Peter Paul Rubens's Man in Korean Costume has been considered noteworthy since its creation in the early 1600s. This large-scale drawing, now in the Getty Museum's collection, was copied in Rubens's Antwerp studio during his own time and circulated as a reproductive print in Europe in the 18th century.
Despite the drawing's renown, why it was made and whether it actually depicts a specific person remain a mystery. This focused exhibition provides the first thorough investigation of this captivating work of art and the religious and mercantile contexts that fostered the artist's encounter with Asia. By situating the Getty drawing within the context of cultural history, this exhibition presents a broader understanding of what appears to be the earliest depiction of a Korean costume by a Western artist.
As an artist and diplomat working for rulers in courts across Europe, Rubens expressed his fascination with foreign costumes and headdresses. In this drawing, Man in Korean Costume, which depicts the attire of an Asian kingdom little known to him, Rubens lavished attention on the cascade of the shimmering folds and transparent hat. The man has been associated with Siamese ambassadors in London, pagan priests in Goa, European Jesuits in China, and most popularly a former Korean slave who traveled to Italy from Japan.
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