Hendrik van Balen’s interpretation of the Rape of the Sabines in a newly discovered work
Hendrik van Balen’s interpretation of the Rape of the Sabines in a newly discovered work
I would like to thank Abraham Joel for inviting me to
study this painting and for his and Christine Göttler’s
many astute observations. The painting was sold at
Christie’s, New York, 15 May 1996, lot 9.
See Sale, Christie’s, New York, 15 May 1996, lot 9. The
Rape of the Sabines is painted in oil on a panel composed
of eight vertical planks. This is not at all unusual
for Flemish supports, for which see Jørgen Wadum,
“Historical Overview of Panel-making Techniques in
the Northern Countries,” in The Structural Conservation of
Panel Paintings, eds. Kathleen Dardes and Andrea Rothe
(Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1998),
pp. 149-177. The Rape of the Sabines is not mentioned
in Bettina Werche’s recent monograph Hendrick van
Balen (1575-1632): Ein Antwerpener Kabinettbildmaler der
Rubenszeit, 2 vols. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004).
For Van Balen’s stylistic development, see Werche,
Hendrick van Balen, I, especially pp. 44-54.
Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der nederlantsche
konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (Amsterdam: Arnold
Houbraken, 1718), I, p. 82.
Hans Vlieghe, Flemish Art and Architecture, 1585-1700
(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998),
p. 105.
Ria Fabri, “Altarpiece of the cabinetmakers,” in From
Quinten Metsijs to Peter Paul Rubens: Masterpieces from the
Royal Museum Reunited in the Cathedral, eds. Ria Fabri and
Nico van Hout (Antwerp: The Cathedral, 2009), p. 197.
See Werche, Hendrick van Balen, I, no. E2, p. 235.
See Werche, Hendrick van Balen, I, no. A113, pp. 180-181.
For this altarpiece, see Fabri, “Altarpiece of the
Cabinetmakers,” pp. 194-203.
Van Balen’s painting seems to fit squarely within
the context of other late Mannerist painters of the
1620s. Joachim Wtewael’s Moses Striking the Rock, dated
1624, similarly shows foreground figures in shadow,
a background filled with grisaille figures. See James
Clifton, L. M. Helmus, and Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr.,
eds., Pleasure and Piety: the Art of Joachim Wtewael, exh.
cat. (Washington, DC: National Gallery, 2015), pp.
For Van Balen’s biography, see Werche, Hendrick van
Balen, I, pp. 17-20.
For the tradition of Flemish artists travelling to Italy,
see Nicole Dacos, Voyage a Rome: les artistes europeens au
XVIe siecle (Brussels: Fonds Mercator, 2012); Christopher
White, “Rubens and antiquity,” in The Age of Rubens,
ed. Peter C. Sutton, exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine
Arts, 1993), p. 147.
For Van Balen’s involvement in the Broederschap van
de HH Petrus en Paulus, see Émile Dilis, “La confrérie
des Romanistes,” Annales de l’Académie royale d’archéologie
de Belgique 70 (1922): no. 62, p. 356.
For the inventory, see Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, pp.
For the Guild of Romanists, see Dilis, “La confrérie des
Romanistes,” p. 456.
Zirka Zaremba Filipczak, Picturing Art in Antwerp 15501700 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 79.
See Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, p. 12, and, for
Borromeo see David Freedberg, “The Origins and
Rise of the Flemish Madonnas in Flower Garlands,”
Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst 32 (1981): pp.
18. Elizabeth Alice Honig, “The Beholder as Work of
Art: a Study in the Location of Value in SeventeenthCentury Flemish Painting,” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch
Jaarboek 46 (1995): pp. 253-283, especially pp. 267269; Elizabeth Alice Honig, Painting and the Market in
Early Modern Antwerp (New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1998), pp. 232-233.
19. Erik Larsen, Seventeenth-Century Flemish Painting (Freren:
Luca Verlag, 1985), p. 62.
20. Karel van Mander, The Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish
and German Painters, ed. Hessel Miedema, 6 vols.
(Doornspijk: Davaco, 1994-1999), I, p. 440: “Adam van
Oort who is also clever at figures. Likewise Hendrick
van Balen.” The inscription on the print of Van Balen
after Van Dyck’s drawing reads “PICTOR ANTV:
CULTOR” or “Antwerp Painter of human figures
[and] admirer of antiquity”. For his collaborations,
see Freedberg, “Flemish Madonnas,” pp. 115-150;
Honig, “The Beholder as Work of Art,” pp. 253-283;
and Anne T. Woollett and Ariane van Suchtelen, eds.,
Rubens and Brueghel: A Working Friendship, exh. cat. (Los
Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006).
