Pallas and Arachne (Primary Title)

Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577 - 1640 (Artist)

oil on wood
Unframed: 10 1/2 × 15 in. (26.67 × 38.1 cm)
Framed: 20 × 24 in. (50.8 × 60.96 cm)

Peter Paul Rubens was famous as a painter, a leading intellectual, and a diplomat in the Southern Netherlands where he was born and throughout Europe, especially the Catholic south. In the late 1630s Philip IV of Spain commissioned Rubens to decorate his hunting lodge, the Torre de la Parada. As seen in this oil sketch he made to prepare for that commission, Ruben’s designs for the large-scale paintings show his quick imagination and bold style – a few swift brushstrokes and touches of color and light sketch out entire compositions.

As told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the mortal Arachne boasted that she was a better weaver than the goddess Pallas Athena, who counted the art of weaving among her many achievements. When Athena challenged her to a contest, Arachne wove a flawless tapestry that depicted Zeus turning into a bull and abducting Europa, a story that illustrates how the gods deceive mortals. Athena fell upon Arachne in a fury, beating her so mercilessly that Arachne hanged herself in despair. Afterward, Athena turned Arachne into a spider so she could still weave. Rubens represents the most violent moment of the story, vividly and convincingly emphasizing both the goddess’s rage and the mortal’s terror.

Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Metapintura. Un Viaje a la idea del arte, Museo del Prado, Madrid, November 15, 2016 - February 19, 2017.

Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) Paintings and Drawings, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Three Oil Sketches, Salander O’Reilly Galleries, Inc., New York, NY, November 15, 1989- January 27, 1990

Le Siècle de Rubens, Royal Museum, Brussels, Belgium, October 15 - December 12, 1965

Esquisses de Rubens, Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium, 1937

L’Art Flamand du XVième siècle, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium, 1934

Rubenstentoonstelling, Goudstikker, Amsterdam, 1933

Rubens Exhibition, Dowdeswell Gallery, London, 1912

L’Exposition d’Art Ancien, Brussels, 1910
Collection of the Duke of Infantado. [1] Collection of the Duc de Pastrana, Madrid. Collection of the Duc d'Osuna, Madrid. Collection of Michel van Galder, Uccle. (Newhouse Galleries, New York) by 1958; Purchased by Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia in May of 1958. [2]

[1] Unconfirmed. Art historian Julius S. Held includes collection in the provenance for the object in his catlaogue of oil sketches by Rubens. Held refers to the painting as
"Arachne Punished by Pallas." See Julius S. Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens: A Critical Catalogue, Volume I (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 258.

[2] Accessioned May 14, 1958.

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.