The central painting of the whole Medici cycle shows the Apotheosis of Henry IV, in which the assassinated French king is shown as a deified Roman emperor: he climbs triumphantly up to Olympus, to be welcomed by Jupiter and the other gods. Rubens's vivacious method of incorporating numerous allegorical motifs into this cycle should not make us forget that these are to a considerable extent derived from classical coins; he corresponded about these with the celebrated French antiquary Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc.
The story of the Holy Family's flight was one of the most popular apocryphal legends which survived the prohibitive decrees of the Council of Trent and often appeared in painting from the end of the sixteenth century. Caravaggio's idyllic painting is an individualistic representation of this.
The artist ingeniously uses the figure of an angel playing the violin with his back to the viewer to divide the composition into two parts. On the right, before an autumnal river-front scene, we can see the sleeping Mary with a dozing infant in her left; on the left, a seated Joseph holding the musical score for the angel. The natural surroundings reminds the viewer of the Giorgionesque landscapes of the Cinquecento masters of Northern Italian painting, and it is fully imbued with a degree of nostalgia. Contrasting the unlikelihood of the event is the realistic effect of depiction, the accuracy of details, the trees, the leaves and stones, whereby the total impression becomes astonishingly authentic. The statue-like figure of the angel, with a white robe draped around him, is like a charmingly shaped musical motif, and it provides the basic tone for the composition. It is an interesting contradiction - and at the same time a good example for the adaptability of forms - that this figure of pure classical beauty is a direct descendant of Annibale Carracci's Luxuria from the painting "The Choice of Heracles".
It has not been clearly decided what was the textual source for the music-playing angel in the story of the flight into Egypt. Charming is Caravaggio's decision to actively involve St Joseph in the music-making.
Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 4 minutes):César Franck: Panis angelicus
Venice's climate and environment were unfavourable to fresco paintings, which were easily damaged by damp. This powerful fresco, painted originally for the cloister of the church Santo Stefano, has faded badly.
The naked body of Christ lies stretched out on a bier, which occupies almost the entire breadth of the panel. Behind the bier the grief-stricken women, the Virgin and Mary Magdalene, stand tearing at their long, flowing hair. Two large torches in the background cast a flickering light over the scene, so that only the figures and the shroud stand out in the darkness of the room.
The painter treated the theme of the Lamentation on several occasions. In Rubens' development of the subject, however, the Berlin sketch stands alone in that it was never followed up or even completed. The powerful effect produced by the three figures placed at right angles and reinforced by the uncannily empty areas of darkness might have been difficult to achieve in a larger format; the sketch bears all the signs of being a first idea. The modelling of the male body, the subtle use of shadow in the white cloth and not least the blonde tresses (rendered with a wide brush) which envelop the faces of the weeping women, all reveal the masterly assurance of the great Flemish artist.
The women's violent gestures, the dramatic light-effect and the realism of the naked body were undoubtedly inspired by impressions gained while Rubens was in Italy, and in particular in Rome by the art of Caravaggio. We know that, during the years he spent in the south, the painter became preoccupied with the Lamentation as a theme. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to count this sketch among the works he produced in Italy, particularly as it was purchased from an Italian collection. Equally, however, the colours and brushwork of the small Lamentation suggest that, despite Rubens' southern memories, it may have been painted shortly after his return to Antwerp in 1609. That he continued for a long time to draw on the artistic experience he had gained in Italy is shown by the pictures he subsequently painted.
Louis Pascal was Lautrec's second cousin, and had been a fellow pupil at the Lycée Fontane in Paris. Lautrec valued his company, as well as that of his mistress, Moute. Pascal later worked as an insurance broker. When he and his family got into financial difficulties in the summer of 1892 they were supported by the Lautrecs.