21. See note 20 for collaborations.
22. There is a small patch of greenery in the lower left.
This could have been painted by another artist, perhaps
a member of Van Balen’s shop.
23. For this narrative, see Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita, trans.
Benjamin O. Foster, 14 vols., 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press; London:
24. Heinemann, 1976), I, pp. 32-49; Plutarch, Plutarch’s Lives,
trans. Bernadotte Perrin, 11 vols., 2nd ed. (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press; London: Heinemann,
1982), I, pp. 125-151; Ovid, The Art of Love and Other
Poems, trans. J. H. Mozley, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press; London: Heinemann, 1969),
pp. 18-23; Julie Hemker, “Rape and the Founding of
Rome,” Helios 12 (1985): pp. 41-47.
25. Diane Wolfthal, Images of Rape: The “Heroic” Tradition
and its Alternatives (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999).
26. For average size, see Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, p. 51.
27. Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, nos. A52, B1-5, 7, 10, and
12, pp. 153-154, 217-221, 223-224.
28. Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, pp. 208, 209.
29. See, among others, Margaret Carroll, “The Erotics of
Absolutism: Rubens and the Mystification of Sexual
Violence,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art
History, eds. Mary Garrard and Norma Broude (New
York: Icon Editions, 1992), pp. 138-158; Wolfthal,
Images of Rape, pp. 7-35.
30. Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, no. A92, pp. 170-171,
which measures 42 x 63 cm. The other heroic rape
scenes are nos. A90, 91, 93, 105, 113.
31. I would like to thank Christine Göttler for referring
me to her excellent website on Ximenez and for many
fruitful conversations. See also her “The Ximenez
Family in Antwerp, Lisbon, Florence, and the Wider
World,” accessed
24 July 2015.
32. For the inventory, see Sarah Joan Moran, “The
Ximenez-da Vega Inventory: Introduction” at http:// and her transcription
and translation of the inventory, “Inventory of
Moveable Marital Property, Made on the Occasion
of the Death of Isabel da Vega, Wife of Emmanuel
Ximenez, Antwerp, 13-28 June 1617 [Antwerp,
Stadsarchief (FelixArchief), N 1489 (1615-1617),
fols 1-31],” at
reading/ both accessed 24 July 2015.
Gerlinde Huber-Rebenich, “Classical and neo-Latin
accessed 24 July 2015.
Christine Göttler, “Paintings in the Ximenez house
on the Meir,”
paintings/ accessed 24 July 2015.
Hugo Soly, “Social Relations in Antwerp in the
Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” in Antwerp, Story
of a Metropolis: 16th-17th Century, ed. Jan van der Stock
(Ghent: Snoeck-Ducaju, 1993), p. 38.
Jeffrey M. Muller, “Private Collections in the Spanish
Netherlands: Ownership and Display of Paintings in
Domestic Interiors,” in Age of Rubens, ed. Peter C. Sutton,
exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1993), p. 200.
“Eene schilderye olieverwe op panneel in vergulde
lysten Roof van de dochters van Sabina,” fol.
30v; Moran, “The Ximenez-da Vega Inventory:
Veerle de Laet, “Een Naeckt Kindt, een Naeckt Vrauwken ende
Andere Figueren: An Analysis of Nude Representations
in the Brussels Domestic Setting,” in The Nude and the
Norm in the Early Modern Low Countries, eds. Karolien de
Clippel, Katherina van Canteren, and Katlijne van der
Stighelen (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 117-128.
Muller, “Private Collections in the Spanish
Netherlands,” pp. 202-203.
See Muller, “Private Collections in the Spanish
Netherlands,” p. 202. For other paintings on fireplace
mantels, see Hans Vlieghe, “Jan Siberechts, domestic
tasks, 1671,” pp. 338-339 and Steven Jacobs, “Epilogue:
Story of an Exhibition,” in Antwerp: Story of a Metropolis,
ed. Van der Stock, p. 138 (discussing Frans Francken
II’s The Art Gallery of Sebastian Leerse).
David Jaffé, Rubens’s Massacre of the Innocents: the Thomson
Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto: Skylet
Publishing/ The Art Gallery of Ontario, 2009), p. 60.
