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Gaspard Gevartius

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Peter Paul Rubens
Siegen 1577 - Antwerp 1640
oil on panel
119 x 98 cm
Inventory Number 706

The Antwerp city clerk Jan Gaspard Gevartius , or Gevaerts, is sitting at his writing desk, making notes in a manuscript with a quill. He has briefly interrupted his work and looks up at the viewer. His black beard contrasts sharply with the white ruff around his neck. His hands are lined by two fine white sleeves. The bust on the table represents the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, a source of inspiration to Gevartius on whom he also wrote an unpublished book. The books in the background refer to the city clerk’s position and personal interests. Peter Paul Rubens painted this wonderfully subdued portrait during a period when he was producing mainly grand series of paintings and colourful altarpieces. It was presumably commissioned by Gevartius, a close friend of Rubens’s. Whenever Rubens had to travel abroad on diplomatic missions, he would temporarily entrust the education of his eldest son Albert to Gevartius.

Who copied who?

The Antwerp artist Cornelis de Vos painted a similar portrait of Gevartius’s father. Undoubtedly, the two paintings were intended as a pair. But which of the two was made first? Was it De Vos who created a companion piece to Rubens’s portrait or was it Rubens who copied the somewhat archaic style of De Vos? 

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