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Rubens: Picturing Antiquity

Edited by Anne T. Woollett, Davide Gasparotto, and Jeffrey Spier

The first study devoted to classical art’s vital creative impact on the work of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. 

For the great Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), the classical past afforded lifelong creative stimulus and the camaraderie of humanist friends. A formidable scholar, Rubens ingeniously transmitted the physical ideals of ancient sculptors, visualized the spectacle of imperial occasions, rendered the intricacies of mythological tales, and delineated the character of gods and heroes in his drawings, paintings, and designs for tapestries. His passion for antiquity profoundly informed every aspect of his art and life.
Including 170 color illustrations, this volume addresses the creative impact of Rubens’s remarkable knowledge of the art and literature of antiquity through the consideration of key themes. The book’s lively interpretive essays explore the formal and thematic relationships between ancient sources and Baroque expressions: the significance of neo-Stoic philosophy, the compositional and iconographic inspiration provided by exquisite carved gems, Rubens’s study of Roman marble sculpture, and his inventive translation of ancient sources into new subjects made vivid by his dynamic painting style. 
This volume was published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa November 10, 2021, to January 24, 2022.

Anne T. Woollett is curator of paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Davide Gasparotto is senior curator of paintings and chair, curatorial affairs, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Jeffrey Spier is Anissa and Paul John Balson II Senior Curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

—Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times

“Exceptionally well presented and impressively informative.”
Midwest Book Review

“[A] handsomely-produced book. . . . Superbly illustrated.”
—Robert Beddard, Catholic Herald

“The mythical Gorgon Medusa petrified the flesh and blood of those who beheld her. Rubens reversed the metamorphosis. He transformed the ancient sculptures that stood at the center of his art from stone back into flesh and blood. This exhibition and its catalogue display and explain that powerful process of artistic creation, presenting it vividly and lucidly to visitors and readers alike.”
—Jeffrey Muller, Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Brown University

“Rubens's paintings speak directly to the emotions, but a real understanding of his work is only possible if we recognize that his worldview was permeated by antiquity. Not only a great introduction, this book also provides many new insights into Rubens's love and comprehensive knowledge of classical art and literature.”
—Friso Lammertse, Curator of 17th-Century Dutch and Flemish Painting, Rijksmuseum

192 pages
9 x 11 inches
171 color illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-670-6

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum