Yet by the account of a journey to Flanders in 1775-8 by De La Roche (1783, Voyage d’un amateur des arts..), “the portrait of Moretus that adorns the frontispiece of this small monument, as well as the wings that enclose this painting [resurrection], were equally painted by Rubens.” So De La Roche clearly saw the original oval portrait by Rubens in the mid-1770s. The central panel of the triptych was purloined by Napoleon in 1794. The central panel was returned to the Cathedral in 1816, and it was only then, a couple of years later in 1819 that the Moretus family had the funeral monument party reconstructed, with a “marble memorial slab and a crowning with some angels who show the medallion portrait of Johannes Moretus.” The family commissioned Willem-Jacob Herreyns to produce a copy derived from Rubens’ other portrait of Jan Moretus, not having access to the original.
Now IF ours is indeed the lost portrait of Moretus, then there are a few obstacles to overcome, but these are not as insurmountable as they seem.
First, the current Moretus copy portrait is said to be 40 x 30 cm (though in the record these dimensions are mistakenly inverted, and I do not think that they have measured exactly) whereas ours slightly larger at 49.5x35.8. If there is a difference, this can, I imagine, be explained in the rebuilding of the monument. (It is feasible that the current frame at Apsley house is part of the original frame?)
Second, this hypothesis would suggest that perhaps this portrait was either not to be found in the Spanish royal collection, even if Wellington did return with it, or had only very recently become a part of it. This problem might seem unsurmountalbe. Yet note that the page referring to our picture summarising its presence in the Spanish royal collection 1666-p-225.pdf (499 KB) suggests in a footnote that, as Jacinto Regalado cautioned too, that although this picture was among those captured from the baggage of Joseph Bonaparte, and that it thus [apparently] came from the Spanish royal collection, doubts remain as to whether our piece is the same one as those listed in the earlier inventories. Moreover, Malcolm Fowles justifiably also asks why the earlier Spanish inventories do not mention an ‘oval’ picture. As he summarises: “I don't think we can be truly certain of the provenance before 1813.”
So how does this portrait match the other portrait of Jan Moretus by Rubens? (found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jan_(I)_Moretus)_by_Peter_Paul_Rubens.jpg ). It should be recalled that Balthasar I Moretus commissioned this second portrait from Rubens as one of 12 commissioned works, but these were (a) largely conducted by Rubens’ studio (1613-16), and (b) were certainly painted several years after Moretus died. Sometimes people assert, incorrectly, that this second portrait was commissioned for the tomb, but clearly there was also an oval portrait.

James Fairhead,

To reiterate: An oval portrait known to be BY Rubens used to grace this monument in Antwerp Cathedral. The current portrait in the monument is a replacement painted in 1819, and this replacement is, as you say, Jacinto, a copy of the other posthumous portrait of Jan Moretus by Rubens. The original oval portrait by Rubens, however, is still 'missing'.

Given that Joseph Bonaparte (from who Wellington acquired our portrait at the Battle of Vitoria) was himself implicated in the looting of art from his dominions (especially its churches) as King of Naples (1806-8) and as King of Spain (1808-10), and given he visited Antwerp between these jobs in April 1808, it seems perfectly plausible that he acquired the small picture from Antwerp, not Spain, and took it himself to Spain.

Howard Jones,

James Fairhead is proposing above that the Apsley man could be Jan Moretus, but Moretus has more rounded features unlike the apsley man who appears to have more angular cheekbones and forehead.

I think Moretus land Marten Pepijn who was also proposed early in the discuusion remain two of the closer candidates, but I do not think they are close enough. With the Apsley man both the lower eyelids seem to sag or fall away. The eyes of Marten Pepijn do not seem to match the eyes of our man.

Malcolm Fowles,

Rubens didn't do inaccurate portraits. This was why rich and mighty clients valued him above all others. IMO Balthasar would not have accepted a bad image of his father, and it would have made Rubens a laughing stock among Antwerpers who had known the subject. The Apsley portrait is plainly not of the same man.

If the original epitaph image still exists, it is perhaps hanging very quietly in a private collection of old aristocracy.

James Fairhead,

Malcolm, why dismiss this quite so fast? By your own suggestion, we probably have an oval funerary epitaph by Rubens (incredibly rare) of the same dimensions of an oval funerary epitaph by Rubens that is missing. How common is that? Clearly he did not do many - only his closest acquaintances ..... Indeed, only this one seems to be documented and this is in Antwerp Cathedral, which presumably was also a pull. Second, both portraits are posthumous by 2 to 5 years, and visual memories even of parents fade fast. Third, if they are of the same person, then they seem to be by a different hand (as one would expect as those commissioned by Balthasar are known to be from the Rubens atelier, rather than in his hand, in contrast to that commissioned by Moretus's wife and paid for by Balthasar. Fourth, as the attached comparisons make clear, there a A LOT that these portraits do share, and in my untutored eye, in ways that might suggest a common sketch source. So much so, that others suggested this comparison first even in this string, and you gave it a 'perhaps' first time round. Fifth, in my view the known image of Jan Moretus is a very poor portrait, with tiny eyes and a missing ear and I am indeed surprised that Balthasar put up with it - but at least he got it (and that was hard enough).

You can, of course, disagree! But with any luck there will be archival images of the Antwerp cathedral monument predating 1775, or at least a description of the missing portrait and who took it and when. As you long ago indicated, this is only going to be resolved by documentation, but I would suggest you keep this option open.

