Peter Paul Rubens
Overview
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (ˈrybə(n)s; 28 June 1577 – 30 May 1640), was a Flemish Baroque painter, and a proponent of an extravagant Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 style that emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality. He is well-known for his Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 altarpiece
Altarpiece
An altarpiece is a picture or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church. The altarpiece is often made up of two or more separate panels created using a technique known as panel painting. It is then called a diptych, triptych or polyptych for two,...

s, portrait
Portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...

s, landscapes, and history painting
History painting
History painting is a genre in painting defined by subject matter rather than an artistic style, depicting a moment in a narrative story, rather than a static subject such as a portrait...

s of mythological and allegorical subjects.

In addition to running a large studio in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe, Rubens was a classically educated humanist scholar
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

, art collector, and diplomat who was knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

ed by both Philip IV
Philip IV of Spain
Philip IV was King of Spain between 1621 and 1665, sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands, and King of Portugal until 1640...

, King of Spain, and Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, King of England.
Rubens was born in Siegen
Siegen
Siegen is a city in Germany, in the south Westphalian part of North Rhine-Westphalia.It is located in the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein in the Arnsberg region...

, Westphalia
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, to Jan Rubens and Maria Pypelincks.
Encyclopedia
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (ˈrybə(n)s; 28 June 1577 – 30 May 1640), was a Flemish Baroque painter, and a proponent of an extravagant Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 style that emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality. He is well-known for his Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 altarpiece
Altarpiece
An altarpiece is a picture or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church. The altarpiece is often made up of two or more separate panels created using a technique known as panel painting. It is then called a diptych, triptych or polyptych for two,...

s, portrait
Portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...

s, landscapes, and history painting
History painting
History painting is a genre in painting defined by subject matter rather than an artistic style, depicting a moment in a narrative story, rather than a static subject such as a portrait...

s of mythological and allegorical subjects.

In addition to running a large studio in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe, Rubens was a classically educated humanist scholar
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

, art collector, and diplomat who was knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

ed by both Philip IV
Philip IV of Spain
Philip IV was King of Spain between 1621 and 1665, sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands, and King of Portugal until 1640...

, King of Spain, and Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, King of England.

Biography

Early life

Rubens was born in Siegen
Siegen
Siegen is a city in Germany, in the south Westphalian part of North Rhine-Westphalia.It is located in the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein in the Arnsberg region...

, Westphalia
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, to Jan Rubens and Maria Pypelincks. His father, a Calvinist
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

, and mother fled Antwerp for Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 in 1568, after increased religious turmoil and persecution of Protestants during the rule of the Spanish Netherlands by the Duke of Alba. Jan Rubens became the legal advisor (and lover) of Anna of Saxony
Anna of Saxony
Anna of Saxony was the only child and heiress of Maurice, Elector of Saxony, and Agnes, eldest daughter of Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse. She was the second wife of William the Silent.Anna was born and died in Dresden...

, the second wife of William I of Orange
William the Silent
William I, Prince of Orange , also widely known as William the Silent , or simply William of Orange , was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish that set off the Eighty Years' War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1648. He was born in the House of...

, and settled at her court in Siegen in 1570. Following Jan Rubens' imprisonment for the affair, Peter Paul Rubens was born in 1577. The family returned to Cologne the next year. In 1589, two years after his father's death, Rubens moved with his mother to Antwerp, where he was raised as a Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. Religion figured prominently in much of his work and Rubens later became one of the leading voices of the Catholic Counter-Reformation style of painting (he had said "My passion comes from the heavens, not from earthly musings").

In Antwerp, Rubens received a humanist education, studying Latin and classical literature. By fourteen he began his artistic apprenticeship with Tobias Verhaeght. Subsequently, he studied under two of the city's leading painters of the time, the late Mannerist
Mannerism
Mannerism is a period of European art that emerged from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520. It lasted until about 1580 in Italy, when a more Baroque style began to replace it, but Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century throughout much of Europe...

 artists Adam van Noort
Adam van Noort
Adam van Noort was a Flemish painter and draughtsman.Van Noort was born and died in Antwerp. He was the teacher to both Peter Paul Rubens and Jacob Jordaens, the latter of whom became his son-in-law. Van Noort was dean of the Guild of St. Luke from 1597 until 1602...

 and Otto van Veen
Otto van Veen
Otto van Veen, also known by his Latinized name Otto Venius or Octavius Vaenius, was a painter, draughtsman, and humanist active primarily in Antwerp and Brussels in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century...

