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Peter Paul Rubens, A Wagon fording a Stream

Key facts
Full title A Wagon fording a Stream
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Date made probably 1625-40
Medium and support Black chalk and oil on paper stuck on canvas
Dimensions 47 × 70.5 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG948
Location Room 20
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Wagon fording a Stream
Peter Paul Rubens

A lone driver steers his horses and wagon down a steep bank into what seems like a deep ford. It’s an idyllic scene evoking afternoon light filtering through woodland, and the subject is typical of Rubens’s burst of interest in landscape painting in the last five years of his life. Rather than paid commissions, these appear to have been made mostly for his own pleasure, when he was spending more time in the country house he bought in 1635. The countryside surrounding the estate became a new inspiration: he made about 20 landscapes, some of monumental size.

A Wagon fording a Stream is much smaller and is unfinished – you can tell this from the black chalk drafting lines and the way the foliage of most of the trees has yet to be filled in. It seems to be a full-size preparatory sketch for Evening Landscape with Timber Wagon (now in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam).

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