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  • Portrait of Charles de Longueval

    Artist:
    Rubens, Peter Paul (Pietro Pauolo). 1577-1640
    Technique:
    oil
    Dimensions:
    62x50 cm

Rubens, Peter Paul (Pietro Pauolo). 1577-1640

Portrait of Charles de Longueval

Flanders, 1621

Charles Bonaventura de Longueval, Count de Bucquoi, was a leading participant in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). He was a member of the highest Belgian aristocracy, governor of the province of Hainaut and artillery commander in the Spanish service who led the troops of Emperor Ferdinand II. After winning a number of victories in 1620, de Longueval was killed in the storming of the Ersekujvar (Neuhausel) fortress in Hungary on 3 July 1621. In this portrait de Longueval is shown wearing a commander?s sash across his shoulder, with a marshal?s baton in his hand and the Order of the Golden Fleece around his neck. His oval portrait is surrounded by an allegorical frame with a wreath of laurel and oak leaves, symbolizing his military and civilian services. To the right, we see Heracles with his large club, the personification of Strength, trampling on Discord with snakes instead of hair, and the seven-headed hydra of Envy (or Enmity). Alongside him is the goddess of Victory with a trophy; and behind him is the winged figure of Accord with a sign bearing the depiction of a handshake framed by a laurel wreath. Accord is handing the earthly sphere to the imperial eagle (emblem of the Habsburgs). The Genii representing the Church and Religion, with a cross and a bowl, crown the eagle with a laurel wreath. To the left of the oval portrait, there is the figure of Security or Victory in mourning (we see a similar winged figure with a trophy portrayed in Rubens?s painting The Death of Henry IV and the Proclamation of the Regency). Behind her is one more winged figure, wearing a helmet and holding out the palm branch of peace to the eagle. She is identified with Bellona, the goddess of war, who, it should be mentioned, is usually depicted without wings; some scholars also see in her a depiction of Victoria and the embodiment of Martial Valour. In the lower part of the frame, in the centre, there are two lowered crossed torches at an altar, symbolizing mourning. To the left and right of the altar are shackled male and female figures representing captured rivers (between them is an urn with water pouring forth) and cities (female figure wearing the crown of a city). Behind them are the symbols of enslavement: a yoke, shackles and whips. Space has been left on the altar for an inscription of dedication, and over this is the shield for a coat-of-arms. Rubens followed here a Renaissance scheme and divided the composition vertically into three zones: the lower zone (up to the plinth), with embodiments of the captured rivers and cities; a central zone (over the plinth), with allegorical figures to the sides of the portrait medallion; and an upper zone, with the depiction of the eagle, which is bathed in divine light coming from above. In this manner the artist has symbolically presented the three levels of the hero's apotheosis, the three stages of his rise to glory: the lower level, which represents his earthly glory; the middle level, reflecting his moral qualities which determined his striving for peace, unity and accord; and the upper level, with a symbolic depiction of the main objective of all his victories - namely to contribute to the victory of the Roman Catholic faith for which de Longueval finally laid down his life. Both higher levels are united by an architectural construction which is reminiscent of a triumphal arch. This memorial portrait served as the original for an engraving which was published in 1621 to honour the death of Charles de Longueval. The engraving was done by Lucas Vorsterman, one of the most important engravers in Rubens's workshop.

Title:

Portrait of Charles de Longueval

Place:

Date:

Material:

Technique:

oil

Dimensions:

62x50 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1768; acquired from the K. Cobenzl collection in Brussels

Inventory Number:

ГЭ-508

Category:

Collection: