The Three Graces

German (Augsburg)
about 1624
Georg Petel (German, about 1601–1634)


Overall: 30.5 x 19.1 x 5.1 cm (12 x 7 1/2 x 2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Gilded bronze

On View

Alyce Morrissey Gallery (Kunstkammer) (Gallery 143)





Several of the sculptures of the German sculptor, Georg Petel, are interpretations of two-dimensional compositions by the Flemish baroque painter, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). This group is certainly inspired by Rubens’s Three Graces in the Vienna Academy Museum (painted in about 1620-21) which Petel saw during his visit to Antwerp in 1624. He made an ivory carving of the same group which was listed in the 1635 inventory of the Duke of Buckingham, the present location of which is unknown; it is possible that the bronze group was cast after this ivory. A later bronze cast is in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig (Bro. 181). The figures, with their raised arms and flat palms, originally supported either a shell or a basket of flowers or fruits.

This sculpture is based on a painting of the same subject by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), and the figures originally supported a basket or bowl of fruit or flowers. The sculptor captured the corporeality of Rubens’s figures and played on ideas of two- and three-dimensionality by working in relief, an intermediary between painting and sculpture in the round.


1878, Charles Emile Jacque (b. 1813 - d. 1894), Paris; December 13-14, 1878, Jacque sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, lot 21 [see note 1]. Paul Bournet de Verron (d. 1882), Paris [see note 2]; by inheritance to his brother-in-law, Mr. Bucquet (d. 1889); by inheritence to Antoinette and Maurice Bucquet, Paris [see note 2]. 1963, private collection, Paris [see note 3]. 1963, acquired on the Paris art market by Joseph de Chellinck d'Elseghem, Brussels; June 30, 1969, Elseghem sale, Sotheby's, London, lot 29, to David Peel and Co., London; 1969, sold by Peel to John Goelet, New York; 1976, year-end gift of John Goelet to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 12, 1977)

[1] Unless otherwise noted, the provenance is based upon Fiona Healy's catalogue entry in A House of Art: Rubens as Collector, by Kristin Lohse Belkin and Fiona Healy (Schoten, 2004), p. 257, cat. no. 62.

[2] On the Bournet de Verron collection and its provenance, see Gaston Migeon, "La Collection Bucquet-Bournet de Verron," Les Arts, vol. 10, no. 117 (September 1911): 7-22. M. and Mlle. Bucquet lent the sculpture to the "Exposition d'objets d'art du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance" (Jacques Seligmann, Paris, 1913), cat. no. 99.

[3] Connaissance des Arts, no. 134 (April, 1963): 47.

Credit Line

Gift of John Goelet in honor of Hanns Swarzenski