Peter Paul Rubens: Hochaltarbild für die Augustinerkirche in Antwerpen, 1628, Öl auf Leinwand, 564 x 401 cm, Inv.-Nr. IB1958.001, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerpen
Rubens developed many of his large-scale painting commissions in series of sketches. Painted on both sides, this panel served him in 1627/28 in his preparations for the altarpiece of the Church of the Augustinians in Antwerp. The Frankfurt sketch combines several individual studies in an overall composition for the first time. Badly damaged by a strip of wood glued to it later on, the sketch of a lion hunt on the back was carried out in preparation for the painting cycle executed by Rubens from 1628 onwards for Maria de’ Medici as an apotheosis of Henri IV of France.
Art collecting was popular among the well-to-do burghers of Frankfurt during the eighteenth century, but only in the case of the banker and spice merchant Johann Friedrich Städel (1728-1816) did the private art collection end up as an art institute that was open to the public. Städel decreed in his will in 1815 that his collection should be "open for use and inspection by prospective artists and art lovers on specific days and at specific times freely and without charge, under appropriate supervision". He also expressed the wish "that in future the Institute should be expanded through contributions, legacies and gifts by other art lovers and supporters of the fine arts".