The Delivery of the Rosary which, according to tradition, the Blessed Virgin entrusted to Saint Dominic, who in turn delivered it, accompanied by other intermediary saints, to the House of Austria, represented by the Spanish Monarch Philip III; and Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella, Governors of the Netherlands in 1595, and from 1598 became joint sovereigns of the Seventeen Provinces. at the same time as it commemorates the Twelve Years Truce, or Truce of The Hague, signed in 1609, which put an end to the bloody war that had been waged for forty-two years, between Spain and the Seven Flemish Provinces.
Its composition is based on a canvas made by Rubens for the main alter of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary in Brussels. The chapel was a centre for the devotion of Spanish soldiers serving in the Netherlands. but apparently it disappeared as a result of the bombardment of this city in 1695. Nevertheless, there is believed to be another version whose whereabouts are not known, but of which there are a number of pictures, by the hand of a follower of this Flemish painter, as cited in 1977 by Ludwig Burchard in his Corpus Rubenianum (1); a fact reaffirmed by Simon A. Vosters in 1990 (2). These few copies still extant in private collections. On the other hand we should not forget Rubens was employed, as both painter and diplomat, by Archduke Albert and Isabella, from at least 1609; and even in 1621 he was engaged as an agent by the Infanta for the purpose of extending the Twelve Years Truce between the Dutch Republic and Spain, undertaking a number of secret negotiations on her behalf.
It is within this context that we should set our piece, which must have been performed in some Flemish workshop during the first half of the 17th century, given that similarities between the painting and the cooper plate are quite remarkable, as there is only a minor alteration to the arch that shelters the Blessed Virgin, the positions of Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Francis of Assisi and Phillip III, which are more in consonance with the relief on the cooper plate.
This artwork has been exhibited and published at the Fundación Calos de Amberes in Madrid during the exhibition Tiempo de Paces in between October 2009 and January 2010.
(1) BURCHARD, L, Corpus Rubeniaum, London 1977. Portraits I, fig 86.
(2) VOSTERS, S. A, Rubens y España. Estudio artístico-literario sobre la estética del Barroco. Madrid 1990, 334.
DUERLO, LUC: Albert & Isabella, 1598-1621: Essays. Turnhout: Brepols, 1998); Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012; Archduke Albert (Dynasty and Piety: Archduke Albert (1598-1621)
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