Case Study
 
           
           

Historical Rewards:

A Dutch and a Flemish Discovery
           

Peter Paul Rubens
"The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
"The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment

           
           
 

Comparisons and Conclusions
 
           
           
St. Catherine
           
The Toledo and Figge paintings show Catherine kneeling on a red cushion. The saint's iconographic spiked wheel is present in the treated painting but absent in Toledo's. In both images, her extended left hand holds a palm branch, the emblem of martyrs, while her right hand is brought reverently to her chest. The drapery folds are similar, but the red waist-tie is missing in the treated painting and the green undergarment is omitted in the Toledo version. Both compositions portray a humbled, penitent figure, but the character of the drawing and the fluid drapery are far superior in the Toledo composition.

Peter Paul Rubens
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

 

Rubens Studio
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
The author agrees with Sutton's insight that "the radiating spokes of the trellis above the Virgin doubtless allude to Catherine's usual attribute, the wheel." (37) The trellis was unnecessary in the Figge version since the wheel itself was imaged in the lower foreground.
           

Peter Paul Rubens
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
           
           
 

Madonna and Child
 
           
In the Toledo image, the Madonna's blue drapery cascades over her knees and legs, with the rippled effect reiterated in the palm branch. The drapery in the Figge version has been badly damaged, leaving only a remnant, silhouetted outline. The upper red dress with a white undergarment is similar in both paintings. The Christ child's pose is also similar, but the child's fleshy character in the Toledo painting is quintessential Rubens and far superior to the Figge rendition.
           

Peter Paul Rubens
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
           
           
 

St. Apollonia
 
           
In pose and attitude, the figure of St. Apollonia is similar in both paintings. Distinct differences are evident in the details. In the Toledo, it is implied that her left hand is holding a palm branch; the branch is absent in the Figge version. Her hair is tied up with a floral bow in the Toledo, which is in contrast to the Figge's pearled clasp. The clothes carry clear differences for the Toledo painting eliminates the white spinal undergarment and the Figge eiminates the red areas near the elbow. The satinlike sheen in the Toledo version is a masterful success of texture and form.
           

Peter Paul Rubens
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
"The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
           
           
 

St. Margaret
 
           
The two renditions of St. Margaret display numerous differences of tone, form, jewelry, hair, and clothing. One interesting similarity is the downward-turning cuff at the left wrist in both paintings while the right cuff turns upward. Both figures bear an individual beauty; the clothing in the Figge version has a sophisticated layered effect. The fire-breathing dragon is far more convincing in the Figge painting than the somewhat awkward sheepish animal in the Toledo.
           

Peter Paul Rubens
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
           

Peter Paul Rubens
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
           
           
 

The Upper Three Putti
 
           
The upper winged putti display similar poses, holding flowers, a floral wreath, and a palm branch. They effectively direct the viewer's eye downward toward the central action. The fleshy character of the Toledo Christ child is masterfully reiterated in the the painting's three floating cherubs. Each carries his own spiritual charm.
           

Peter Paul Rubens
Details "The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
Details "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
           
           
 

The Fourth Putti
 
           
Between St. Margaret and the Madonna, a fourth putti embraces a column of fire--a reference to the destruction of Catherine's wheel. A curious detail is consistent in both paintings. In the Figge painting, a flaming arrowlike insert under St. Margaret's right hand becomes a visual metaphor for a thunderbolt. The shaft points directly to St. Catherine. In the Toledo version, the arrow is on the other side of the flames and points upward toward the trellis, St. Margaret's symbol.
           

Peter Paul Rubens
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
Detail "The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
z
           
           
 

Conclusion
 
           
From the above review, it is clear that the Figge painting is not a copy of Rubens's final version. While it paraphrases the visual elements of style, composition, and mood, the differences suggest a deeper connection. The Figge version is a period piece from the Master's studio and may even predate the Toledo painting, as Rubens developed his final composition through studio variations. This conjecture is supported by the character of the finished figures in the foreground and the looseness of the brushwork in the background.
           

Peter Paul Rubens
"The Crowning of St. Catherine" 1631
The Toledo Museum of Art

Rubens Studio
"The Crowning of St. Catherine"
After Treatment
           
           
Footnotes    
(37) Sutton, P. p.309.
           
           

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Table of Contents, Biography, "Barn Interior" Examination, Treatment,
The Flayed Pig, Related Themes, "The Crowning of St. Catherine" Examination, Visual Treatment, Structural Treatment/Completion, Rubens Original, Comparisons and Conclusions, Final Thoughts

 





Barry Bauman Conservation
Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
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