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Peter Paul Rubens In His Study

Peter Paul Rubens In His Study
By Ball Hughes, 1867
Images courtesy of the Owner


"Peter Paul Rubens" by J Gilbert
As it appeared in the Illustrated London News, May 3, 1862, p. 455
Courtesy of John Weedy

    Compare Ball Hughes poker sketch to John Gilbert's woodblock engraving of his painting above.   

Rear View

Inscription, verso:
This picture was burnt with
a red hot Poker from J Gilbert's
celebrated painting of Peter Paul Rubens
Ball Hughes. Fecit
Boston. 1867

Ball Hughes. Fecit
Boston. 1867

Closeup of additional inscription:
Executed exprefsly for
D. Henshaw Ward, Esq
(from upper right corner of verso)

    David Henshaw Ward (1830-?) was a Boston businessman. In 1873, he moved to Oakland, CA.  From the E-Museum of Art Antique Art Hall Ball Hughes Salon No. 5: "The following is from a 1976 letter written by Mrs. Margaret Brown [I believe this should be Marjorie Brown, wife of Rudolph Henry Brown, my uncle] from her own research on the famous Brown ancestor:" 
"Part of an obituary write-up at the time of Ball Hughes’ death reads: 'Within a few years of his death, he amused himself by burning most wonderful pictures on wood, and such was the demand for them that the work of a few hours was willingly paid for by sums of $100. And $200. Many sought for them but could not obtain them and after Mr. Hughes’ death, fabulous sums were offered for them. Henshaw D. Ward Esq. [could it have been instead D. Henshaw Ward?] and the artist’s son-in-law, B. F. Brown have the best specimens of this unique art. His remains are in Cedar Grove Cemetery ..."

D. Henshaw Ward owned this and other Pokersims by Ball Hughes. 
This pokerism and its' companion, The Burgomaster and Daughter, have the same style frame. They were both owned by a couple that moved to California from the east coast after they retired. They may have purchased them in California. They were purchased by an auctioneer in 2012.
Side-by-side images of Peter Paul Rubens In His Study and The Burgomaster and Daughter

From the Owner:
     The [Peter Paul Rubens In His Study] pyrography is 10" x 12" and framed it is 17" x19".  The carved walnut frame seems to be original to the work.

    The [Burgomaster and Daughter] pyrography is 14 1/2" x 11 1/2 ", framed it is 19 x 22.  The carved walnut frame seems to be original to the work. 

    William Dana Orcutt records in Good Old Dorchester  Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, UP, 1893, pp. 382-383:
"Mr. Hughes manifested his artistic nature in more ways than one. He excelled, among other things, in executing what are known as "poker sketches." These are pictures made on whitewood, the only tools used being pieces of iron, which were heated to a white heat. Every touch of the hot iron leaves a mark which cannot be effaced, and the work is so trying to the nerves that only a short time each day can be devoted to it. The effects of color can only be appreciated when seen. It seems incredible that such artistic results could have been produced in this way. Among the works of this kind, many of which are now in the possession of Mr. Hughes' son-in-law, Mr. Benjamin F. Brown, may be mentioned "The Trumpeter," "The Monk," "Falstaff Examining his Recruits," — embracing a dozen or more figures, —"Rembrandt," "Don Quixote," "Shakespeare," "Rubens," and "The Scotch Terrier.""

    Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897) was a British artist who was known for the illustrations and woodcuts (woodblock engravings) that he produced for the Illustrated London News. He also produced illustrations for books, including Shakespeare's plays. See Falstaff Examining his Recruits by Ball Hughes.

    Ball Hughes probably copied a woodblock engraving of Gilbert's painting that appeared on page 455 of the Illustrated London News, May 3, 1862. The engraving was titled "Peter Paul Rubens" by J Gilbert. The Illustrated London News was the world's first illustrated weekly newspaper and no doubt was available in Boston. The history of the ILN and back issues are available on John Weedy's Illustrated London News website at http://www.iln.org.uk/.

last update 9/12/2012
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2012