Union Académique Internationale

Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard

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Project n°73, adopted in 2005

The Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard (CRLB) can be counted among the most ambitious art-historical project dedicated to a single artist, in this case Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Ludwig Burchard (1886–1960) intended to compile a fully illustrated catalogue raisonné of the works of Rubens. The documentation he assembled (in some eight hundred cardboard boxes) was assigned to the City of Antwerp after his death. This donation greatly enriched the Rubenianum, a documentation centre and public library, devoted chiefly but by no means exclusively to the art of Rubens and his time. It has been considerably enlarged by the joint efforts of the Rubenianum staff and the Centrum Rubenianum (hereafter referred to as ‘the Centrum’). The Corpus is structured thematically and comprises Rubens’s entire output, his paintings, drawings, and works such as tapestries, sculptures and engravings for which he produced the designs. Each work is illustrated and fully discussed. Early on in the history of the project, the individual parts or sub-parts were assigned to different authors chosen either because they had already worked on the relevant subject or are well placed professionally to have privileged access to the material under consideration. The Corpus is indeed an international enterprise fuelled with contributions from past and present (and future) generations of scholarly specialists. The series is subdivided in 29 parts, some of them consisting of several volumes (some fifty all together). The remaining 15 volumes are now all in various stages of preparation, with a clear path to publication by 2020/21. Each volume is edited by a member of the Centrum, but remains the full responsibility of the assigned authors – taking as their basis the material as assembled and commented upon by Burchard. Authors are, however, free to express their own opinions. The Corpus aims to provide as comprehensive a view as possible of the individual works. A full bibliography and lists of copies are included, and the history of ownership is provided as fully as possible. Details of the work’s commission, dating and authenticity are exhaustively discussed. All Rubens’s paintings are the outcome of an organised creative process, evidence of which is found in preparatory drawings and oil sketches, so each preparatory work is illustrated, analysed and accounted for in a separate entry. Burchard was particularly interested in Rubens’s visual sources and in his adaptation of formal poses within his output; these aspects are reflected and developed in the Corpus. Emphasis is also placed on the cultural context and the meaning Rubens intended to convey. This requires expertise in many of the complex, multifaceted aspects of intellectual and historical scholarship, much relating to Catholic thought in the early modern age. Any gaps or overlaps in the organisation of the material can be circumvented through the use of the cross-referenced database and the four specialised indexes included in each volume. A Rubenianum Fund was created in 2010 under the auspices of the King Baudouin Foundation in order to secure the much needed financial means for the completion of the publication of the Corpus. Thanks to the enthusiastic support of a number of foundations, corporations and individual art lovers, some 2 million euros were raised between 2010 and 2015, which allowed the operation quickly to kick into high gear. A renewed fundraising appeal was launched in 2016. The present financial means are insufficient to attain our goal of finalizing this enormously challenging project by the target date of 2020/21, but we are sure that we can count on the future generosity of many, both existing and new supporters, to help us get there! Meanwhile, the Rubenianum Fund and the whole ‘Rubens community’ of scholars, curators, students, collectors and art lovers are extremely grateful to the more than hundred generous donors who made this possible.