A man of great integrity, probity, and discretion, Rubens was often entrusted with delicate diplomatic missions which could be accomplished under cover of his activities as an artist. So it was that in an effort to secure peace between Spain and England he spent, in 1629, several months in London as the guest of Balthasar Gerbier, himself a diplomatic agent, artist, and advisor to the Duke of Buckingham. Gerbier's wife, Deborah Kip, was the daughter of a well-to-do member of the Dutch community in London.
Deborah Kip and four of her children are shown on a terrace elaborately appointed with entwined caryatids who support a bower, a setting that indicates the status of the family group. Further richness is evident in Deborah Kip's elegantly embroidered skirt and lustrous blouse and cap. Perched on the back of her chair is a blue-gray parrot, a symbol of aristocratic wealth and an allusion, in Christian art, to the perfect mother, the Virgin Mary. At the rear George holds back a curtain; Elizabeth, dressed entirely in black, is serene and composed; and Susan rests her arms on her mother's knee and tilts her head, returning our gaze. Despite the elegant setting and the bravura brushwork, Rubens controlled the composition so that we are not allowed to lose sight of the tender relationship between a mother and her children.
Marks and Labels
Possibly Hélène Fourment [1614-1673], widow of the artist, Antwerp, by 1646; possibly John Robartes, 1st earl of Radnor [1606-1685], Lord Privy Seal to Charles II, London; possibly by inheritance to his son, Charles Bodville Robartes, 2nd earl of Radnor [1660-1723], London; (his sale, at his residence, London, 22-29 April 1724, no. 86, as by Van Dyck); Thomas Scawen, London; (his sale, at his residence, London, 25-28 January 1743, no. 49, bought in, possibly by Mr. Borroughs, a relative of Thomas Scawen); "A Gent of the Law"; Sampson Gideon, Esq. [1699-1762], Belvedere, Erith, Kent, before 1755; by inheritance to his son, Sir Sampson Gideon [assumed surname Eardley in 1789], 1st and last baron Spalding [1745-1824], Belvedere; by inheritance to his daughter, Charlotte-Elizabeth, and her husband, Sir Culling Smith, 2nd bt. [1768-1829], Belvedere; by inheritance to their son, Sir Culling Eardley Smith, 3rd bt. [later Sir Culling Eardley Eardley, 1805-1863], Belvedere, and Bedwell Park, near Hatfield, Hertfordshire; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 30 June 1860, no. 21, bought in); by inheritance to his daughters, Frances Selena Eardley [Mrs. Culling Hanbury], Bedwell Park, and Isabella Maria Eardley [Mrs. William Henry Freemantle, d. 1901]; by inheritance, by 1927, to Colonel Francis E. Fremantle and Edward V.E. Fremantle, Esq.; purchased 5 August 1971 through (Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London) by NGA.
- Old Masters, British Institution, London, 1859, no. 46.
- Old Masters, British Institution, London, 1862, no. 113.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters including a Special Collection of Paintings and Drawings by Claude. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1902, no. 124.
- Loan Exhibition of Flemish & Belgian Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1927, no. 145.
- Loan to display with permanent collection, Birmingham (England) Museum and Art Gallery, 1945-1951.
- From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metroplitan Museum of Art, New York, National Gallery of Greece, Athens, 1992-1993, no. 7, repro.
- A House of Art: Rubens as Collector, Rubenshuis, Antwerp, 2004, no. 58, repro.
- Buck, Richard D. "Rubens's The Gerbier Family: Examination and Treatment." Studies in the History of Art 5 (1973): 32-53, repro.
- Feller, Robert L. "Rubens's The Gerbier Family: Technical Examination of the Pigments and Paint Layers." Studies in the History of Art v.5 (1973):54-74.
- Keisch, Bernard and Robert C. Callahan. "Rubens's The Gerbier Family: Investigation by Lead Isotope Mass Spectrometry." Studies in the History of Art v.5 (1973):75-78.
- Stechow, Wolfgang. "Peter Paul Rubens's Deborah Kip, Wife of Sir Balthasar Gerbier, and Her Children." Studies in the History of Art 5 (1973): 6-22, repro.
- Whitfield, Clovis. "Balthasar Gerbier, Rubens, and George Vertue." Studies in the History of Art v.5 (1973):23-31.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 316, repro.
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 66, pl. 50.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 254, no. 323, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 362, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 52, repro.
- Powell, Earl A. III. "Foreword." Studies in the History of Art 41 (1993): 9.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 196-205, color repro.
- Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago and London, 2013: 226-227; 233, 235, 253.
Work of Art
Work of Art
- Event Name
- March 1–June 1
- Mon, Tues, and Wed at 1:00
- March 5, 2012 at 2:00
March 7, 2012 at 4:00
- East Building, Auditorium
- Name of docent
- 60 minutes
- Registration for this event begins on April 1, 2012 at noon.
- Download the program notes (100k)
- Italian Collection