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Landscape with Psyche and Jupiter
Rubens, Peter Paul; Bril, Paul
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Rubens, Peter Paul
Siegen, Westphalia (Germany), 1577 - Antwerp (Belgium), 1640
Bril, Paul
Antwerp, 1554 - Rome, 1626

Landscape with Psyche and Jupiter

Ca. 1610. Oil on canvas.
Room 078

On a number of occasions, Peter Paul Rubens partially overpainted finished pictures. He did this to paintings by his own hand, such as Nymphs and Satyrs (P1666), which he retouched and enlarged twenty years after he first painted it. He also made changes to drawings and paintings by other artists that he owned. This painting is an example of such reworking, albeit in a radical mode that changed the subject from a scene of asceticism to one of eroticism. The picture was originally made by Paul Bril, who was trained in Antwerp and active in Rome from about 1575 until his death in 1626. Bril was one of the most successful landscape painters in Italy, where he worked for popes and other prominent patrons. This painting bears the date 1610 (on a rock in the lower-left corner), a time when Bril was at the height of his popularity. An X-ray of the painting shows that where we now see a nude woman and an eagle, there was originally a kneeling Saint Jerome holding a stone in his right hand. A hermit, Saint Jerome was frequently presented in landscape paintings, and part of his red cloth robe is still visible in front of the woman´s left foot. After purchasing this painting, either in Italy or Antwerp, Rubens decided to alter it. This must have happened after 1625, however, because the Antwerp artist Marten Ryckaert (1587-1631) made a closely related (though not identical) copy of Bril´s original painting dated to that year. In this picture, Rubens covered up the saint, and in his place painted a nude woman and the eagle that we now see. The style of the figure and the eagle are fully characteristic of Rubens, and his particular handling of the brush can also be discerned in the selective changes that he made to the landscape background: in the rock and branches to the left of the eagle; in the area behind it, which was originally part of the rock; and in the spray and mist rising from the waterfall just to the right of Psyche, among other areas. With these changes, Rubens transformed Bril´s painting of the penitent saint in subject and scope, adding to it the vital pulse and sense of life that are so typical of his landscapes. The subject of this painting was identified as the story of Psyche when the work was listed in Rubens´s collection after his death. Indeed, the eagle (Jupiter) and the woman (Psyche) are characters from the novel Metamorphoses, also known as The Golden Ass, by the Roman writer Apuleius (c. 124-probably after 170 CE). The only novel from antiquity to survive in its entirety, The Golden Ass was well known during Rubens´s time, serving as an important source for artists. While the tale of Cupid and Psyche, which accounts for a long section of the book, was frequently depicted by artists, the representation of Psyche and Jupiter was rare. One exception exists in the work of the Italian artist Giulio Romano (1499-1546), whose fresco cycle in the Sala di Psiche in the Palazzo del Te in Mantua (c. 1532-35) was inspired by the same section of Apuleius´s text. Rubens knew this precedent well, because he had been court painter in Mantua during his long stay in Italy from 1600 to 1608. The story of Psyche and Jupiter that Rubens illustrates is taken from Book VI (13-15) of Apuleius´s novel. The reading of this text may well have prompted Rubens to make the changes to the landscape by Bril that he owned. At one point in the story, Venus asks Psyche, "Do you see that steep mountain peak, rising above those towering cliffs? Dark waters flow from a black fountain there, down to the nearby valley´s confined depths, and they feed the swamps of Styx, and the bitter stream of Cocytus." Psyche herself was frightened by the dramatic landscape: "A, high and immense rock wall, jagged, precarious, and inaccessible, emitted dread streams from jaws of stone, flowing downwards from their precipitous source." Characteristically, Rubens saw the sedate landscape by Bril in similarly dramatic terms, and decided to change it. Also true to form, Rubens followed Apuleius´s narrative closely -he was exceptional in his interest and comprehension of classical texts and one of the most erudite painters of his time. Rubens painted the eagle as it takes the cup from the hand of Psyche to fill it with water: "Now, pass me that phial"! Jupiter ordered Psyche, and "he snatched it from her hand." The river where the cup will be filled is in the background. Near the right corner is a dragon-like creature, one of the fierce serpents mentioned by Apuleius. Rubens was undoubtedly inspired to paint Psyche as a nude because of his reading of The Golden Ass, which has many erotic passages, or because of Giulio Romano´s racy fresco paintings that he knew in Mantua. Rubens´s painting arrived in Spain after it was purchased by Philip IV from the painter´s collection following Rubens´s death in 1640. The king installed it in a room of the Alcazar Palace known as the retiradizo, together with other mythological and allegorical nudes. The nudity featured in the painting led to its inclusion in 1834 in the sala reservada -the room reserved for nude paintings- in the Real Museo de Pinturas in Madrid (now the Museo Nacional del Prado) (Text drawn from Vergara, A.: Splendor, Myth, and Vision. Nudes from the Prado, 2016, pp. 110-115).


