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Old woman and boy with candles.
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Old woman and boy with candles.
Work Type
prints, etchings, engravings, works on paper
etching, reworked with engraving
Image: 189mm (width), 216mm (height), Support: 189mm (width), 216mm (height), Secondary support: 195mm (width), 222mm (height)

This etching, with added engraving, depicts an elderly woman with a basket handle hanging from the crook of her right arm and holding a candle in her left, while a boy leans in to light his candle from hers. The original painting on which this print was based, probably dates from 1616-17. It shows the great Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) at his most 'Caraveggesque' - in other words influenced by the highly innovative and dramatic contrasts of light and shade that constitute the signature style of the recently-deceased Italian painter Caravaggio, and whose work Rubens would certainly have seen and admired on his prolonged visit to Italy (1600-08). It resembles even more closely the Dutch paintings of Gerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst, which postdate the Rubens by several years. Rubens's painting was sold at Sotheby's, London, on 7 July 2004 for GBP2,469,600 (lot 30).

The composition of Te Papa's related print was initially etched, probably by Rubens himself, (one of only two prints from his own hand), though probably finished by the Paulus Pontius (1603-58) who as an engraver became Rubens's right-hand man when still in his teens. Our impression is from the second state, where Pontius's input was greater. Whether Rubens executed the original print himself , as is generally believed, or not, a counterproof of the first state (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris) is inscribed in Rubens's own hand with the legend that subsequent states bore: Quis vetet apposito, lumen de lumine tolli /Mille licet capiant, deperit inde nihil ("Light can be taken a thousand times from another light without diminishing it"; see Arthur Hind, in The Print Collector's Quarterly, vol. X, 1923, pp. 78-80). The concept of Grace freely bestowed reflects Rubens's Catholic piety.Te Papa's impression has unfortunately been trimmed close to the border of the plate, so no such inscription is visible.

See: Sotheby's, 'Old Master Paintings Part 1',

Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art March 2019

Collection: Art
Gift of Bishop Monrad, 1869
Accession Number
Image and original data provided by Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa
Use of this image is in accordance with the Artstor Terms & Conditions
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