The Ceiling in the Banqueting House at Whitehall
About the work
This engraving shows Peter Paul Rubens’ painted ceiling, commissioned by King Charles I, depicting subjects which celebrate the benefits of wise rule. The upper portion represents the benefits of government, abundance triumphing over avarice and wise government triumphing over rebellion. The central section shows an allegorical representation of the apotheosis of King James I. The lower section, from left, shows Hercules destroying discord, Britannia perfecting the union of England and Scotland, and Minerva destroying lust.
About the artist
Simon Gribelin was born in Blois, France, to a family of watchmakers and engravers. In 1680 he moved to England, becoming a citizen two years later. He published four books of ornament, for the use of watchmakers, jewellers and other craftsmen, and became a member of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1686. His protestant allegiances are demonstrated by two prints of 1688, supporting the seven bishops opposed to relaxing penal laws against Roman Catholics. He later illustrated books, including Lord Shaftesbury’s ‘Characteristicks’ (1714). In addition, Gribelin reproduced paintings, publishing prints after ‘The Seven Cartons [sic] of Raphael Urbin’ (1707), works in the Royal Collection (1712) and Rubens’ ceiling at the Banqueting House (1720).
Peter Paul Rubens was born in Antwerp, the son of a lawyer. He became master of the Guild of Painters of Antwerp in 1598. In 1600, he visited Italy to study ancient sculpture and the Old Masters. He returned in 1608 and was appointed court painter by Archduke Albert. He mainly produced biblical subjects, completing some 60 altarpieces in the late 1610s and early 1620s. He became Advisor and Agent to Archduchess Isabella, helping unite the Netherlands. From 1629 he was Secretary to the Privy Council of the Netherlands, visiting London to achieve an Anglo-Spanish peace agreement. During this visit he accepted several commissions, including ceiling canvases for the Banqueting House for Charles I. In 1630 he returned to Antwerp. He died at 62.