Pieter Paul Rubens - Study for a halberdier (1604)

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Rubens produced this figure study of a halberdier, paying particular attention to the figure’s costume, during his stay in Mantua. His limbs and attributes are deliberately roughly sketched, marked only by a few economical strokes in black chalk; by contrast, we can almost touch the thick fabric of his cape. The suggestion of alcove niche behind the soldier is implied by parallel hatching, giving depth to the whole study so that it has the appearance of a finished work of art.

Rubens used this sketch to prepare a huge painting commissioned by the Duke of Mantua, Vicenzo Gonzaga (1562-1612), for the city’s Chiesa della Santissima Trinità, in which the Duke is portrayed with his family and parents in worship before the Holy Trinity and flanked by halberdiers. The characteristic features of the face of the man depicted here lead us to assume that Rubens actually used one of the Duke’s soldiers as a model.

This drawing was studied for the AGORA Drawings on Web project.

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Bibliographic description

Materials, technique and dimensions: black and red chalk, traces of pen and brown ink and grey-brown wash, heightened with white gouache, on light grey paper, 406 x 259 mm

Inventory number: S.V 95843

Full description



Prosper Henry Lankrink, London (1628-1692); Joseph van Haecken, London (1699?-1749); Michael Jaffé, Cambridge (1923-1997); London (Sotheby's), 11 November 1965, lot 56


Selective bibliography

J.S. Held, Rubens: Selected Drawings, 2 vols., London 1959, cat. 72; L. De Pauw-De Veen in:Acquisitions majeures. Bibliothèque royale de Belgique. Exercice 1965, pp. 38-42; E. McGrath in: Splendours of the Gonzaga, London (Victoria and Albert Museum) 1981, sub cat. 228, p. 215; J.S. Held, Rubens: Selected Drawings (second edition), New York 1986, cat. 27


Drawings by Old Masters, London (Saville Gallery) 1930, cat. 23; 17th Century Flemish Drawings and Oilsketches, Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Museum) 1955, cat. 30; Quinze années d'acquisitions de la pose de la première pierre à l’inauguration officielle de la Bibliothèque, Brussels (Bibliothèque royale Albert I) 1969, cat. 253; Rubens en zijn tijd. Tekeningen uit Belgische verzamelingen, Antwerp (Rubenshuis) 1971, cat. 59; Dessins Flamands et Hollandais du dix-septième siècle. Collections Musées de Belgique, Musée Boijmans-Van Beuningen Rotterdam, Institut Néerlandais Paris, Paris (Institut Néerlandais) 1974, cat. 90; P.P. Rubens. Peintures, esquisses à l’huile, dessins, Antwerp (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) 1977, cat. 122; Peter Paul Rubens 1577-1640, Cologne (Kunsthalle) 1977, vol. 1, cat. 38; P.P. Rubens & J. Jordaens. Handzeichnungen aus öffentlichen belgischen Sammlungen, Düsseldorf (Kunstmuseum) & Cologne (Wallraf-Richartz-Museum und Museum Ludwig) 1979, cat. 11; Bibliothèque royale de Belgique. 150e anniversaire de l'ouverture au public, 21 mai 1839. 150 pièces remarquables choisies dans ses collections, Brussels (Bibliothèque royale de Belgique) 1989, cat. 113a; Rubens en zijn tijd, Tokyo (Seibu Museum of Art) 1982, cat. 62;  Peter Paul Rubens. The Drawings, New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art) 2005, cat. 15