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Rubens, Peter Paul and workshop
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Rubens, Peter Paul and workshop

Siegen, Westphalia (Germany), 1577 - Antwerp (Belgium), 1640

Rubens, Peter Paul See author's file


1636 - 1638. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

In the autumn of 1636, Peter Paul Rubens was commissioned by agents of Philip IV to produce his largest series of painted canvases to decorate the recently completed hunting lodge at El Pardo, near Madrid -the Torre de la Parada. Documents reveal that he was already at work by December. His main assignment comprised some sixty mythological subjects and individual figures, chiefly drawn from Ovid´s Metamorphoses. Characteristically, Rubens prepared rapid oil sketches on small toned panels prior to executing the large canvases; some are by his own hand, like Fortuna, but others were delegated to his associates in Antwerp, such as Jacob Jordaens. This collaboration was necessary partly because of the sheer size of the commission, but also because Rubens was experiencing a serious illness. Despite complaints about slowness of execution, the first canvases were shipped to Madrid in March 1638 and arrived by May I, providing a reasonable time frame for dating the pictures. Unlike many of the narrative images in the series, this work depicts a single, full-length woman in a tightly constructed vertical composition, removed from any narrative context. Instead, she represents the allegorical figure of Fortune, which embodies the varied chances of life. Rubens depicted this conceit as a nude female figure, resembling the tradition of the birth of Venus, emerging, full-grown, from the sea. Choosing to emphasize Fortuna´s solid, fleshy form, Rubens departed from such idealized models of Venus, however, and executed a figure that has the tangible presence to occupy our world. The oil sketch for this picture, now in Berlin, is enlarged at left and right despite its small size. The finished canvas was surely painted by Rubens himself, as is evident from his finely modeled passages of face and skin, but also from the numerous changes that he made between the sketch and the final canvas. In the Prado picture, the figure is seen from the side and turns to face the viewer, whereas in the initial sketch she remains self-absorbed and focused in concentration, with her head tilted backward. In addition, the sketch shows her right arm raised and left arm lowered, extended behind her back as she steps onto her globe with her left foot; all of these positions are fully reversed in the Prado painting, now filled with forward movement and powerful energy. These changes result in a more frontal view of the female body, exposing Fortuna´s breasts and emphasizing the soft flesh of her torso. As she gazes obliquely beyond the canvas, she engages the viewer and creates an eroticized tension between the real and pictorial space. This nude figure can be recognized by her allegorical attributes and her instability. Not only does she bestride tumultuous ocean waves during a storm, but she is poised unsteadily on a crystal globe at the bottom center of the canvas. Her billowing veil and wet, stringy hair underscore the force of the gale in which she advances. More commonly, Renaissance allegories of Fortune showed the figure with a rudder and sail, accentuating her mastery over such unpredictable sea storms, but Rubens instead called attention to her unstable situation. Previous artists had also incorporated the globe with Fortune to highlight both the uncertainty of her outcomes as well as the universal sway she holds over humanity. Notable early examples of Fortune on a globe include Albrecht Dürer´s two engravings of full-length, standing female nudes in profile (c. 1495/96; c. 1501). Rubens´s likely model for this image was the emblem book of Andrea Alciati, first published in 1531 and reprinted numerous times. The motto for his Emblem 97 explains that Art was developed to counteract the effects of Fortune, but when Fortune is bad it often needs the assistance of art. In the 1621 Padua edition of Alciati, the image contrasts Fortuna, standing on a globe with a fluttering veil, with Hermes/Mercury, messenger god and god of art and commerce. Perhaps Rubens originally paired Fortuna with a solitary Mercury (Museo Nacional del Prado, 1636-38) in the Torre de la Parada installation, which is now unknown (Text drawn from Silver, L.: Splendor, Myth, and Vision. Nudes from the Prado, 2016, pp. 124-127).


Technical data

Related artworks

La Fortuna
Pen lithography, Scraper, Lithographic aquatint, Crayon lithography on wove paper, 1832 - 1837
Feillet, Pierre Jacques
La Fortuna
Lithographic aquatint, Crayon lithography, Pen lithography, Printing on japon, Scraper on wove paper, 1832 - 1837
Feillet, Pierre Jacques
La Fortuna
Lithographic aquatint, Crayon lithography, Pen lithography, Printing on japon, Scraper on wove paper, 1832 - 1837
Feillet, Pierre Jacques
La Fortuna
Lithographic aquatint, Crayon lithography, Pen lithography, Scraper on wove paper, 1832 - 1837
Feillet, Pierre Jacques
Inventory number
Rubens, Peter Paul and workshop
1636 - 1638
Height: 182.3 cm; Width: 100.5 cm
Torre de la Parada
Royal Collection (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid, Quarto bajo pieza quarta, 1701, s.n.; Torre de la Parada, Pieza primera, 1747, nº19; Pinturas que posee la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, 1796-1805, nº68; Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Madrid, Sala Reservada, 1834, nº73)

Bibliography +

Rooses, Max, Rubens. S. VIe et Ses Oeuvres, Flammarion, Paris, 1903, pp. 596-599.

Corpus rubenianum Ludwig Burchard: an illustrated catalogue, IX, Arcade Press, Londres, 1968, pp. 209.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de pinturas. Escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado; Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 256-257.

