Rubens' tribute to England to be auctioned off in France on June 6, 2021

Saturday, May 8th 2021

Press release

Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, Allegory of Saint George and the dragon. 168 x 248 cm.
A gift from Napoleon III stolen by the Nazis: Rubens’ tribute to England to be auctioned off in France on June 6, 2021 at the castle of Artigny. This Tribute to England painted by Rubens' workshop under the supervision of the master will be auctioned off on June 6 by the Rouillac auction house at the Château d'Artigny in France.

"This massive version of an original painting held in the British Royal collections at Windsor Castle has been auctioned off three times under three different names within the past two centuries. It has been stolen twice within a thirty year span, including once by the Nazis, and escaped a fire set by the Red Army. Its history is like the allegorical image of England, in honor of which it was painted: unsinkable!" says Aymeric Rouillac, the auctioneer in charge of its sale.

Discovered in the Loire Valley, this masterpiece is the largest (168 x 248 cm) version of a painting depicting King Charles I as Saint George having slain the dragon. Painted in 1639-40 during diplomatic negotiations, it is the only known painting by Rubens showing the River Thames and buildings of the city of London. Of the three other versions referenced in the Corpus Rubenianum, this is the only one to have been located, along with that of the Queen of England's collections. And yet... it almost disappeared many times during the 20th century!

Stolen by the Nazis on May 8, 1944 in Paris from descendants of Napoleon III's physician, who had received it as a gift, this painting was first sent to Bohemia. From there, it was to be dispatched to the infamous salt mines where Goering and Hitler hid their secret art collection. Having failed to invade England, the Nazi leaders intended to keep its allegory!

A few weeks before the Red Army gutted the castle of Nikolsburg where the painting was housed, it was miraculously sent to Bavaria, thus being saved. Returned to its rightful owners by the Monuments Men, it was sold at auction before being stolen one more time! After being found again, it was compared with the Queen's painting and had been hanging on the wall of a Loire Valley castle ever since.

"To have a painting of this scale, made by Rubens' workshop and with such a tumultuous past is an extremely rare occurrence on the art market" analyzes the auctioneer, who set his estimate at €60,000 or more and adds: "No need to try to get ahold of it before the auction... all you have to do is bid on auction day!"

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For immediate release
May 5, 2021
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