Peter Paul Rubens masterpiece to go under the hammer at Sotheby's New York in May 2023


Rubens' Portrait of a Man as the God Mars (± 1620) is expected to change hands for between 18.8 million and 28.2 million euros in May in New York. The man, dressed as the God of War Mars, seems to be looking forward to it with interest already.

It is not known who the 400-year-old man, portrayed in richly decorated armour and a cloak of lion skin, wearing a helmet with a dolphin's head, a spear and a powerful gaze, represents. However, the artwork does reveal Rubens' knowledge of and strong passion for classical antiquity. The inspiration had come from his travels to Italy. He combined the mastery and refinement from the South with Flemish directness, thoroughly rewriting the language of 17th-century Flemish painting. References to Titian and the Italian Renaissance can also be observed.

The painting was probably made in Antwerp around 1620. Recently, for the first time in 200 years, it briefly returned to Belgium to be displayed for one day at the Brussels branch of auction house Sotheby's. Since 2002, it has been part of the prestigious Fisch Davidson Collection, other major works from which were sold in a white glove sale during the Sotheby's Masters Week in New York early this year. Portrait of a Man as the God Mars is owned by an American couple who are getting divorced and are now putting Rubens' creation on the market.

Rubens painted religious, mythological and historical scenes in addition to portraits.