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Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577 - Antwerp 1640)

Recto: A self-portrait in old age. Verso: A man and a woman embracing c. 1635-40

Black and white chalks with pen and ink on rough paper | 20.0 x 16.0 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 906411

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Rubens sketched this self-portrait on a larger sheet of paper than we see today, and the later cutting-down of the sheet makes it appear even more intimate than the artist would have intended. The sagging skin below the eyes, the drooping eyelids and air of noble weariness are close to Rubens's final painted self-portraits. But it is likely that this was an autonomous study, the artist staring at his ageing features in a mirror and setting them down on paper as honestly as he could.