Rubens had a profoundly visual memory.
On his travels in Italy between 1600 and 1608 he was mesmerised not only by ancient sculpture but also
by the work of Italian Renaissance artists, most especially Michelangelo.
This drawing contains copies of the figure of Night, one of four marble figures sculpted by Michelangelo on the Medici family tombs in the Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy) in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence. Rubens probably made the core part of the drawing on the spot, as the light corresponds exactly with the light on the sculpture there.
Rubens took from Michelangelo’s n**e women a sense of strength. Ancient sculptures and ideal
physiognomies of the sixteenth century were to have a profound effect on Rubens’s formation of the female n**e in the following century.
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Peter Paul Rubens after Michelangelo, Night, c. 1600-3, paper, black chalk, brown wash, goache , 36 x 49.5 cm. Foundation Custodia Frits Lugt