Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)
Oil on wood
27 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. (69.9 x 52.1 cm)
Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967 (67.187.99)
Isolated or juxtaposed studies of heads provided Rubens and other Baroque painters with a stock of expressive types for their religious and historical paintings. In Italy between 1600 and 1608, Rubens made many copies after Renaissance and antique monuments as sources for figural types to which he returned throughout his career. The profile head at the left of the painting repeats one of a series of heads copied by Rubens from Andrea Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar, which he must have studied while in the service of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga at Mantua. Dominating this profile is the study of a bearded man with ecstatic upturned eyes, a head of Rubens's own invention. He used the bearded head in other works, including his altarpiece The Real Presence of the Holy Sacrament, painted in 1609 shortly after his return to Antwerp.