“Koenraad Jonckheere’s recent addition to the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, Portraits After Existing Prototypes, makes an important contribution to the understanding of a neglected but fascinating subsection of the master’s oeuvre.” (Adam Eaker, in Historians of Netherlandish Art, October 2017)
Koenraad Jonckheere is professor of Art History at Ghent University. He studied History and Art History in Leuven and received his PhD at the University of Amsterdam in 2005. He published widely on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century art markets and on sixteenth-century Antwerp history and portrait painting.
Rubens was mesmerised by faces. He studied physiognomy, the pseudo-science that began making headway in the sixteenth century, which postulated that a person’s character could be read from their facial features. He made geometrical analyses of the faces of ancient emperors and heroes. He invested a great deal of time in detailed anatomical studies, sometimes based on nature, and equally often on antique busts and coins. At times it seems as though the master wanted to know and understand every nook and cranny of the human face. To this end he studied man himself and the way in which the ancients dealt with nature. His best portrait copies, thus, are not strictly copies but rather studies in which art history, craftsmanship, literature and theory merge into an emulation of art and nature. They are works in which the artist was looking for what ultimately captivated him the most: man in all of his myriad facets, and the perspectives art afforded to better understand man.