'God creating Adam, after Michelangelo' 1601 / 1602

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640)

Red chalk and wash heightened with gouache and buff oil overpaint, 25.5 x 28.6cm

Rubens did this drawing during his first trip abroad to Italy between 1600 and 1608. It is copied from Michelangelo's famous paintings on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Rubens returned to Antwerp with many such drawings. They were used as 'reference material' for himself and his workshops assistants and pupils to study and copy.

This drawing faithfully copies the central part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but is also enhanced with Rubens's own qualities. The cherubs become more vigorous, God's face becomes even more intense and his muscular torso ripples more emphatically through the clinging tunic. The handling of the red chalk is masterly, despite it being a relatively new medium to the artist. Although made in 1601 / 1602, the distinctive highlights were not added until much later, around the early 1630s.

As well as being exercises in drawing and study aids, these drawings were also used to help solve compositional problems. The crossed-legged pose of God, for example, is echoed in a later painting of the crucified Christ, 'Raising of the Cross', of 1602.

Purchased with the help of the Art Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund.