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Briseis returned to Achilles by Nestor
Rubens, Peter Paul (and workshop)
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Rubens, Peter Paul (and workshop)

Briseis returned to Achilles by Nestor

1630 - 1635. Oil on panel Not on display

A model for the tapestry on the same subject that belongs to a series of eight about the Greek hero. The Story of Achilles is smaller than other projects by Rubens, but the quality of its sketches, models and tapestries make it one of his most important.

Achilles vowed to take revenge on Hector for the death of his friend Patroclus. His anger with Agamemnon had subsided and he decided to take up arms and resume his place among the Greeks. Upon hearing about his decision, Agamemnon sent the splendid gifts he had promised if Achilles returned to battle. Above all, Agamemnon returned the beautiful Briseis, the slave woman he had taken from Achilles. Rubens´s illustration is consistent with Homer´s description of the scene, although he depicted only a few of Agamemnon´s gifts. Achilles rushes to Meet Briseis in all her beauty. The elderly Nestor stands behind her, urging her forward. The figure raising his hand behind Briseis has been taken for Odysseus, but he is more probably Agamemnon, proclaiming his honourable treatment of Briseis. The body of the dead Patroclus is laid out on a canopied bed in the background. Beside him, wailing in grief, are the two women Homer describes (XIX, 300-301). The terms represent Concord and Mercury, the bringer of peace, who wears a winged hat and holds his caduceus. The staff with two entwined snakes would have been easily recognised as a symbol of peace and Rubens repeated the motif in the foreground. Concord wears a crown of laurel, and a laurel wreath enclosing a pair of clasped hands can be seen on her shaft. Lying beside the caduceus in the foreground are a palm branch symbolising peace and two cornucopias filled with fruit. The scene is thus surrounded by emblems alluding to the restoration of peace and harmony through Achilles´s return to the Greek camp.

The modello duplicates the sketch in most respects. The architectural elements however are more detailed, as they are in all the modelli in the series. The putti hovering above the scene are perceptibly larger, and the heads of the two on the left have been turned slightly. The x-radiograph shows that the head of the putto nearer the centre was originally consistent with the sketch, but Rubens subsequently painted it looking down as if observing the scene below.

The composition must initially have been transferred accurately to the modello. The contours of the picture were sketched by a member of the workshop, probably in dark paint. An assistant executed the terms and other architectural elements, as well as the horses and the small boy holding the reins of the chestnut horse in the foreground. The remaining figures and the putti are probably attributable to Rubens (Text drawn from Lammertse, F.; Vergara, A.: Peter Paul Rubens. The Life of Aquiles, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen-Museo Nacional del Prado, 2003, pp. 106-113).

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Technical data

Related artworks

The Education of Achilles
Oil on panel, 1630 - 1635
Inventory number
P002566
Author
Rubens, Peter Paul (and workshop)
Title
Briseis returned to Achilles by Nestor
Date
1630 - 1635
Technique
Oil
Support
Panel
Dimension
Height: 107.5 cm.; Width: 163 cm.
Provenance
Bequest of María Dionisia Vives y Zires, Duchess of Pastrana, 1889

Bibliography +

Corpus rubenianum Ludwig Burchard: an illustrated catalogue, T. 10, Arcade Press, Bruselas, 1975, pp. 123-130.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de pinturas. Escuela flamenca Siglo XVII / por Matías Díaz Padrón, Museo del Prado. Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 309-310.

Jaffe, Michael, Rubens: catálogo completo, Rizzoli, Milán, 1989, pp. 217-324.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, II, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 1054.

Vergara, Alejandro, The Presence of Rubens in Spain. (Volumes i and II). Tesis D, A Bell & Howell Company, Ann Arbor, 1999, pp. 541-543.

Pedro Pablo Rubens: la historia de Aquiles, Pedro Pablo Rubens. La historia de Aquiles, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; Museo Nacional del Prado, Rotterdam-Madrid, 2003, pp. 106-113.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Rubens en la colección Pastrana-Infantado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXI, 2003, pp. 24-40.

VVAA, Tapestry in the baroque: new aspects of production and patro..., Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York, 2010, pp. 20-33.

Echinnger-Maurach, Cl, 'Dramma Giocoso' Rubens Achilleszyklus und seine uberraschende rahmung', Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 2017, pp. 25-41.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 850.
Autor P.P. Rubens / 850. Un cuadro titulado 'Priamo y Aquiles' / alto 1,06 ancho 1,62.

Exhibitions +

Rubens
Madrid
05.11.2010 - 23.01.2011

Pedro Pablo Rubens. La historia de Aquiles
Madrid
09.12.2003 - 01.03.2004

Intercambio Vermeer: Rubens - Achilles. Rubens Het leven van Achilles. Van schets tot wandtapijt - La serie de Aquiles
Rotterdam
05.09.2003 - 30.11.2003

Displayed objects +

Caduceus

Horn of Plenty / Coruncopia

Garland

Ship

Update date: 15-11-2019 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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