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Jan Erasmus Quellinus
(1634 Antwerp – 1715 Mechelen)

Christ on the Cross. Pen and brown ink over graphite, brown wash, white heightening. 22 x 15.5 cm.

This fluid, concentrated drawing illustrates the lasting influence of the pictorial tradition established by Rubens. The accurate drawing style with the broad painterly washes would be inconceivable without the formative example of Pieter Paul Rubens. The Golgotha scene, which is composed in a compact and visually striking manner, radiates great dramatic power. The liveliness of the beautiful little floating angels, who are greatly foreshortened, stands in almost playful contrast to the agony Christ suffers on the cross. The whole scene abounds with Baroque energy and pathos.

Jan Erasmus Quellinus came from an influential Antwerp family of painters whose work is closely related to the Rubens school. He was the son and pupil of Erasmus II (1607–1678, Antwerp), who was himself trained by Rubens. Having completed his apprenticeship, the younger Quellinus went to Italy, where he joined the Bentveughels in Rome. After his return to Antwerp he became a member of the city’s Guild of St. Luke around 1660/61 and ran what was evidently a flourishing workshop, a total of eighteen apprentices having registered with him by 1697. Jan Erasmus was court painter to Leopold I and Joseph I and enjoyed a considerable reputation as a painter of religious subjects. Some of his major works are to be found not only in numerous churches and monasteries in Flanders, but also in Paris, Rouen and Vienna as well as in small towns in Tyrol and Upper Austria.