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Rubens and his age – Peter Paul Rubens, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario

Rubens and his age – Peter Paul Rubens, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario – Brief Article

Allison Eckardt Ledes

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is one of the largest museums in the world. It houses some three million objects in an astonishing variety of mediums, collected in large part by the insatiably acquisitive Empress Catherine II (the Great; r. 1762-1796). Catherine purchased large collections en bloc, commissioned single objects, and received an enormous quantity of diplomatic and personal gifts. She formed a remarkable collection of cameos and jewelry, which she installed in the second floor of her apartments in the Winter Palace, where, as she confessed, “only the mice and I enjoy it all.”

Because of the breadth of the museum’s collections, it is possible to study a given subject of art in depth. In the present case, a fascinating exhibition has been assembled that is devoted to the artistic culture of seventeenth-century Flanders and its most notable artists: Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens. It also examines the considerable influence that painters in the baroque idiom had on the European decorative arts of this period. The exhibition, entitled Treasures from the Hermitage Museum, Russia: Rubens and His Age, is on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto until August 12, and is underwritten by Goldman Sachs Canada. The 183 objects in the show include paintings, drawings, prints, tapestries, glass, arms and armor, cameos, ivories, jewelry, hardstone carvings, and metalwork.

Rubens was responsible for the designs of numerous tapestries (a specialty of Flemish weavers) in which one can observe a shift in palette from pastels to richer tones that echo the bold colors of his paintings, which at the time was considered a great innovation. He painted designs for richly embroidered ecclesiastical vestments that required satin stitch and raised work in metallic and silk threads. Rubens himself collected ivories among other things, and can be credited in part for a fundamental change in aesthetics whereby artists in his workshop and elsewhere in Europe regarded ivory carving as an expressive medium comparable to painting and sculpture. Rubens’s influences on the decorative arts spread beyond Flemish borders to the most highly regarded centers for skills such as metalworking, as is revealed by the splendid objects made in the German cities of Augsburg and Nuremberg that are on view in the exhibition.

A catalogue of the same title as the exhibition may be ordered from the Art Gallery of Ontario by telephoning 416-979-660, extension 395.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Brant Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group