Erasmus Quellinus - Magnanimity of Scipio

(1607 – Antwerp – 1678)


Magnanimity of Scipio

Oil on canvas, 108 x 162,8 cm

Price: 35.000 €


Private collection Brasschaat 1977


The Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236-183 BC) succeeded in capturing Carthago Nova. During the conquest of Carthaginian bases in Spain, many hostages of Celtiberian origin fell into the hands of the Romans. Allucius and his fiancée were among them, but thanks to the generosity of Scipio they were given their freedom. (Report by Titus Livius (59 B.C.-17 A.D.))


Dr. De Bruyn, author of the catalogue raisonné of Erasmus Quellinus and expert on Flemish Baroque painting, confirmed the attribution of the painting to Erasmus Quellinus.  He describes the work as „of very good quality…. It seems to be in perfect condition.“


According to Dr. De Bruyn, the present painting can be dated to around 1645/50. It is characterised by a classical style. Against the background of ancient buildings, the scene is depicted as if on a stage. Allucius and his fiancée are placed exactly in the centre of the picture – the beautiful king’s daughter is already conspicuous by her bright white robe. Behind her we see her parents, who had tried to obtain their daughter’s freedom through gifts. They are followed by some ladies of the court, pointing to Allucius as the Celtlian leader. The commander Scipio stands elevated by some steps and points with his gesture to a female sculpture of a deity enthroned on an altar lit by flames, inside a temple. The female deity cannot be further identified, but the garlands of fruit refer to her as the goddess of fertility and marriage. A high priest at the foot of the temple, next to the king’s daughter, points to the deity with his gesture. He also holds a small female statuette in his hands. At the foot of the scene lie the precious gifts that were intended as presents to Scipio but are now returned to the bride and groom. On the right, slightly outside the centre of the picture, there is a quotation of Hercules Farnese in side view.

Quellinus treated the theme „Magnanimity of Scipio“ several times. A smaller version on copper was sold at auction together with its counterpart „Coriolanus begs to protect Rome“.  According to De Bruyn, a third version by Quellinus was in the Bailén Collection in Madrid.

For the Antwerp art market and for private patrons, Erasmus Quellinus frequently created several versions of a pictorial theme. For example, there are several versions of Achilles with the Daughters of Lycomedes or Artemisia Drinking the Ashes of Mausolus.  In the case of the latter subject, as with the „Magnanimity of Scipio“, there is a version on copper and a larger one on canvas.

It is interesting that quotations from sculptures by his brother Arthur Quellinus often appear in paintings by Erasmus Quellinus. The extent to which the sculpture in the priest’s hand can be traced back to such a work has not yet been clarified.


Erasmus Quellinus II, was the son of the sculptor Erasmus Quellinus I and brother of Artus Quellinus I and Hubertus Quellinus. He became master of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke in 1633/34 after training with Rubens. In the 1630s he worked regularly with Rubens, for example on the commission for the Pompa Introitus or the Torre de la Parada. Both the large number of his historical and mythological pictorial subjects and his extensive library bear witness to his humanistic and philosophical education. After the death of Rubens, in 1640, he became city painter of Antwerp. Quellinus is considered one of Rubens‘ most important successors. He decisively developed Flemish Baroque painting and introduced a more classical Baroque style.  From the 1640s onwards, his compositions take on a more sculptural appearance with an overall classicist impression. This is connected with his collaboration with his brother, the sculptor Artus (1609-68). In the work of the two brothers an idealised type of figure is increasing. Their cooperation can be seen for example in the grisailles created by Quellinus, which often reproduce designs or concrete sculptures by his brother.




De Bruyn, Erasmus II Quellnus. De Schlderijen met Catalogue Raisonné, Freren 1988, pp. 196f. , no. 127 with illustration.


Further literature on Erasmus Quellinus

J.-P. de Bruyn, ‚Erasmus II Quellinus (1607-1678). Een stijlkritische benadering‘, Jaarboek van het Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen 1984, p. 271, afb. 11

J.-P. de Bruyn, ‚Erasmus Quellinus (1607-1678)‘, Tijdschrift der stad Antwerpen, dec. 1984, p. 190, no. 4, afb. 8

Exhibition catalogue ‚Erasmus Quellinus – in het voetsporen van Rubens‘, De Bruyn et al, Musée de Flandre, Cassel 2014