Artibus et Historiae no. 52 (XXVI)

2005, ISSN 0391-9064

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ANKE A. VAN WAGENBERG-TER HOEVEN - A Matter of Mistaken Identity. In Search of a New Title for Rubens's Tiberius and Agrippina

Recent research has raised some doubts about the title of Peter Paul Rubens's double portrait Tiberius and Agrippina, with two ancient Roman heads in profile, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. A hypothesis for a new title is proposed, based on issues like the complex relationship between the Roman Emperor Tiberius and Germanicus's wife Agrippina the Elder, Rubens's knowledge of the antiques and Roman Julian-Claudian history through Tacitus in particular. The painting is being compared with another double profile portrait painted by Rubens's studio, and with compositional motifs from coins and cameos that may have inspired Rubens for this particular jugate portrait. Specific features of the sitters are taken into account, as we know them from both historical descriptions and objects. Rubens's undertaking with the Frenchman Peiresc to publish engravings of the most famous cameos in Europe substantiates his interest in cameos. Rubens's painting set the standard for the double profile portrait as painterly subject matter.

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