God the Father supported by Angels, copied after Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

WAG 1995.83


Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640) was a German-born Flemish painter and a master of the Baroque style. He was a painter of historical, religious and mythological themes, but was also known for his portraits and landscapes. Rubens spent several years in Italy studying classical and Renaissance art as well as Roman poetry and history. Rubens was greatly influenced by the power and passion of Michelangelo's (1475 - 1564) work which he encountered in Rome. When he returned to Antwerp in 1608 he brought back many study drawings after Michelangelo's painted and sculpted works; these formed the core of his large collection of copies, carefully kept in a chest in his studio, that acted as 'art reference material' for himself and his workshop apprentices, pupils and assistants to study and copy. This drawing faithfully records the central part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. It also enhances and embellishes MIchelangelo's qualities and overlays them with Ruben's own -- the cherubs become more vigorous, God's face becomes even more intense and his muscular torso ripples more emphatically through the clinging tunic. Rubens shows his mastery of red chalk, though the medium was relatively new to the artist. He was more used to the pen and ink with which he drew some of his earliest copies from the Sistine. The drawing and others like it are thought to have been made on Ruben's first trip to Rome in 1601/02, when his employer Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, was at war in Croatia and left Rubens to travel freely.