Belgian collector pays 1.3 million euro for Rubens

A sketch by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens that had been missing for hundreds of years was sold on Sunday to a Belgian collector. The news of the sale comes from the Mercier auction house in the French city of Lille.  The sketch features Margaret the Virgin in a red and white dress. She is carrying a palm branch and a there is a dragon at her feet. According to the auction house’s catalogue the work measures 33cm by 45.7cm. 

The sketch served as a model for a monumental work on the ceiling of the Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Antwerp.

In 1620 Rubens ordered 39 large canvasses measuring 3 metres by 4 metres. The Saint Charles Borromeo Church was to be the biggest church in what was then the Spanish Netherlands.

"The monumental canvasses were painted by the whole workshop with the help of Rubens’ apprentices. However, the sketches were painted entirely by Rubens himself, but he refused to sell them”, auctioneer Patrick Deguines told VRT News.

Mr Deguines "Unfortunately the ceiling was destroyed by a fire in 1718”.

"33 sketches had been accounted for most of which are saved in museums. However 6 including this one were missing. It was found recently as part of aan inheritance”.     

The sketch is describe as being both rare and valuable. According to the auctioneer it is the first time in 20 years that a comparable work has been sold in France.