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The Evolution of Rubens's 'Judgement of Paris' (NG194)

Lois Oliver, Fiona Healy, Ashok Roy and Rachel Billinge
Technical Bulletin Volume 26, 2005


Rubens's canvas painting of The Judgement of Paris, dated to the 1630s, is a picture with a complex history of evolution. It has long been known from x-radiography that there are many changes of composition beneath the surface, and this new investigation was directed at understanding the sequence of those changes and the times at which they were made. Crucial to the argument is the existence of a smaller copy of the painting on panel in Dresden at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie, which appears to show Rubens's composition completed at an early stage before later modifications.

Using X-ray and infrared images, as well as elucidation of the paint layer structure using paint cross-sections and pigment analysis, it was possible to show that the composition passed through three separate phases of development. It is hypothesised that the final changes to the composition may have been made in France after about 1676 and before 1727, probably to make the painting more saleable on the French market and more in accord with contemporary taste. 


canvas painting, changes in composition, cross-sections, Judgement of Paris, pentimenti, Rubens, technique

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The Evolution of Rubens's 'Judgement of Paris' (NG194), Lois Oliver, Fiona Healy, Ashok Roy and Rachel Billinge (PDF 15.2MB)

To cite this article we suggest using

Oliver, L., Healy, F., Roy, A., Billinge, R. 'The Evolution of Rubens's "Judgement of Paris" (NG194)'. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 26, pp 4–22.

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