Peter Paul Rubens: Portrait of Nicolas Trigault (1617)


(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

A drawing made by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640). Nicolas Trigault (1577–1628) was a Walloon Jesuit who was a missionary in China. He translated the book 'De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas', a book which gives an overview of the late Ming China's geography, politics, and culture, its philosophy and religions, and described the history of Christianity's inroads into China) from Latin to Italian. He also produced the first Chinese version of Aesop's Fables. From 1613 to 1619 Nicolas traveled through Europe to raise money, recruiting Jesuit missionaries and publicize the work of the Jesuit missions. during this stay he came into contact with Rubens who made a costume study of Nicolas. Nicolas Trigault is dressed here in the robe of a Chinese scholar and a Korean cap. In the upper right corner is a Latin text from Rubens: "Note that the dark colour is not peculiar to Chinese scholars but to the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, except for the blue facings which are common to all. The Chinese, furthermore, do not use one colour only in their clothing, but any colour they like except yellow, which is reserved for the King, "Trigualt S.J., drawn on the 17th of January". Drawing from 1617.

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