Jean-Pierre de Bruyn, Erasmus II. Quellinus (1607 – 1678). De schilderijen met catalogue raisonné. Vlaamse schilders uit de tijd van de grote meesters. Deel 4. Freren 1988, S. 52, Kat.-Nr. 35, mit s/w Abb. S. 120.
Nils Büttner, “Von den gesamten Liebhabern also gerühmet”: Peter Paul Rubens’ “Herodias”, in: Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 74 (2011), S. 177-192, Nr. 14, S. 189, mit s/w Abb.

Hugo Helbing, Frankfurt, Versteigerung am 3.5.1932, Los 95 (“Aus Sammlungen und Beständen mittelrheinischer Standesherren der fürstlichen Schlösser B..; H.. und L..”), aus Schloss B., mit s/w Abb. auf Tafel 9;
Carl Müller-Ruzika (Kunst-und Antiquitätenhandlung Carl Müller, Großer Hirschgraben 7, Frankfurt/Main), in obiger Auktion erworben;
Sammlung Mary Heilmann-Stuck (1896-1961) und Generalkonsul Albert Heilmann (1886-1949), München, verso mit Etikett (als “Rubens”);
im Juni 1944 über die Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung ausgelagert (Nr. 34);
Bergungsdepot Höglwörth, verso auf dem Rahmen mit der Nr. auf einem Etikett (“34”);
Central Collecting Point, München, dort am 25.4.1946 registriert (als “Rubens”), verso auf dem Rahmen mit der handschriftlichen Nr. in Blau (“26233”);
am 17.11.1948 rückerstattet an Mary Heilmann-Stuck und Albert Heilmann, Äußere Prinzregentenstr. 4, München, verso mit dem Adressstempel;
im Erbgang an Otto Heilmann (1919-1971), München;
danach Privatbesitz, Süddeutschland.


A lady looks at out at us, full of life and with a sensual, slightly open mouth, wrapped in a magnificent, shiny gold robe that stretches over her breasts. As if to counterbalance this tension, a bright red cloak is draped loosely over her left shoulder, occupying almost the entire left half of the picture. She wears a pearl band in her hair and her chest is also adorned with a chain set with precious stones. She is undoubtedly a lady of status who bears portrait-like features and would not be identifiable as a historical figure without the inscription at the top right: this is Herodias, the granddaughter of King Herod and mother of Salome, whose sinful lifestyle – she had an affair with the half-brother of her husband, the tetrarch Herod Antipas – was publicly criticised by John the Baptist in sermons. Herod Antipas then had him imprisoned and at a feast Herod – enchanted by Salome’s veil dance – is said to have granted her a wish. The story is well known – according to the account in the New Testament, Salome, incited by her mother Herodias, asked for the Baptist to be beheaded. Herodias’ sinister role is not apparent because her figure was originally taken from a larger painting by the great Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, which is now lost but survives in a mirrored copperplate engraving by Schelte à Bolswert. It shows the moment in which a soldier hands the head of the Baptist to Salome, but it is immediately taken by her mother Herodias. There are also several copies of the painting, the highest quality of which is at Castle Howard in England. Erasmus Quellinus, the painter of the present work, also made such a copy, which is now in private hands – Quellinus was a pupil of Rubens in the 1630s, worked with him repeatedly thereafter, and succeeded him as city painter of Antwerp after Rubens’ death in 1640. Quellinus executed numerous copies after paintings by his teacher, and this piece is also based on one of his compositions, but Quellinus has given it a new, moralistic meaning that goes beyond the biblical narrative: By isolating Herodias, with portrait-like features, from the painting as a single figure, he drew on a type of painting widely used in the 17th century, known in the Netherlands as the ‘tronie’. These paintings showed close up depictions of individual figures that were painted after the living model, but were not intended as portraits. The tronies depicted fictitious, in the broadest sense historical personalities who were understood as supra-temporal examples of virtuous or immoral behaviour. In examining the sitter’s physiognomy, the viewer was meant to reflect on his own existence and actions. Beyond its moralising sense, this high-quality painting is an important example of the contemporary reception of Rubens, here not mediated by an engraving, but directly from the master’s studio. It is representative of the importance that the Flemish artist’s work had for all painting in the Northern countries in the 17th century. The work may have originally come from Quellinus’ own collection, which at his death contained a painting of “Herodias, Rubbens”. Whether it was in fact the present work can no longer be determined; after that, all traces of the painting were lost and it does not reappear until 1932, when it was auctioned as a work by Quellinus from the collection of an aristocrat from the central Rhine region in the Frankfurt branch of the Munich auction house Hugo Helbing. There it was acquired by the Frankfurt based art dealer Carl Müller-Ruzika, from whom the Munich building contractor and consul general Albert Heilmann, married to Mary, Franz Stuck’s daughter, presumably acquired the painting afterwards. The painting, which has since been attributed to Rubens, is still housed in a frame made by Hans Irlbacher, who was based in Schwindstraße at the time and also framed the paintings of Franz von Stuck, usually after his own designs. Together with other paintings by Stuck, it was removed during the war to the Höglwörth depot via the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections) and from there, after the war in 1946, it came to the Central Collecting Point in Munich, the former party building of the NSDAP at Königsplatz and today’s Haus der Kulturinstitute (House of Cultural Institutes), where all removed and illegally acquired works of art were brought together after the war in order to return them to their rightful owners. In November 1948, the painting came back into the possession of the Stuck family, where it remained for many decades.
Dr. Peter Prange with a photographic expertise by Max J. Friedländer, Berlin, dated 19.5.1932 (there attributed to Rubens).
We would like to thank Dr. Jean-Pierre De Bruyn, Antwerp, for his kind support in cataloguing this work.

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