The Duke of Buckingham is carried upwards by Minerva and Mercury to a marble temple in front of which are Virtue and Abundance (?). The three Graces offer the Duke a crown of flowers, Envy seeks to pull him down and a lion challenges him.

George Villiers (1592 - 1628) was created Duke of Buckingham in 1623. He was the powerful favourite of James I and Charles I. This picture is an allegory of his political aims and the forces that impeded him. It is a preparatory sketch for a ceiling painting by Rubens that hung in the Duke's London home, York House (destroyed by fire in 1949). It was probably commissioned from Rubens when Buckingham first met him in Paris in about 1625. The sketch demonstrates Rubens's brilliant foreshortenings and must have inspired the artist's later work for the Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1577 - 1640
Full title
Minerva and Mercury conduct the Duke of Buckingham to the Temple of Virtue
Date made
before 1625
Medium and support
Oil on oak
Dimensions
64 x 63.7 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1843
Inventory number
NG187
Location in Gallery