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Willem Panneels (Aachen circa 1600-1634 Baden-Baden)

The Toilet of Venus

etching, countermark VM
signed, dated and inscribed ‘Excellentissime Pictoris. Petri Pauli Rubeni. inue. Dicipulus Guiliel. Panneels/ Antuerpiensis Francofurti ad Manum fecit 1631 F.v.W. ex. [Frans van den Wijngaerde]’, published in 1631
16.6 x 10 cm (plate); 21.5 x 16 cm (sheet)
Hollstein 23 [1] , second and final state, a very good, richly inked impression with strong plate tone and very wide margins, the sheet is cockled, there is some discolouration along the upper edge, in beautiful untreated condition

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (L. 700a and 1855a).

In the inscription underneath this etching showing the Toilet of Venus, Panneels refers to himself as a pupil of ‘that very noble and most excellent painter, Peter Paul Rubens’. The inscription furthermore states that the present work was made in 1631 and, interestingly, that it was exeucted in Frankfurt am Main. In 1630 Panneels had asked Rubens for a letter of recommendation so that he could travel to his fatherland. The letter, drawn up on 1 June 1630, gives us a fascinating insight into the relationship between Rubens and Panneels. In it, Rubens states that Panneels had earnestly studied under his supervision for five and an and half years and that he had completed his apprenticeship with good results. Rubens furthermore stated that Panneels had been in charge of his household during his journey to England and Spain from 1628-1630 and that he had given him a fully satisfactory account of his management on his return. With these recommendations, Panneels managed to travel to Frankfurt am Main the year after.

The etching executed in that city was strongly inspired by Rubens’ painting of the subject, executed some 15 years earlier, in around 1614/15. He followed Rubens’ picture closely in the overall composition, the figures and the mirror’s shape, but did extend it at the upper and lower parts and added the crossbow and arrows and drapery in the background. He too replaced the black woman at right in Rubens’ picture with an elderly woman holding a comb.

[1] K.G. Boon and J. Verbeek, 'Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts. ca. 1450-1700. Volume XV. Van Ostade-De Passe', Amsterdam, 1964, p. 121.

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