Technical data

Inventory number
Rubens, Peter Paul; Bril, Paul
Landscape with Psyche and Jupiter
Ca. 1610
Height: 95 cm; Width: 129 cm
Royal Collection (Real Alcázar de Madrid, Retiradiço, 1666, nº10; Real Alcázar, Pieza inmediata que llaman el Retiradico, 1686, s.n.; Real Alcázar, Pieza inmediata que llaman el Retiradico, 1701, nº322; [¿]Real Alcázar, Pinturas que estan en las Bobedas de Palacio, 1734, nº322 [?];Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, Pinturas existentes antiguas primera sala de la Furriera, 1747, nº107; Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, Pieza segunda entablada, 1772, nº107; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, Pinturas descolgadas en Palacio, 1794, nº107; Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Madrid, Sala Reservada, 1834, nº59).

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier y Beroqui, Pedro, Inventarios Reales en 12 Volumenes y Un Indice (Fotocopias) (procedencia/provenanace), 1923.

Bottineau, Yves, L'Alcázar de Madrid et l'inventaire de 1686. Aspects de la cour d'Espagne au XVIIe siècle, Bulletin Hispanique, 1958.

Fernández Bayton, Gloria, Inventarios reales : testamentaria del Rey Carlos II : 1701-1703 (procedencia/provenance), Museo del Prado. Patronato Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado: catálogo de pintura: escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado. Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 39-40.

Jaffe, Michael, Rubens and Italy, Phaidon, Londres, 1977, pp. 54.

Wood, Jeremy, Damaged by Time and Rubens. Rubens's restoration and retouchings, Apollo Chronique des Beaux Arts, 1995, pp. 16-23.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, II, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 192.

Brown, Christopher, Rubens's landscapes: making & meaning, National Gallery PublicationsDistributed by Yale U, Londres, 1996, pp. 30.

Pijl, Luuk, Paintings by Paul Bril in collaboration with Rotten-Manner, Elsheimer and Rubens, The Burligton Magazine, 140, 1998, pp. 667.

Vergara, Alejandro, The Presence of Rubens in Spain. (Volumes i and II). Tesis D, A Bell & Howell Company, Ann Arbor, 1999, pp. 113-117.

Aterido Fernández, A.; Martínez Cuesta, J.; Pérez Preciado, J. J., Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio: inventarios reales, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, El paisaje nórdico en el Prado: Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2011, pp. 64-65.

V.V.A.A., Roma naturaleza e ideal: paisajes 1600-1650, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2011, pp. 39, 108-109.

Martínez Leiva, Gloria; Rodríguez Rebollo, Ángel, El inventario del Alcázar de Madrid de 1666. Felipe IV y su colección artística, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, 2015, pp. 192 nº 10.

Vergara, A, 'P. Bril, P.P. Rubens. Landscape with Psyque and Jupiter'' En:, Splendor, Myth, and Vision : Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado,, 2016, pp. 110-115 n.11.

Other inventories +

Inv. Alcázar, Madrid, 1734. Núm. [¿]322 [?].
[¿]Pinturas que estan en las Bóbedas de Palacio [...] 322 / Otro de vara y quarta de largo y tres quartas de alto sin marco de vn pais flamenco de mano no conocida [?]