Jaffé, Ruben’s Massacre of the Innocents, p. 60.
John Murray, Handbook for Travelers in Durham and
Northumberland (London: Murray, 1864), p. 63.
“Paris, 1852: Battle of the Sabines and the Romans, FRF
1,920; Rape of the Sabine Women, FRF 1,505”, listed in
Pierre Defer, Catalogue général des ventes publiques de tableaux
et estampes, 2 vols. (Paris: Aubry, Clement, Rapilly,
1863), I, pt. 2, pp. 207-209; “BALEN, Hendrik van, the
Elder,” Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online, Oxford
University Press, accessed 14 September 2015, http://
article/benezit/B00010688. See also Christie’s, London,
6 March 1925, lot 70, oil on copper, 27 ½ x 37 ½ in.
Sale, Sotheby’s, London, 16 December 1953, lot 124.
Wolfthal, Images of Rape.
Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, p. 267, “1 ontschaeckinge
van proserpins op doeck olie verve in lijste” (1 rape of
Prosepina on cloth in oils in a frame) and p. 269, “1
ontschakinge van prosarpia olie verve in lijste” (1 rape
of Prosepina in oils in a frame).
For Europa, see Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, nos. A
90-93, pp. 169-171.
49. Werche, Hendrik van Balen, I, nos. A 105 and 113, pp.
177, 180-181.
50. Ger Luijten, “The Iconography: Van Dyck’s Portraits
in Print,” in Anthony van Dyck as a Printmaker, eds.
Carl Depauw et al. (Antwerp: Antwerpen Open;
Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1999), pp. 72-217.
51. Phyllis Pray Bober and Ruth Rubinstein, Renaissance
Artists and Antique Sculpture: a Handbook of Sources, 2nd ed.
(London: Harvey Miller, 2010), pp. 126-127.
52. For a list of Mannerist and Baroque images of the
Rape of the Sabines, see Andor Pigler, Barockthemen eine
Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18.
Jahrhunderts (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1974), pp.
53. The theme is not mentioned, for example, in Nora de
Poorter, “Of Olympian Gods, Homeric Heroes and
an Antwerp Apelles: Observations on the Function
and ‘Meaning’ of Mythological Themes in the Age of
Rubens (1600–1650),” in Greek Gods and Heroes in the Age
of Rubens and Rembrandt, eds. Peter Schoon and Sander
Paarlberg (Athens: National Gallery, 2000), pp. 65-85.
54. Elizabeth McGrath, “Rubens and Ovid,” in The Afterlife
of Ovid, eds. Peter Mack and John North (London:
Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced
Study, University of London, 2015), p. 168.
55. Peter Paul Rubens, Correspondance de Rubens et documents
épistolaires conçernant sa vie et ses oeuvres, eds. and trans.
Max Rooses and Charles Ruelens, 6 vols. (Antwerp:
Veuve de Backer, 1909), VI, p. 323.
56. McGrath, “Rubens and Ovid,” p. 169. Of this
painting, McGrath concludes, “Boreas and Orithyia
thus serve as another instance of what, doubtless, was
to Rubens and many of his contemporaries, a fact of
life, or rather of love: that the natural reluctance of
modest women may need to be overcome by more than
mere words of persuasion.” For this quote, see p. 170.
57. Ethan Matt Kavaler, “Peter Paul Rubens’s Abduction of
the Sabine Women: Violence and Virtue Reconciled,”
Koninklijke Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen. Jaarboek
(1987): p. 243; Plutarch, Plutarch’s Lives, trans. John
Langhorne and William Langhorne, 6 vols. (London
and New York: F. Warne, 1833), I, p. 70.
58. Yael Even, “The Loggia dei Lanzi: A Showcase of
Female Subjugation,” in The Expanding Discourse, eds.
Garrard and Broude, pp. 126-137.
59. Kavaler, “Peter Paul Rubens’s Abduction of the Sabine
Women,” p. 247.
60. Kavaler, “Peter Paul Rubens’s Abduction of the Sabine
Women,” pp. 248-250.
61. Kavaler, “Peter Paul Rubens’s Abduction of the Sabine
Women,” p. 256.
62. For versions of the theme by Rubens and his shop, see,
among others, Elizabeth McGrath, Subjects from History
(London: Harvey Miller, 1977); Corpus Rubenianum
Ludwig Burchard: An Illustrated Catalogue Raisonne of the
Work of Peter Paul Rubens Based on the Material Assembled by
the Late Dr. Ludwig Burchard in Twenty-Seven Parts Burchard
(Brussels: Arcade Press, 1968-1997) I, pt. 13 (1), figs.
