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Studies of a Roman Sarcophagus

A work made of black chalk on cream laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of black chalk on cream laid paper.




Peter Paul Rubens
Flemish, 1577-1640

About this artwork

Using chalk and a loose sheet of paper, Peter Paul Rubens depicted three figures from a sarcophagus likely seen in Roman collector Ciriaco Mattei’s garden. Rubens visited the Eternal City twice during his stay in Italy (1600–08).

Chalk was more portable than ink and therefore an easier medium in which to directly record the remnants of Classical antiquity. Rubens used it to convey the contours of specific sculptural elements as well as the shadows created by their volumes. In comparing this drawing to its source, one can appreciate how selectively Rubens extracted the figures from their architectural surround.


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Prints and Drawings


Peter Paul Rubens


Studies of a Roman Sarcophagus






Black chalk on cream laid paper


Inscribed by the artist, upper left, in pen and brown ink: "Socrates procul dubio" (Socrates without doubt); upper right: "Xantippe quae stomachatur / vide os columnatum" (Xantippe in one of her moods / see her pillared face); inscribed, lower left, in pen and brown ink: "Rubbens"; verso, upper left, in graphite: "PP Rubens 1577–1640"; lower left, in graphite: "lot 34, 11 ⅛ x 6 ⅜ / Socrates Telanteppe/ Rubens 1577–1640"; lower center, in pen and blue ink: "Peter Paul Rubens 1577–1640"


285 × 420 mm

Credit Line

The Leonora Hall Gurley Memorial Collection

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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