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Film ID  ACE048
Title  Rubens and England. A commentary by Gregory Martin
Date  1974
Director  Richard Bigham
Production Company  Balfour Films
Synopsis  An examination of the eight panels of the Whitehall Banqueting Hall painted by Flemish Baroque painter, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), during a stay in London.
Minutes  15 min
Full synopsis  ACE048.2 (00:00:00 - 00:14:34)
Gregory Martin in the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, London. Self Portrait by Peter Paul Rubens (1623). Details of ceiling paintings while Martin wonders why he is alone there, and why these paintings aren’t better appreciated. Portrait from ceiling of King James I; Martin points out that he wanted the Monarchy to take precedence over the House of Commons, and was thus against democracy. Engraving showing the Commons around 1628; the Petition of Right. More details from paintings. Martin believes that the decoration in the Banqueting House challenges the British ideal, and “has come to represent a dead idea”. Charles I, King of England, from Three Angles (The Triple Portrait) by Anthony van Dyck (c.1636). Engraving of London Bridge. Rubens’s portrait of Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel and Surrey (1629). Arundel admired Rubens and inspired others to commission work from him. Portrait of Charles I of England (1631) by Daniel Mytens (1631). A painting which Rubens gave to Charles, Minerva Protects Pax from Mars (Peace and War) (1629-1630); Martin talks about details of the painting in which Rubens used “a vocabulary of allegory and symbol … common to everybody that was educated in the classical tradition”, explaining that Minerva personified wisdom, Hercules could personify strength, etc. He suggests that Rubens wanted to say to Charles that, as a wise man, he would favour peace over war, but did it in a way which had “drama … impact and relevance”. Part of Rubens’s Landscape with St George and the Dragon (1629-1635) with Charles I as the Saint and Queen Henrietta Maria as the princess. Martin points out that the picture also shows the Thames and Lambeth Palace. Rubens’s oil sketch of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (1625). Painting, Minerva and Mercury conduct the Duke of Buckingham to the Temple of Virtue (c.1625). Martin explains the allegory and compares it to The Apotheosis of James I, the centrepiece of the Banqueting Hall ceiling. General view of the Banqueting Hall. The Peaceful Reign of James I (aka The Benefits of the Reign of James I), with Minerva repulsing Mars while James embraces Concord and Peace. The Union of the Crowns, in which James directs Minerva to present the crowns of England and Scotland to Charles I, while Hercules overcomes Evil. Martin compares the Hercules figure to that of Cain Killing Abel (c.1540) by Titian, shown as engraving. Rubens’s coat of arms. Details of canvases showing joins where sections were sewn together. Self portrait c.1638-1640. Details of paintings. Martin points out that there were very few working drawings but many oil sketches, probably used by studio assistants to help them in blocking in the large canvases while Rubens went over them later. The paintings were delivered and installed in 1635. Rubens’s painting, An Autumn Landscape with a View of Het Steen in the Early Morning (c.1636), of his country house at Elewijt, where he spent most of his last year before his death in 1640. Self Portrait. Edward Bower’s portrait of Charles I at His Trial (1648). Engraving of crowds. Engraving of Oliver Cromwell with head of executed king; Cromwell’s signature on execution order. Engraving of scenes at execution. Banqueting Hall where the paintings “express the highest aspirations of the early Stuarts and are also the silent witnesses to the collapse of those aspirations”. Credits.

Full credits  The producers wish to thank Her Majesty The Queen; The National Gallery, London, National Portrait Gallery, London, Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna. Produced for the Arts Council of Great Britain by Balfour Films, London.
Watch segments  ACE048.2 (00:00:00 - 00:14:34)
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