Flemish Drawings

  • pen, ink, and chalk drawing of seated female religious figure, on green paper

    Workshop of Hugo van der Goes (c. 1440?–1485)
    A Seated Female Saint
    c. 1475–85
    Pen, point of the brush and gray ink, heightened with white gouache over preliminary black chalk underdrawing, on green prepared paper
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    The delicate modeling with light and shade befits the exquisite appearance of this virgin saint, who was probably intended to be Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The figure recurs frequently in early Netherlandish art. Indeed, this drawing is itself a copy of a lost original: faint marks indicate that it was made using a tracing. Clad in a flowing robe royale, the young woman points to the finger on which Christ placed a ring in her vision of their mystic marriage.

  • pen and ink drawing of busy town with dozens of figures performing daily tasks

    Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525–1569)
    Kermis at Hoboken
    Pen and brown ink, contours incised for transfer
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Lee Bequest, 1947

    Bruegel created this detailed drawing as a design for an engraving. Celebrated for his depictions of peasant life, Bruegel shows revelers at a festival in the Flemish village of Hoboken. At this kermis or church festival of the Longbowmen, the secular and religious coexist. Villagers drink, dance, partake in an archery contest, attend a rhetorician performance, and unashamedly relieve themselves while a religious procession carries a sacred statue aloft.

  • pen and ink drawing of the sea with large waves and ships in distance

    Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525–1569)
    A Storm in the River Schelde with a View of Antwerp
    c. 1559
    Pen and brown ink
    Accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Samuel Courtauld Trust (Princes Gate Collection), 1981

    Nearly two-thirds of this stormy marine view is devoted to rows of frenetic waves. The variety of strokes, ranging from dashes and squiggles to long, straight lines, is typical of Bruegel's nuanced use of the pen. The distant city stretching along the horizon is very likely Antwerp. The diminutive island surmounted by gallows at upper left is probably imaginary.

  • pen and ink drawing of figures on coast and in boats

    Johannes Stradanus (1523–1605)
    Pearl Diving
    c. 1596
    Pen and brown ink with wash and white gouache
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Witt Bequest, 1952

    This detailed study was made in preparation for a print, published in Antwerp in 1600. It depicts fishermen hunting for pearls in the Persian Gulf. Divers are lowered from rowboats to the ocean floor in search of oysters. The collected shellfish are then shucked and evaluated. An inscription in the lower margin refers to the expedition of the Venetian merchant Gasparo Balbi, who studied local methods of pearl fishing in Persia in 1580.

  • black chalk drawing of man's head in profile with curly hair and beard

    Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
    Head of the Farnese Hercules
    c. 1608–10
    Black chalk, heightened with white chalk, on gray paper
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    In the 1540s fragments of an enormous classical statue of Hercules were excavated in Rome. Reassembled at the Palazzo Farnese, the sculpture represented an ideal of heroic masculinity and quickly became a favorite subject for artists. Rubens studied the work during his stay in Italy between 1601 and 1608. He may, however, have made this close-up view of the mighty head from one of the many casts and copies that were produced.

  • black, red, and white chalk drawing of woman with dark headpiece

    Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
    Helena Fourment
    c. 1630–31
    Black, red, and white chalk (retouched with pen and brown ink in some details of the head and headdress)
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    Having been a widower for four years, Rubens married Helena Fourment, the sixteen-year-old daughter of an Antwerp silk merchant, in December 1630. This portrait of Rubens's new bride presents Helena near life size in splendid attire, holding what appears to be a prayer book. She is shown lifting or catching her veil, which would have been suspended from the top of her striking headdress, to address the viewer with an unwavering gaze.

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