Rubens The Father of Jewelry Sketches

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Who is Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens dominates Baroque art to a degree rivaled only by his Italian counterpart in sculpture, Bernini.

The practice of producing oil sketches within the process of creating a painting began in 16th-century Italy. Artists such as Polidoro da Caravaggio, Beccafumi, Federico Barrocci, Tintoretto, and Veronese were the first to make use of painted oil sketches as vehicles to try out their ideas when devising a painting. However, their use of such works was limited, given that drawing was their principal preparatory method.

Rubens is the most important painter of sketches of European art, and the Sketch was a creative tool that the artist turned into a genre. A traveler, polyglot, scholar, collector, and bibliophile, Rubens adds to all his records that is the most important painter of sketches in the history of European art.

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Peter Paul Rubens Paints

Venus and Adonis

The Drama

The Feast of Acheloüs

The Raising of the Cross

Daniel in the Lions Den

Rubens as the Most Important Painter of Oil Sketches in the History of European Art


The production of oil sketches on canvas or board was fundamental in his method of work. Posing the composition of a future painting or saving the memory of one already done, showing a client what he will later receive and bigger (sometimes two options for him to choose) were the basic functions of a type of painting that without losing his instrumental character-ended up becoming a genre in itself: the painted sketch. And how the sketch reclaimed its place in art and became the painted sketch, just as the finished jewels are demanding their space as works of art, I do not see it in a distant future that the jewelry sketches or even anonymous designers because behind a jewelry house or jewelry industry there is a person -will become works of art in their right, and sold with the value of works of art.

Rubens was a master of consistency nearly 500 oil sketches were executed by Rubens throughout his career. As the luminous and impressionistic sketch for All Saints, wherein Rubens explored the effects of light on the heavenly host, served as a study for the engraving of that theme in the 1614 Breviarium Romanum and not, pace Lammertse, “for a painting that in the end never came about”. Noting that the sketch is in a mirror image (confirming its intended reversal in a print).

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His particular drawing method is called contour lines drawing style. This style of contour line drawing coexists with straight lines but is less favored in the current era because of its long learning curve and intensive training requirement.

Basing himself on these precedents, Rubens’s innovative contribution consisted of developing this preparatory process and making systematic use of images painted in oil and on more durable supports than paper. Rubens used some of these sketches to elaborate his ideas on new compositions, or often to show to clients or as a guide for his assistants and collaborators. Depending on their different purposes, these sketches could be very sketchy or highly finished, as well as small or relatively large. They differ from the rest of the artist’s pictorial output in that they are less highly finished and detailed, the paint layer is thinner and the preparatory layer is frequently visible.

The sketchy but complete portrait of Rubens’s daughter Clara Serena is a brilliant example of “crossing the boundaries between drawing and painting,” here to record what Shakespeare called “the constant image” of the beloved.

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Jewelry Scketches

How many times can we see the drawing of a jewel and looks like a small sketched painting? something more complex than a simple sketch. With the jewelry sketches, we are seeing the creative process of the artist, who does not belong to the house for which he designs but to the artist.
The big houses should be like the best stage for the best artists, a megaphone of their talent. Ex: Ives Saint Laurent by Tom Ford! Cartier by? Chopard by? Why the profile of these designers is not more accessible to the public? Why do we only know about them if we look specifically for them? Who are these artists?

Rubens’s drawing method may seem difficult to understand when one analyzes his drawings as a whole but can be more easily explained when we have the chance to study these works in sections. As written by the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu (600 – 400 BCE), “The Dao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things.” From basic contour lines to “dot inbox,” it is the mastery of the basic line drawing method used by the artist that enables us to further interpret the complex forms of jewelry drawings

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