Inv. Felipe V, Palacio Nuevo, 1747. Núm. 107.
Pinturas existentes antiguas [...] en la 1º sala de estte oficio [...] 107 / Otra de vn pais original de Pablo Bris de vara y tercia de largo y vara y quarta de caida con vna figura de muger desnuda dando de bever a vn aguila en 3 mil rs.

Inv. Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1772. Núm. 107.
Pieza segunda entablada [...] 107 / Vn pais flamenco con una figura que tiene una copa en la mano donde bebe una aguila vara de alto y vara y media de largo = original flamenco

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 107.
Pinturas descolgadas en Palacio [...] 107 Vara y media de largo y vara y quarta escasa de alto: Pais con una ninfa que tiene una Copa en la mano que la torna un Aguila...1.000

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1705.
Van-Uden / 1705. Pais. / Es peñascoso y frondoso, con una casca- / da, y en ella el arco iris. Al pie de una / roca esta Hebe suministrando la ambro- / sia al aguila de Jupiter. / La figura y el aguila son de Jordanes. / Alto 3 pies, 4 pulg; ancho 4 pies, 7 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1705.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1780.
1780.-(1705-R.)-País peñascoso y frondoso, con una cascada, en cuya bruma se pinta el arco íris.-Las figuras que lo animan, de mano de Jordaens, representan al águila de Jupiter bebiendo el néctar en la copa de Hebe. Col. de Cárlos II, R. Alc. y Pal. de Madrid (?). Salvado del incendio del año 1734, figurando como de P. Bril en el correspondiente inventario. Alto 0,93; ancho 1,28.-L.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Alcázar de Madrid, 1701-1703. Núm. 322.
Pieza inmediatta que llaman el rettiradico [...] 322 / Yttem dos Paises de Vara y media de largo y Vna Vara de Ancho el Vno de mano de Pablo Brijill de Ganímedes tasado en Sesentta doblones [...]

Inv. Testamentaría Fernando VII, Real Museo, Sala Reservada, 1834. Núm. 59.
SALA RESERVADA [...] Cincuenta y nueve. País de Hebe. Tiene en la mano la copa en donde bebe el Aguila. Anónimo. Flamenca Lº 5.140

Inv. María Luisa Gabriela de Saboya, Alcázar de Madrid, 1703. Núm. s. n..
De la pieza inmediata que llaman el Retiradico se sacaron las pinturas sgtes. [...] It. dos payses de a vara y ma. de largo y una vara de alto, el uno de Pablo Bril de Ganimedes y el otro un labadero de mano de David Tenies, colocado el uno en dicha cámara de mi sra. la Princesa y el otro en el pasillo de dicha cámara

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1666. Núm. s.n..
RETIRADIÇO [...] {10 y 11} Dos países, de bara y media de largo y una bara de ancho, el uno de Paulo Gril, de Ganímedes, y el otro es labadero, de Dabid Teniers, tasados a mill reales cada uno... 2.000.

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1686. Núm. s.n..
Pieza inmediata que llaman el Retiradizo [...] (582) et (583) Dos payses de a vara y media de largo y vna vara de ancho el vno de mano de Pablo Bril de Ganimedes, y el otro vn Lauadero de David Theniers.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in black. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

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

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
Palma de Mallorca
20.06.2013 - 29.09.2013

Rubens, Brueghel, Lorena. El paisaje nórdico en el Prado
14.03.2013 - 02.06.2013

Rome: Nature and the Ideal. Landscapes 1600-1650
05.07.2011 - 25.09.2011

Nature et idéal. Le paysage à Rome 1600-1650 - Landscape
08.03.2011 - 06.06.2011

05.11.2010 - 23.01.2011

Rubens. La Adoración de los Magos
30.11.2004 - 27.02.2005

El paisaje flamenco - Die Flämische Landschaft
08.05.2004 - 01.08.2004

El paisaje flamenco - Die Flämische Landschaft
21.12.2003 - 12.04.2004

El paisaje flamenco - Die Flämische Landschaft
23.08.2003 - 07.12.2003

Making and meaning
17.10.1996 - 19.01.1997

Location +

Room 078 (On Display)

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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