Thetis receiving the Armour of Achilles from Vulcan
In between 1630 and 1635 Rubens worked on an assignement wich included a series of 8 designs for tapestry depicting the life of Greek hero Achilles. It's uncertain who the actual commissioner was, but there are indications that his own in-laws, the Fourments, were part of this contract (father in-law was the main tapestry merchant of Antwerp in those days).
Rubens made 8 bozzetti (or oil sketches) in first instance, the modelli (slightly bigger studies on panel) in a next phase and concluded with life sized cardboard studies that eventually were ready and used to be woven by craftsmen.
Rubens approached this large assignment with great precision and detail. He made an oil sketch for each of the eight episodes; seven of these are now to be admired in the collection of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam). These designs were elaborated on large panels approximately two and a half times larger (‘modelli’). These in turn acted as example for the large boards which became the pattern for the weavers.
The series was a great success, as many editions of it were woven and Rubens' studio produced a whole number of copies and pastiches.
Considering its dimensions, its medium (paper laid on panel) and the obvious quality, it's likely to be the design or study for an engraving .
On this oil sketch, Rubens depicts the moment when the Greek hero Achilles had lost his armour, which he had lent to his friend Patroclus, but had decided to participate again in the Trojan War. His mother Thetis asked Vulcan, the god of fire, for help. He immediately set to work to forge new armour. On this oil sketch, the fifth in a series of eight that he produced, the god is handing over a shield to Thetis.