This is a fascinating exploration of the mystery that surrounds of Ruben's most well-kwn and intriguing drawings. Peter Paul Rubens was one of the most talented and successful artists working in 17th-century Europe. During his illustrious career as a court painter and diplomat, Rubens expressed a fascination with exotic costumes and headdresses. With his masterful handling of black chalk and touches of red, Rubens executed a compelling drawing that features a figure wearing Asian costume - a depiction that has recently been identified as Man in Korean Costume. Despite the drawings rewn - both during Ruben's own lifetime and in contemporary art scholarship - the reasons why it was made and whether it actually depicts a specific Asian person remain a mystery. The intriguing story that develops involves a shipwreck, an unusual hat, the earliest trade between Europe and Asia, the trafficking of Asian slave, and Jesuit missionaries.
Stephanie Schrader is associate curator in the Department of Drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum.