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The Education of Achilles
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

The Education of Achilles

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.

Thetis entrusted the education of her son Achilles to the boy´s great-grandfather, the wise centaur Chiron, tutor of gods and heroes, who instructed him in the arts of medicine, music, riding and hunting. Rubens illustrated a riding lesson, for which the centaur, half-man and half-horse, was eminently well suited. A variety of objects allude to other aspects of Achilles´s education. The bearded male term portrayed with a snake coiled around a staff is Aesculapius, the god of medicine, whom several classical sources describe as having studied under Chiron. Homer refers to Achilles´s knowledge of medicine in the Iliad (IX, 631). The female term holding a lyre is one of the Muses, probably Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, but her attribute does not allow for a more specific identification. An ancient source states that Achilles offered a sacrifice to her in the hope that she would teach him music and poetry. The lyre in the tree is a second allusion to Achilles´s musical education. Hunting is symbolised by the two hounds in the landscape and the still life of hunting attributes in the foreground comprising a bow and arrows, a dead hare, a bird and two hunting horns. Rubens based his illustration of the riding lesson on a description of what was probably a fictive painting in Philostratus´s Imagines: Chiron is teaching Achilles to ride horseback and to use him exactly as a horse. The figures of Achilles and Chiron were predominantly inspired by a classical sculpture of the Centaur Tormented by Cupid (Paris, Musee National du Louvre), which had been excavated shortly before Rubens´s arrival in Rome. Rubens had made drawings of it from different angles when it was in the collection of Scipione Borghese.

The modello is deeper in tone than the sketch. The grey imprimatura, which is exposed in much of the sketch, is less visible in the modello. The landscape must originally have resembled that in the sketch, but a hill was subsequently added between the foreground and the mountains in the distance, with trees and a sand path to the right of Achilles. The inclusion of this middle ground creates a more gradual transition between the foreground and background of the picture.

An assistant, possibly Erasmus Quellinus, must have done the preparatory work by copying the sketch accurately to the modello. The terms, the garlands and the architectural elements are pastose and the artist who painted them was probably also responsible for the landscape and the two main figures. Rubens himself presumably introduced most of the changes mentioned above after the sketch had been transferred to the modello (Text drawn from Lammertse, F.; Vergara, A.: Peter Paul Rubens. The Life of Aquiles, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen-Museo Nacional del Prado, 2003, pp. 75-82).


Technical data

Related artworks

Briseis returned to Achilles by Nestor
Oil on panel, 1630 - 1635
Inventory number
Rubens, Peter Paul (and workshop)
The Education of Achilles
1630 - 1635
Height: 109 cm.; Width: 88.9 cm.
Bequest of María Dionisia Vives y Zires, Duchess of Pastrana, 1889

Bibliography +

Onieva, Antonio Juan, La Mitologia en el Museo del Prado, Offo, Madrid, 1972, pp. 19.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado: catálogo de pinturas. Escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado; Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 306-307.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 594-595.

Jaffe, Michael, Rubens: catálogo completo, Rizzoli, Milán, 1989, pp. 324, nº1031.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, II, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 1048.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº866.

Vergara, Alejandro, The Presence of Rubens in Spain. (Volumes i and II). Tesis D, A Bell & Howell Company, Ann Arbor, 1999, pp. 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. 75-82.

García Gual, C., 'Relato mítico y momento pictórico. Rubens y Ovidio'. En Historias inmortales, Barcelona, 2003, pp. 281-298.

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

Hanson, Craig, Rubens and the life of Aquiles, The Burlington Magazine, 1210, 2004, pp. 48.

Vézilier-Dussart, Sandrine; De Bruyn, Jean-Pierre, Érasme Quellin dans le sillage de Rubens, Musée de Flandre,Cassel - Snoeck, 2014, pp. 164 n.166.

Mena, Manuela B., 'La caza. Reyes cazadores.' En:, Mena Marques,Manuela B. Goya en Madrid : cartones para tapices 1775-1794, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2014, pp. 46-57 [52 f.1.4].

De Bruyn, Jean-Pierre, 'Pictor doctus, pictor Antuerpiae' En:, Érasme Quellin dans le sillage de Rubens, Musée de Flandre,Cassel - Snoeck, 2014, pp. 15-25 [19].

De Bruyn, Jean-Pierre, 'Vers un Baroque classicisant' En:, Érasme Quellin dans le sillage de Rubens, Musée de Flandre,Cassel - Snoeck, 2014, pp. 36-49 [37-38 f.1].

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. 866.
866 / Autor P.P. Rubens / Un cuadro titulado "Educacion de Aquiles." / alto 1'10 ancho 0,90 [Nota al margen izquierdo a lápiz] 22)

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in blue. Front, lower left corner

marcas de gremio fabricante tablas


Exhibitions +

Goya in Madrid
28.11.2014 - 03.05.2015

05.11.2010 - 23.01.2011

Pedro Pablo Rubens. La historia de Aquiles
09.12.2003 - 01.03.2004

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

Displayed objects +


Lyre, Classical: Sólo se ve la mitad del instrumento que porta la escultura situada a la derecha. Cordófono de cuerda punteada, ornado por una estructura o bastidor dorado, con volutas decorativas y forma de corazón invertido. Es un instrumento poco verosímil y simbólico. No se ve ningún fragmento de la caja armónica ni se distingue el número de cuerdas. La lira aparece en el siglo VII a. de C. Su invención es atribuida por la mitología griega al dios Hermes, que se la ofreció a Apolo y a Orfeo simbolizando la expresión poética.
La lira clásica solía ser de madera y su sonoridad era siempre débil, moviéndose en el registro medio de la voz humana a la que acompaña.

Horn, Natural / Horn, Hunting: En primer término, en el suelo, hay una trompa natural y un cuerno de caza en alusión a la educación del héroe griego. Las trompas naturales pueden estar construidas de diferentes materiales de origen vegetal, animal, o mineral. Los antecedentes más remotos se encuentran en caracolas y cuernos prehistóricos. La trompa moderna no aparece hasta la primera mitad del siglo XVII en Francia marcando el inicio de la historia musical de la trompa en Occidente. Este instrumento, que ya se había utilizado en el siglo XVI para toques de caza, fue perfeccionándose progresivamente, y fue introducido en el teatro musical para evocaciones cinegéticas desde 1639 (Cavalli).
Se utilizan como instrumento de señales para transmitir información a través del sonido, como instrumentos ceremoniales para celebrar a los dioses o como herramientas de guerra para estimular el combate.

Update date: 14-01-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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