Catalogue No. 28
Portrait of the Marchesa Veronica Spinola-Doria

Artist: Rubens, Sir Peter Paul
Portrait of the Marchesa Veronica Spinola-Doria

1577-1640
Oil on Canvas 52 x 41½ ins

Collection Details
Palazzo Grillo Cattaneo, Genoa (1823; without identity); according to the 1899 sale catalogue, Sir Francis Clare Ford (who inherited the collection of his father, Richard Ford, and d.1899); sold H A Peto sale at Christie’s 13 May 1899, lot 57 (without identity): bt by Lesser, and at his death resold at Christie’s, 10 February 1912, lot 90 (as the Infanta Isabella): bt by Hahn; R H Ward, from whom bought by Agnew, 1929 (cf Burchard, infra, as Brigida Spinola Doria), and sold to Lord Faringdon, 1942.

Literature
Repd. in E Michel, Rubens, 1899, ii, p. xii; L Burchard, ‘Genuesische Frauenbildnisse von Rubens’, Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, L, 1929, pp. 346–9, Pl. ii: Justus Müller Hofstede, ‘Bildnisse aus Rubens “Italienjahren”’, Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württemberg, 1965, pp. 96, 143 n. 26 (as an autograph variant replica of the Karlsruhe picture); Jan Lauts, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe: Katalog Alte Meister bis 1800, 1966, p. 260; M Jaffé, Rubens and Italy, 1977, p. 77 (as an autograph repetition of the Kingston Lacy portrait, of Veronica Spinola Doria); Corpus Rubenianum: Part XIX: Portraits (by Frances Huemer), 1977, No. 44, pp. 173–4, fig 125 (as an autograph variant of the Karlsruhe picture, of Veronica Spinola Doria).

Exhibition Details
RA, Winter, Flemish Art, 1953, No. 174; Genoa, Palazzo Ducale, L'Età di Rubens, 2004.

Related Paintings
This portrait was probably reduced from a full-length to make an overdoor, as which it was first recorded in the Palazzo Grillo Cattaneo in Genoa in 1823 (cf Nouvelle Description des Beautés de Gênes: reference kindly supplied by Prof Michael Jaffé).  It is identical in pose and setting to two other Rubens full-length portraits.

The first is of a woman with apparently the same features, but dressed in black and with different ornaments in her hair, in the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe (Lauts, Katalog, 1966, i, pp. 259–60 and ii, pl. on p. 292; Corpus Rubenianum, xix, No. 43; Christopher White, Peter Paul Rubens, 1987, p. 47 and col. pls 16 and 66).  She was originally identified as the Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria, and now as Veronica Spinola Doria.  The other, signed and dated 1606, of a woman with subtly different features, but in an identical white and gold dress, differing only in the ornaments of her hair and in the presence of a rich gold and enamel chain in place of the simple rope of pearls worn by the present sitter, is at Kingston Lacy (NT, Dorset; Corpus Rubenianum, No. 42; exh cat The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985-6, No. 496, with col. pl.).  Known from the time of her acquisition by William Bankes in 1840 as a member of the Grimaldi family, she has been identified beyond reasonable doubt by Michael Jaffé as the Marchesa Caterina Grimaldi, and her sister, shown with a dwarf in the pendant at Kingston Lacy, as the Marchesa Maria Grimaldi.

 

It is only a third portrait of a standing woman dressed in white and gold in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, also once full-length, but reduced to a three-quarter length, that can be firmly identified, from an inscription on the verso, as the Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria, painted at the age of 22 in 1606, in the year following her marriage to Giacomo Massimiliano Doria (Corpus Rubenianum; No. 41; Colin Eisler, Paintings from the Samuel H Kress Collection: European Schools, excluding Italian, 1977, pp. 101–3 and figs 95–6).  The similarity of the features and dress in the Washington painting has encouraged the proposition that it is her younger sister Veronica who is the sitter in the portraits at Karlsruhe (dressed in black, whilst she was still unmarried) and at Buscot (in white, after her marriage to Giacomo’s brother, Giancarlo Doria, on 2 June 1608).  It must, however, be admitted that the arguments for this identification are very tenuous.  In view of the fact that the first record of the Buscot picture is in the Palazzo Grillo Cattaneo, more thought should perhaps be given to whether the Karlsruhe picture might not rather be the portrait of Ginevra Grillo that her husband, Paolo Agostino Doria, had commissioned from Rubens along with another of himself, on which the artist had apparently begun working, since Paolo Agostino Doria wrote to Rome in 1606 to find out what progress he had made on them (Corpus Rubenianum, Nos 39 and 40).

 

The portraits here and at Karlsruhe and Kingston Lacy have tended to be discussed somewhat in isolation from one another, as though they were autonomous pictures of an equal standard.  It is, however, exceptional for Rubens to have simply adopted the same compositional formula for portraits of two different sitters, or even of the same sitter differently clad.  It seems fairly certain that it was with the signed and dated portrait of the Marchesa Caterina Grimaldi at Kingston Lacy that Rubens created the prototype on his second visit to Genoa, in 1606.  He painted the Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria as a result of the same visit, and then employed the same scheme as for Caterina Grimaldi in his presumed portrait of the Marchesa Veronica Spinola dressed in black at Karlsruhe.  The present picture would seem not to have been painted until after the sitter’s marriage in June 1608, no doubt as a bridal portrait for her new home, whilst the original portrait would have stayed with her own family.  This means that the present picture must have been executed by Rubens in the brief period between then and his mother’s imminent death, which had him hurrying home to Antwerp at the end of October.  He was thus employing the same compositional formula for the third time in the present picture, and probably re-employing a study of the Marchesa Veronica’s face that he had originally used for the Karlsruhe portrait.
 
There seems no evading the fact that there are differences in quality, above all between the present portrait and that at Kingston Lacy, with which, since they are virtually identical in all features but their face, direct comparisons can most easily be made.  None of the details has the vividness or plastic immediacy of those in the Kingston Lacy portrait (this decline in tactility is particularly evident in the lace ruff and cuffs and in the gold braiding); whilst novel features such as the rope of pearls (itself similar to one in the Karlsruhe portrait), lack all corporeality.  It seems likely, therefore, that there was some degree of studio assistance in the present portrait.  Yet Rubens’ studio cannot have been very large at this period, so that one must presume that he painted at least part of the picture himself.  It remains a very striking image that, as Michael Jaffé has said of the Kingston Lacy portrait, draws on Raphael’s depiction of Pope Julius II and on female portraits by Moroni, to establish a new canon of authority for the portrayal of women.