Exhibited in the inner sanctum, the Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery at The Morgan Library & Museum, Ilona van Tuinen assembled a beautiful, small collection of eighteen works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens from the Morgan’s rich collection of Flemish drawings. She supplemented it by four loans, two recent additions by Rubens and one by Jordaens in private collections (figs. 3, 6 and 9) that are still little known, augmented by the loan of Rubens’s late Sermon in a Village Church (fig. 16) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, all reproduced in color in the fine exhibition catalog.
Van Tuinen recounts in the introduction the collecting of Flemish drawings at the Morgan that excels in drawings by these three major artists. The highlight of the exhibition was Rubens’s large black chalk drawing of a Seated Male Nude, the study for Daniel in Daniel in the Lions’ Den in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Another highlight was Rubens’s two studies of an Angel Blowing a Trumpet, drawn in preparation for relief sculptures in the spandrels above the main entrance of Antwerp’s Jesuit church, c. 1617-20. Purchased at different times, it is especially gratifying to see the two sheets mounted together, thus imitating their position on the Jesuit church entrance. A recent addition to the work of Rubens is the black chalk study enhanced with the brush and brown ink of Saint Lambert, the Bishop of Maastricht (fig. 9) in a private collection with a suggested date of c.1625-30, a time when the artist much preferred the oil sketch to prepare another work.
What is special about exhibitions at The Morgan Library & Museum is the fact that the collection often owns the books with illustrations that the artists copied. Such is the case with Rubens’s drawing Job’s Wife and Judith and Holofernes after Tobias Stimmer, copied while the artist was still in Antwerp, c. 1595 (cat. 1) and The Adoration of the Magi of c. 1612-13, an illustration for the 1613 luxury folio edition of the Missale Romanum, engraved by Theodoor Galle (cat. 3). Comparing Rubens’s figures with Stimmer’s woodcuts one notices how much taller his female protagonists are than in Stimmer’s prints. It also shows that he copied directly with the pen, needing few corrections. The recent discovery of Rubens’s Ecorché Study of Legs of a Male Nude, c. 1600-05 (fig. 3), now in the Kasper Collection, has finally vindicated Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann’s opinion expressed long ago that the version in the Albertina was a copy. With regard to the so-called Niccolò da Uzzano portrait after Leonardo da Vinci (cat. 2), here exhibited as entirely by Rubens, I still maintain that it was merely retouched by Rubens despite all the technical investigations that basically only confirm the various media involved but not how they were applied and layered. The application of red ink with a pointed brush and the yellowish highlights on the cheek to render more volume in my opinion are vintage Rubens retouches; this is further supported by the point of the brush and red ink outlining the rim of the jacket.
Van Dyck is represented by the large, stunning black chalk portrait of Anna van Thielen and Her Daughter Anna Maria Rombouts of c. 1631-32 for the painting in Munich (no. 9; fig. 29), one of Van Dyck’s most impressive drawings in the United States. The black chalk portrait of the Jesuit Nicolas Trigault in Chinese Costume of 1617 (fig. 12) in the Morgan is now considered to be by Van Dyck rather than Rubens. Furthermore, a more recent Van Dyck gift to the Morgan is his Portrait of Jacques Dubroeucq of c. 1627-35 (fig. 13) from the Thaw collection. Besides three pen and ink preliminary studies for The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, an early study for The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine in the Prado, Madrid, and the Diana and Endymion, there is Van Dyck’s moving chalk study of the Dead Christ of c. 1635-40 on blue paper in preparation for The Lamentation in the Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Another Van Dyck highlight at the Morgan is his beautiful pen sketch of the View of Rye from the Northeast, dated by the artist August 27, 1633, one of three such stunning views of the town known.
The last of the three artists, Jacob Jordaens, is represented with a mother and child study in trois crayons, believed to render his wife Catharina van Noort and their daughter Anna Catharina. Hans Buijs suggested the proper reading of inscription as “dichter bij de vrou” (“closer to the woman”). The two appear in the center of Jordaens’s painting The King Drinks of c. 1638-40 in the Louvre, Paris. The drawing entered The Morgan Library & Museum only in 2017 as part of Eugene V. Thaw’s substantial gift of more than 400 drawings. Additional Jordaens drawings are the Satyr and the Peasant of c. 1644, for one of a series of eight tapestries with Flemish proverbs, today in Hluboká Castle, Czech Republic, purchased originally in 1647 by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm (1614-1662). Different is Jordaens’s design for an engraving attributed to Jacob Neefs (1610-c. 1670), the Allegory of Vanity or “Kent u selven” (“Know Yourself”). Jordaens’s painting of the subject is lost but known from a copy in the Musée d’Art et d’histoire de Saint-Brieuc, France (fig. 36).
Besides Jordaens’s compositional drawings in colored chalks and watercolor, we also find an early chalk study of a Male Nude Seen from Behind, dated c. 1617-20 from a private collection that is a welcome addition to the artist’s studies of the human body. The exhibition ends with the Portrait of a Young Woman, dated c. 1635-40 that became known too late for Roger-A. d’Hulst’s catalogue of Jordaens drawings of 1974. He published it separately in 1980, dating it c. 1635-40. Van Tuinen points out that Frits Lugt, in a note in the 1914 sales catalogue, first thought of Jan Cossiers (1600-1671) before changing his opinion to Jordaens. Since the late J.G. van Gelder and myself also favored Cossiers, Ilona van Tuinen is investigating this further, comparing the Morgan drawing with the Portrait of a Man in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (fig. 40), leaving it open, whether the Portrait of a Young Woman might possibly be by the young Cossiers, dating it to the 1630s.
This was Ilona van Tuinen’s farewell exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum. She has since moved to Amsterdam to begin her new position at the Rijksmuseum’s Prentenkabinet as curator of Dutch and Flemish drawings, succeeding Marijn Schapelhouman who retired in August last year.