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Jacinto Regalado,

The point of my last comment was that it was not clear (to me) at that point if it was being suggested that the portrait in the monument was somehow after the lost one or some other copy of it, as opposed to after a known and extant picture in the Plantin-Moretus Museum, as is the case.

James Fairhead,

I’ve just read Susan Jenkin’s 2007. “The ‘Spanish Gift’ at Apsley House. English Heritage Review 2(1): 112-127 (which alas I can't circulate a copy). I’ve not seen it mentioned here, but some aspects are highly relevant, especially if like me, one considers this to be a funerary epitaph portrait, and is sceptical was ever in the Spanish royal collection (or only was post the French Revolution and subsequent wars when churches could be looted).

The first issues concerns the identification numbers: To quote: “In some cases, …. painting from the Spanish royal collections were easy to identify, as they bore individual marks which could be traced in specific inventories. Pictures from the collections of Philip V and his wife the former Isabella Farnese, from La Granja were also marked with a cross (for Philip) or a fleur-de-lys (for Isabella Farnese), as well as an inventory number…. Joseph had also seized some of the smaller paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck from the Spanish royal collection, including the former’s Ana Dorotea, Daughter of Rudolph II and Head of an Old Man and the latter’s St. Rosalie Crowned with roses by two angels. Several of these works had been removed from La Granja and were inscribed with Isabella Farnese’s fleur-de-lis inventory mark.” It would be good to know whether our portrait was one of those that has (or had) such a mark. There must be documentation relating to this portrait as Apsley. Those works from the royal collections would have had inventory numbers (except canvasses that were cut from their frames). Of course absence of evidence in this is not evidence of absence, as Jenkins also reports that the paintings on wood or on copper were removed from their frames by those who packed them up for Joseph Bonaparte in Madrid, and in our case it is probable that such a mark would have been on the removed frame, and not on the board itself.

Have we examined the inventories of La Granja? Given that we have at least disproved the provenance of this picture as published by Apsley (that is based on incorrect Cumberland inventory) and given that whilst our portrait could perhaps relate to others mentioned in the Madrid inventories (but only if we overlook problems in description of size and content, and that the oval shape is never mentioned!), it is, I think, overdue to check this possibility.

Second, both Kauffmann and others admit that some of the pictures might not have come from the Spanish royal collection at all (as some bear inventory numbers relating to other collections). The paintings and other materials were never checked by Spanish royal authorities. Neither Wellington not those who examined the collection thought that it had all had been part of the Royal collection (some of his came from La Granja too at a different date).

Third, she writes, there may still be more works in the Duke’s collections that were part of the ‘Spanish Gift’ but that remain unrecorded. Some of the 60 lesser works that were not even recorded in the Apsley house catalogues turn out to have been rather better than expected – Titian and that sort of thing! https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/08/restoration-titians-mistress-genuine-duke-wellington-english-heritage-apsley?CMP=share_btn_tw If that could be the case, I’m half wondering whether they have any other oval portraits of the era stacked away. I’d certainly very much like to have a rummage around the attics and lesser rooms of the Duke’s houses! Wonder if a group outing of those who find this to be the masterpiece that it is, is in order.

Jacinto Regalado,

I wonder how likely it is for a funerary portrait from this period to be so relatively informal, with the subject not even looking directly at the viewer. I have my doubts.

Malcolm Fowles,

I think that Jacinto is right about the funerary portrait.

James, I wonder if quite a bit of “The Spanish Gift” might be similar to the Introduction to the Apsley House catalogue (linked earlier), which was revised by Susan Jenkins, with input from Marjorie Wieseman (whose work on Rubens’ head studies is also linked earlier). If only we could interest one or both of those experts in this quest!

It is right to be sceptical about this work’s Spanish provenance. However, you may have forgotten William Heap’s discovery of our portrait in El Inventario del Alcazar de Madrid (see his attachment “1666-p-225”). That document is complete with identification numbers from each inventory in the provenance. It is wise to assume (for now) that the authors had access to some number on the painting, for otherwise they have no reason that I can see to equate the inventory entries with the work.

In the light of that Inventario (“recently published”) and our more credible identification of two tronies of old men with Cumberland’s pair, the Apsley catalogue entry certainly does need revision. In doing so, it should be possible to confirm once and for all whether the Apsley work is indeed no 73 from the Alcazar. In that case, the various discrepancies between previous inventories that you mention can be identified as such.

My biggest doubt here is whether Apsley House has any appetite for looking at what the painting might tell, given the relative silence to date. Perhaps the 2007 conservator, whoever that may be, might have taken pictures or notes from the frame and back, and may be contacted?

Jacinto Regalado,

This is speculative and unprovable, but this picture looks like something Rubens did for himself, for amusement or exercise, though of course it could have been a preparatory sketch. It does not make "sense" to me as something meant to be or become a formal portrait, especially on its own.

Malcolm Fowles,

Interesting idea Jacinto. If one covers the head and looks only at the remainder, yes indeed, but vice versa this is a magnificent finished work; the background is Rubens' normal underpainting. We see a virtually identical treatment in the posthumous Philippe Rubens in Detroit and something quite close in the De Cordes in Brussels.

Given these, in order to agree with you I'd need to know that Rubens also has a track record of practice pieces with the same quality. Who here knows enough to call that either way?

Jacinto Regalado,

Malcolm, to me this picture is different from the two portraits you mention, not only because it is less finished but because it does not feel like a formal or "proper" portrait for this period--and I am specifically talking about the head or face. It is not so much posed as caught, a momentary sideways glance, something spontaneous and fleeting, as opposed to a passive visage to be preserved for posterity. It is indeed superb, but it is not like the others.

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