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The feast of Saint Martin

Long-term loan since 2011

Rubens had the habit of reworking paintings which his assistants painted after his own specifications. A lesser-known fact is that he also took great pleasure in retouching the paintings and drawings of other, usually older masters.

Rubens wished to improve the work of his predecessors with these "creative interventions". The Feast of Saint Martin is a fine example of this.


Extensive retouching

Rubens wanted to make the figures and the fire more lifelike, retouching the entire canvas. But he did so much more than enliven the scene.  Can you spot the woman and child to the left of the bonfire? Rubens substituted her apron with a purple silk skirt and added gold thread to her cap. Thus the peasant woman who is watching the joyful entertainment of ordinary folk is transformed into a dignified lady. In so doing, Rubens literally highlighted the difference in behaviour between the classes.

The painting has been restored, rendering Rubens' retouching even more visible.



  • Imitator of Maarten van Cleve (1527-1581)
  • Retouched by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).
  • The Feast of Saint Martin
  • Oil on canvas