Peter Paul Rubens


Ancient sculpture, which Rubens studied during histwo stays in Rome, significantly shaped his artisticpractice. He believed that to achieve mastery of painting, it was crucial to understand ancient art, and “to be so thoroughly possessed of this knowledge that it may diffuse itself everywhere.” In this drawing, Rubens arranged a studio model in a pose derived from the Hellenistic bronze known as the Spinario, which shows a boy removing a thorn from the sole of his foot. Closely following an ancient example yet based on a live model, the drawing demonstrates Rubens’s conviction that art should respond to older works but ultimately imitate nature.

Peter Paul Rubens
Flemish, 1577–1640
Nude youth in the pose of the Spinario, ca. 1610–16
Black chalk with white chalk
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray; 2019.863
Gray Collection Trust, Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by Jamie Stukenberg, Professional Graphics Inc.