123-124, 126. The best known is in the National
Gallery, London.
63. McGrath, Subjects from History, p. 120.
64. That Van Balen was paraphrasing poses from Italian
sources was first proposed in the auction catalogue of
1996, for which see note 1.
65. David Jaffé and Amanda Bradley, “An Introduction to
the Creative Process,” in Rubens: A Master in the Making
(London: National Gallery, 2005), p. 27 n. 25.
66. For smaller versions, see, among others, Hans
R. Weihrauch, Die Bildwerke in Bronze (Munich:
Bruckmann, 1956), pp. 84-87; Simone SpethHolterhoff, Les peintre flamands de cabinets d’amateurs au
XVIIe siècle (Brussels: Elsevier, 1957), pp. 111, 129, 137.
67. Julius Held, Rubens and his Circle: Studies by Julius S. Held,
eds. Anne W. Lowenthal, David Rosand, and John
Walsh, Jr. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982),
p. 43. This is a reprint of an article first published in
the Gazette des Beaux-Arts in 1957.
68. For that statue, see Bober, Renaissance Artists, pp. 179-180.
69. Anne Connor, “Inventio and the Love for a City: The
‘Prezionsenwände’ of Frans Francken II in Antwerp”
(M.A. diss. Arizona State University, 2004), pp. 67, 68.
70. Connor, Inventio and the Love for a City, p. 68.
71. Honig, Painting and the Market, p. 216.
72. Victor Stoichita, The Self-Aware Image: An Insight into
Early Modern Meta-Painting, trans. Anne-Marie Glasheen
(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1997).
73. Honig, Painting and the Market, p. 121.
74. White, “Rubens and Antiquity,” p. 147.
75. See Wolfthal, Images of Rape.
76. Jasper van der Steen, Memory Wars in the Low Countries,
1566-1700 (Leiden: Brill, 2015).
77. My translation. See Alfred Michiels, Histoire de la peinture
flamande depuis ses débuts jusqu’en 1864, 10 vols. (Paris:
Librairie Internationale, 1869), VII, pp. 256, 257: “A
quoi ces études lui servirent-elles? Absolument à rien,
car elles ne modifièrent et n’accrurent pas son talent,
qui continua de refléter comme un miroir le style calme
et précieux de Martin de Vos. Peut-être seulement la
patrie de Virgile et d’Horace lui communiqua-t-elle
un goût plus prononcé pour la mythologie et pour les
figures sans vêtements…N’est-il pas estrange qu’après
avoir imité de cette façon les peintres italiens, il n’ait
gardé aucune trace de leur manière.”
78. See Lisa Deam, “Flemish versus Netherlandish: A
Discourse of Nationalism,” Renaissance Quarterly 51
(1995): p. 6.
79. Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1983).
80. See Van Mander, The Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish
and German Painters; Giorgio Vasari, Le opere di Giorgio
Vasari, ed. Gaetano Milanesi, 9 vols. (Florence: Sansoni,
81. The literature on the construction of a national identity
is voluminous. See, among others, Mariët Westermann,
A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic 1585-1718 (New York:
Harry Abrams, 1996), pp. 99-129; Alec Mishory, Visual
Israeliness (Raananah: ha-Universitah ha-petuah,
2007); William H. Truettner and Nancy K. Anderson,
The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier,
1820-1920 (Washington: Smithsonian Institute Press,
1991). I would like to thank Leo Costello for the last
82. Peter Burke, “Hosts and Guests: A General View of
Minorities in the Cultural Life of Europe,” in Minorities
in Western European Cities (Sixteenth-Twentieth Centuries),
eds. Hugo Soly and Alfons K. L. Thijs (Brussels:
Brepols, 1995), pp. 43-54.
83. To name just a few: Jay A. Levenson, ed., Circa 1492:
Art in the Age of Exploration (New Haven and London:
Yale University Press, 1991); Claire Farago, ed.,
Reframing the Renaissance: Visual Culture in Europe and
Latin America, 1450-1650 (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1995), Eddy de Jongh, “Real Dutch and
not-so real Dutch Art: Some Nationalistic Views of
Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish Painting,” Simiolus
20 (1990/1991): pp. 197-206; Deam, “Flemish versus
Netherlandish,” pp. 1-33.


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