Rubens in London

Titian, Rembrandt, and who? Several years ago I read an assessment of Peter Paul Rubens in the New Yorker which called him “history’s chief painter’s painter,” while snatching back the compliment in the next breath, dubbing him “the leading pictorial decorator, propagandist, and entertainer for a Catholic Europe.” Since depreciation is more fun than appreciation, the magazine’s art critic says, of Rubens’ female nudes, “all that smothering flesh, vibrantly alive but with the erotic appeal of a mud slide.” As zingers go, here’s another goodie: “Nor do Rubens’s characters appear significantly more intelligent than his farm animals.”

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