Peter Paul Rubens' Daniel in the Lions' Den: Its Sources and Its Political Significance
Pollack, Rachel Aviva
Wheelock, Arthur K
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This dissertation evaluates Rubens' Daniel in the Lions' Den (ca. 1614-1618) through an examination of the visual and emblematic sources that likely inspired the artist, as well as the political meaning that it held to Rubens and to its early owners. In my analysis, I reevaluate the all'antica and antique sources that Rubens likely studied to explain how the artist imbued his lions with impressive qualities that exceed naturalism. Through the lens of Josephus' Antiquity of the Jews and Marco Polo's description of the Dry Tree--the legendary site where Alexander the Great defeated Darius III--I reexamine the spiritual and humanist implications of Rubens' adaptation of the antique bust The Dying Alexander for his depiction of Daniel. I also argue that Rubens' visual vocabulary included political imagery related to the Leo Belgicus, the personification of the Netherlands during the Eighty Years' War, and that Rubens' painting reflects the political agenda of the Spanish Habsburgs to maintain control over the Netherlands. It is unclear whether Rubens created Daniel in the Lions' Den first as a studio showpiece or for an unknown patron. Nevertheless, the painting's later life in the collections of Dudley Carleton, English Ambassador to The Hague, Charles I, King of England, and James Hamilton-Douglas, 1st Duke of Hamilton, a courtier to Charles I, reveals that these later owners appropriated Rubens' leonine imagery for their own political ends. Carleton likely gave it to Charles I in 1628 to secure career preferment in the Stuart court. Charles I hung Daniel in the Lions' Den in the Bear Gallery at Whitehall Palace, from 1628 to 1641, to enhance His Majesty's regal authority. In my appraisal of Daniel in the Lions' Den's function in this gallery, I reconstruct the installation of the paintings according to Abraham van der Doort's ca. 1639 inventory, and show how this painting functioned as a pendant to Rubens' Peace and War at the time of Rubens' diplomatic visit to London from May 1629 to March 1630. Finally, I explore the heraldic function of Daniel in the Lions' Den in Hamilton's collection during the Bishops' War.