Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard XV

The Ceiling Decoration of the Banqueting Hall

The ceiling decoration of the Banqueting Hall.

The Ceiling Decoration of the Banqueting Hall
Gregory Martin
Turnhout: Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2006.
ISBN: 978-0-905203-72-0
524 p., 232 ill.


The ceiling decoration of the Banqueting Hall

The nine paintings that Rubens made for the ceiling of the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, London, are the centerpiece of the decorations of this magnificent hall, the focal point of Stuart Court ceremonial. The work was commissioned shortly after the destruction of the early Jacobean Banqueting Hall by James I and his son, the later Charles I. The Hall was used for court ceremonial until 1698, when it was assigned a different function after the fire in Whitehall Palace. Work on the decorations was delayed by affairs of state in which Rubens himself played a role as a diplomat. He resided in London in that capacity in 1629-1630, which eventually enabled him to execute the decorations.

Rubens was well aware that the Stuarts owed their position of power to the union of the crowns of Scotland and England. He also knew that his royal patron Charles I, in adopting his father’s peace policy, aspired all the more vigorously to the absolute authority that his father had justified both verbally and in writing.

These three themes determine the content of the cycle, which sings the praises of the deceased king James I. The cycle posed a great challenge to Rubens, not only because its themes broke new ground, but also because of the formal problems imposed by the project’s dimensions.

This part of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard presents the most comprehensive overview ever given of the history of this commission. It describes the complex origins of the project and places the subject in the context of the political and moral aspirations of the early Stuarts.