Kelch, Jan, Peter Paul Rubens. Kritischer Katalog Der Gemalde Im Besitz..., Staatliche Museum Preubischer, Berlín, 1978, pp. 66-70.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 934.

Vergara, Alejandro, The Presence of Rubens in Spain. (Volumes i and II). Tesis D, A Bell & Howell Company, Ann Arbor, 1999, pp. 416.

Classical mythology in the Netherlands in the age of Renaiss..., Peeters, Amberes, 2009.

Gruber, Gerlinde, 'Peter Paul Rubens. La Fortune' En:, Sensation et Sensualité. Rubens et son Héritage, Bozar Books - Fonds Mercator, Bruselas, 2014, pp. 132-133 n.54.

Georgievska-Shine, Aneta Silver, Larry, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain, Ashgate, Surrey, 2014, pp. 165 fg.6.8.

Sensation et Sensualité: Rubens et son Héritage, Bozar BooksFonds Mercator, Bruselas, 2014, pp. 132.

Silver, L, 'Peter Paul Rubens. Fortuna'' En:, Splendor, Myth, and Vision : Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado,, 2016, pp. 124-127 n.14.

Silver, L, 'Ruben's Myths for the Rey Planeta at the Torre de la Parada' En: The Age of Rubens: diplomacy, dynastic politics and the visual arts in Early Seventeenth century., Brepols,, 2016, pp. 235-254 [249 f.12].

Burke, Jill, The European Nude 1400-1650, en: Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado, 2016, pp. 16-49 [38].

La invención del cuerpo. Desnudos, anatomía, pasiones, Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte,, 2018, pp. n.96.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1595.
1595.-(1720-M.-La Fortuna. Está la diosa alegórica representada, según la costumbre de los romanos, en pié sobre una esfera diáfana, y llevada por las olas á merced del viento.-Figura entera, de tamaño natural. Cuadro de decoracion. / Col. de Cárlos II(?). Vino de la Real Academia de San Fernando al Museo en 1827.-C.L.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1720.
Rubens / 1720. La Fortuna. / tiene puesto un pie sobre una esfera diafana, yendo sobre las aguas a merced de los vientos (C.L.) / Alto 6 pies, 5 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 5 pulg.

Inv. Felipe V, Torre de la Parada, 1747. Núm. 19.
Pieza primera [...] 19 / Ôtro de tres varas de alto, y una y media de ancho, en que està Una Ninfa con el pie sobre una Vola, y marco dorado origl de la Escuela de Rubenes ... 1200

Academia, Sala Reservada, 1827. Núm. 68.
La Fortuna personificada en una Joven desnuda. / [Autor] Rubens / [Alto] 6 [pies] 5 [pulgs.] / [Ancho] 3 [pies] 5 [pulgs.]

Pinturas que posee la Real Academia de San Fernando. Núm. 68.
Pinturas que posee la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando 1796-1805 [...] 68 / La Fortuna. De Rubens. Dos varas de alto y mas de vara de ancho marco color oro y filetes dors

Inv. Testamentaría Fernando VII, Real Museo, Sala Reservada, 1834. Núm. 73.
Sala Reservada [...] Setenta y tres. La Fortuna. Esta con un pie en un globo colocado en medio del mar. Rubens. Yd Lº 16200

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Torre de la Parada, 1701-1703. Núm. s.n..
Quarto Vajo Pieza quarta [...] (Existe en las piezas 8ª y 6ª a los numeros 79 y 95) Iten dos Pinturas iguales de dos varas y media de alto la una de Venus [...] Escuela de Rubenes tasadas ambas en 80 Doblones.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in white. Front, lower corner

Exhibitions +

[Exposición sin confirmar] A History of Spain. Treasures of the Museo del Prado. From El Greco to Goya.
01.01.2023 - 01.01.2023

La invención del cuerpo. Diálogos entre arte y anatomía
San Sebastián
23.11.2018 - 22.02.2019

La invención del cuerpo. Diálogos entre arte y anatomía
02.07.2018 - 04.11.2018

Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado
Williamstown MA
12.06.2016 - 10.10.2016

Rubens and his Legacy
24.01.2015 - 10.04.2015

Rubens and his Legacy
25.09.2014 - 04.01.2015

05.11.2010 - 23.01.2011

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
14.07.2006 - 15.10.2006

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
24.03.2006 - 02.07.2006

Velázquez, Rubens, Claudio de Lorena y la pintura en la corte de Felipe IV
07.10.1999 - 23.01.2000

Displayed objects +

Orb / Sphere: De la misma apariencia formal que las esferas transparentes, que representando el orbe coronado por la cruz figuran en numerosas imágenes de Jesús como Salvador, es esta esfera con una significación completamente distinta, y carente de toda sugerencia cristiana. El pintor representa, como símbolo de su inestabilidad, a la diosa Fortuna apoyada en un solo pie sobre una esfera transparente que flota en un mar agitado. Estos objetos singulares suelen mostrar una transparencia y brillo que podría hacer pensar en piezas de vidrio. Sin embargo, su gran tamaño permite descartar el supuesto de que fueran de vidrio y, mucho menos aún, de cristal de roca. Lo más probable es que dada su rareza, en la mayoría de los casos no se tratara de piezas reales copiadas del natural, sino pintadas imaginativamente por el artista (Fernández Navarro, J. M.; Capel del Águila, F.: El vidrio en la pintura del Museo Nacional del Prado, 2012).

Update date: 01-01-2023 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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