Rubens’s Encounter with Asia
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Available on the Apple iBookstore as well as in print, Looking East: Rubens’s Encounter with Asia explores Peter Paul Rubens’s fascinating depiction of a man wearing Korean costume. Made around 1617, Rubens’s Man in Korean Costume has intrigued scholars since its creation. Despite the drawing’s renown, however, the reasons why it was made and whether it actually depicts a specific Asian person remain a mystery. The dramatic story that develops involves a shipwreck, an unusual hat, the earliest trade between Europe and Asia, the trafficking of Asian slaves, and the role of Jesuit missionaries in Asia.
The book’s editor, Stephanie Schrader, traces the interpretations and meanings ascribed to this drawing over the centuries. Could Rubens have actually encountered a particular Korean man who sailed to Europe, or did he instead draw a model wearing Asian clothing or simply hear about such a person? What did Europeans really know about Korea during that period, and what might the Jesuits have had to do with the production of this drawing? All of these questions are pondered by the book’s contributors, who look at the drawing from various points of view. Published to accompany an exhibition of the same name at the J. Paul Getty Museum, this enhanced e-book includes a complete image gallery of the works in and related to the exhibition and a unique “open to explore” detail viewer that allows some works to be studied in depth, in addition to the essays from the print volume.