Schama on rubens


The thing about entitling your show “Master in the Making” is that it assumes a public already sold on just what it was that got made. But that couldn’t be less true in the case of Rubens. In any given museum on any given Sunday, the empty gallery is invariably “Flemish, 17th Century”, where gatherings of massively upholstered nudes shift their dimpled weight opposite a collision of horses and carnivores, while by the door an obscure and pallid saint embraces his martyrdom with rolled-up eyes. Punters enter, take a quick gander, assume the proper expression of the glazed, the cowed, the awed and the baffled, and then accelerate towards the door marked “Rembrandt”.

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