The Art Gallery of Ontario and the Rubens House of Antwerp are excited about this exceptional collaboration at the end of September. The monumental The Massacre of the Innocents that Rubens painted directly upon his return from Italy, comes back home for a while in the context of the city festival 'Antwerp Baroque 2018 Rubens Inspires'. The writhing composition is one of the greatest treasures of the Art Gallery of Ontario. The work is brimming with drama and violence. With the many references to classical antiquity and contemporary masters of the Renaissance, the young Rubens presents himself as a proficient 'pictor doctus'.
The history of the painting is simply spectacular. The painting quickly made up a portion of prestigious collections, but since the 18thcentury it was incorrectly attributed to various masters. In 2001, specialists clearly recognised the hand of the master in the Baroque formal style. The discovery of the supposedly lost painting by Rubens was big news, and the work was sold. At the auction at Sotheby's in 2002, it garnered a record price of £49.5 million, by which The Massacre of the Innocents was the most expensive work ever by an Old Master. The painting was bought by the late Canadian businessman and collector Ken Thomson, who gifted it to the Art Gallery of Ontario. The unveiling of this magnificent work at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in 2008 marked the first time it was exhibited publicly in North America. The Massacre has not travelled since it joined the AGO Collection. As of today, The Massacre of the Innocents is still the most expensive Rubens ever.
Already for some time now the Rubens House has been talking with the Art Gallery of Ontario in order to exhibit the work temporarily in Antwerp. Both museums are especially honoured. Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubens House, emphasises the importance of this loan: ‘The Massacre of the Innocents is one of Rubens's early triumphs, a bravura display of classical and artistic learning, designed to astonish his Antwerp patrons through imagery and virtuoso brushwork. Together with a handful of other pictures it demonstrates how much his Italian experience had changed him as an artist. The Massacre is much more than a plethora of sources, however. It shows Rubens's extraordinary powers of invention. The composition and lighting are truly a tour de force. At work is the storyteller supreme. All these qualities - the unsurpassed richness of the source material, the incredibly daring composition and the bold, vigorous brushwork - make The Massacre of the Innocents one of the most compelling images of the seventeenth-century. With our colleagues from The Art Gallery of Ontario, we came to the conclusion that this painting absolutely must be shown at the place where Rubens lived and worked.'
People in Toronto are also excited about the collaboration. "The prospect of seeing The Massacre of the Innocents displayed in Peter Paul Rubens’s studio, where it was painted, is exhilarating. It will transport Antwerp audiences and Rubens scholars back in time, inspiring important conversations about this artist’s life and ambition" relates Dr. Sasha Suda, the AGO’s Curator for European Art. "This loan to the Rubens House, where scholars of Flemish painting gather across Rubens's gardens at the Rubenianum research centre, marks a significant step towards better understanding and situating this singular work in the artist’s oeuvre."
“The Massacre of the Innocents is an AGO visitor favourite and one of the art museum‘s greatest treasures,” said Stephan Jost, the AGO‘s Michael and Sonja Koerner Director and CEO. “We‘re thrilled to loan this extraordinary painting to the Rubens House and invite a broader conversation about the painting‘s history and relevance in the very place where Rubens created this masterpiece.”
The Rubens House is presenting The Massacre of the Innocents from 26 September 2018 up to and including 4 March 2019.
1 September 2018–4 March 2019
€ 10.00 / € 8.00 / free
Open Tuesday to Sunday/10 am–5 pm.
Closed Mondays, 1 November, 25 December and 1 January.