Rubens Circles, National Museum of Serbia

Tourists are arriving at the National Museum and finding a series of temporary exhibitions showcasing items from the museums’s rich holdings, currently estimated to include 400,000 objects. As the museum is closed, and has been since 2002, this is a rare opportunity indeed. Fourteen long years with the lights out and the walls empty, waiting for the promised and much needed renovation. Another problem, one also directly related to the absence of money, is the high cost of insuring the collection if it were placed on public display. Periodically, though, the museum opens its doors and emerges from this politically induced slumber. ‘Rubens Circles’ is the smallest and most focussed of this current batch of summer exhibitions. Essentially, it consists of four paintings all produced in Antwerp c1616 by artists directly or loosely related to Rubens. They include a Jan Brueghel flower painting, a Cornelis de Vos portrait, a copied Van Dyck self-portrait and most stunning and strangely alluring of all, a huge Diana Retuning from the Hunt (c1615-17 ) by Rubens himself. Six figures, statuesque, strapping arms, torsos à la Michelangelo but compressed into the 2 metre space and never completely seen in the round. They meet with their trophies: on the Diana side, carrying dead game, on the Bacchus side with the fruits of the vine. The painting was a collaboration between Rubens, his studio assistants and an associate, Frans Snijders, a successful still-life and animal painter who was based in Antwerp and was often called upon to add in the stunningly accurate animal or vegetable detail. The painting has been the subject of recent investigation by the conservation department with x-ray and infra-red spectrometry provided by the Vinca Institute for Nuclear Science. Curated by Jelena Dergenc, until 1st August 2014. See www.narodnimuzej.rs

Entrance, National Museum of Serbia

Entrance, National Museum of Serbia

Unknown Artist, Portrait of Van Dyck, after 1641

Unknown Artist, Portrait of Van Dyck, after 1641

Jan Brueghel, Flowers, 1616

Jan Brueghel, Flowers, 1616

Cornelis de Vos, Portrait of a Girl, 1620

Cornelis de Vos, Portrait of a Girl, 1620

Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snijders, Diana Returning from the Hunt, c1615-17

Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snijders, Diana Returning from the Hunt, c1615-17

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