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The Calydonian Boar Hunt Ranks as One of the Greatest Paintings by Rubens in the United States

May 8, 2006

LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum has acquired The Calydonian Boar Hunt (about 1611–12), a newly discovered painting by 17th-century master Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640) that was previously only known from later copies and engravings.  It is one of the most significant works by Rubens to become available in a generation and ranks among his greatest paintings held in the United States.  With this new acquisition, the Getty Museum will have the nation’s most important collection of works by the artist from the innovative and crucial  period following his return to Antwerp, which formed the foundation for the rest of his career. The painting will be on view to the public for the first time at the Getty Center from July 5, 2006.

"We are extremely excited about this rare find.  It is seldom that a "lost" painting of such an innovative historical subject by an artist of this caliber comes to light again," says Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. "What has been unknown to scholars until now is the extraordinary beauty and visual power of this painting, which epitomizes Rubens' assurance and technical brilliance at a key moment of his career.  This acquisition offers us the opportunity to study and appreciate the work for the first time, establishing another connection to this influential talent.  From this one painting, we can trace the root of Rubens’ expressive style and his bold inventiveness, and observe his passion and personal affinity for classical art and literature."

The Calydonian Boar Hunt will be installed in the permanent collection galleries of the Getty Museum at the Getty Center.  Here, among the Museum's outstanding 17th-century paintings collection, The Calydonian Boar Hunt will be displayed alongside works by Nicolas Poussin, Orazio Gentileschi, Jan Brueghel the Elder, and other contemporaries of Rubens. Visitors will be able to learn more about Rubens in two complementary exhibitions opening this summer—Rubens and Brueghel:  A Working Friendship, and Rubens and His Printmakers.  Both these Getty Museum exhibitions run concurrently at the Getty Center from July 5-September 24,2006.

With The Calydonian Boar Hunt joining The Return from War: Mars Disarmed by Venus (1610-12) and The Entombment (about 1612), all painted at around the same time, the Museum will be able to vividly demonstrate the ingenuity of one of the greatest  artists of the century during his formative years. Rubens' brilliant and descriptive brushwork in the panel has much in common with his oil sketches, another strength of the collection. The Getty's collection also includes one of the largest holdings of drawings by Rubens in the U.S., ranging from early examples such as Anatomical Study (about 1600–05) to the magnificent Assumption of the Virgin (about 1624).

Depicting the mythological hunt as told by Ovid, the painting is the artist's first treatment of this classical combat between men and beast, a rare subject in the 1600s. With this work, Rubens established a new genre, combining Flemish naturalism with Italian classical influences.  Painted on his return from Italy, The Calydonian Boar Hunt reflects Rubens' study of statues from antiquity and reliefs on Roman sarcophagi, which informed the pose of his subjects and the tight composition of his scene.

Portraying the climactic instant when Meleager thrusts a spear into the boar, surrounded by robust  hunters and the bloodied form of a fallen warrior, the painting is a superb expression of the Baroque style in its ability to depict emotion through action.  It epitomizes the dramatic, powerful style Rubens brought to his battle scenes and his subjects from history. Combining dazzling brushwork and chiaroscuro light effects, the picture features two dynamic horses influenced by an awareness of Leonardo da Vinci.  The Calydonian Boar Hunt shows Rubens at his most daring and inventive.  It is thought that Rubens retained this painting in his studio as inspiration as he continued to develop the theme of the boar hunt and related subjects through the years.

Born in 1577, Peter Paul Rubens rose to become the preeminent painter in Antwerp, forging a bold style that earned him an international reputation and major public commissions.  He embarked on an influential eight-year sojourn in Italy in 1600, where he served as court painter to the Duke of Mantua.  Over the years Rubens worked across Europe, producing paintings for the rulers of France, England, and Spain, among others.

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Miranda Carroll
Getty Communications Dept.

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