. Much of his earliest training involved copying earlier artists' works, such as woodcut
Woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

s by Hans Holbein the Younger
Hans Holbein the Younger
Hans Holbein the Younger was a German artist and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style. He is best known as one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire and Reformation propaganda, and made a significant contribution to the history...

 and Marcantonio Raimondi's
Marcantonio Raimondi
Marcantonio Raimondi, also simply Marcantonio, was an Italian engraver, known for being the first important printmaker whose body of work consists mainly of prints copying paintings. He is therefore a key figure in the rise of the reproductive print...

 engraving
Engraving
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing...

s after Raphael
Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino , better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur...

. Rubens completed his education in 1598, at which time he entered the Guild of St. Luke as an independent master.

Italy (1600–1608)

In 1600, Rubens travelled to Italy. He stopped first in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, where he saw paintings by Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

, Veronese
Paolo Veronese
Paolo Veronese was an Italian painter of the Renaissance in Venice, famous for paintings such as The Wedding at Cana and The Feast in the House of Levi...

, and Tintoretto
Tintoretto
Tintoretto , real name Jacopo Comin, was a Venetian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso...

, before settling in Mantua
Mantua
Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy and capital of the province of the same name. Mantua's historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family, made it one of the main artistic, cultural and notably musical hubs of Northern Italy and the country as a whole...

 at the court of Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga. The coloring and compositions of Veronese and Tintoretto had an immediate effect on Rubens's painting, and his later, mature style was profoundly influenced by Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

. With financial support from the Duke, Rubens travelled to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 by way of Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 in 1601. There, he studied classical Greek and Roman art and copied works of the Italian masters; the Hellenistic sculpture Laocoön and his Sons
Laocoön and his Sons
The statue of Laocoön and His Sons , also called the Laocoön Group, is a monumental sculpture in marble now in the Vatican Museums, Rome. The statue is attributed by the Roman author Pliny the Elder to three sculptors from the island of Rhodes: Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus...

was especially influential on him, as was the art of Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

, Raphael
Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino , better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur...

, and Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

. He was also influenced by the recent, highly naturalistic paintings by Caravaggio
Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque...

. He later made a copy of that artist's Entombment of Christ
The Entombment of Christ (Caravaggio)
The Entombment of Christ is a painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. It was painted for Santa Maria in Vallicella, a church built for the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, and adjacent to the buildings of the order...

, recommended that his patron, the Duke of Mantua, purchase The Death of the Virgin
Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)
The Death of the Virgin is a painting completed by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. It is a near contemporary with the Madonna with Saint Anne now at the Galleria Borghese...

 (Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

), and was instrumental in the acquisition of The Madonna of the Rosary
Madonna of the Rosary (Caravaggio)
The Madonna of the Rosary is a painting finished in 1607 by the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio. It is housed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna....

 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Kunsthistorisches Museum
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is an art museum in Vienna, Austria. Housed in its festive palatial building on Ringstraße, it is crowned with an octagonal dome...

) for the Dominican church in Antwerp. During this first stay in Rome, Rubens completed his first altarpiece commission, St. Helena with the True Cross for the Roman church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem is a Roman Catholic parish church and minor basilica in Rome, Italy. It is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome....

.

Rubens travelled to Spain on a diplomatic mission in 1603, delivering gifts from the Gonzagas to the court of Philip III
Philip III of Spain
Philip III , also known as Philip the Pious, was the King of Spain and King of Portugal and the Algarves, where he ruled as Philip II , from 1598 until his death...

. While there, he studied the extensive collections of Raphael and Titian that had been collected by Philip II
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

. He also painted an equestrian portrait of the Duke of Lerma
Francisco Goméz de Sandoval y Rojas, Duke of Lerma
Don Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, 1st Duke of Lerma , a favourite of Philip III of Spain, was the first of the validos through whom the later Habsburg monarchs ruled. He was succeeded by Don Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares.-Biography:The family of Sandoval was ancient and powerful...

 during his stay (Prado, Madrid) that demonstrates the influence of works like Titian's Charles V at Mühlberg (1548; Prado, Madrid). This journey marked the first of many during his career that combined art and diplomacy.

He returned to Italy in 1604, where he remained for the next four years, first in Mantua and then in Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 and Rome. In Genoa, Rubens painted numerous portraits, such as the Marchesa Brigida Spinola-Doria (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and the portrait of Maria di Antonio Serra Pallavicini, in a style that influenced later paintings by Anthony van Dyck
Anthony van Dyck
Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. He is most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next...

, Joshua Reynolds
Joshua Reynolds
Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA was an influential 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy...

 and Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter.-Suffolk:Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk. He was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. At the age of thirteen he impressed his father with his penciling skills so that he let...

. He also began a book illustrating the palaces in the city. From 1606 to 1608, he was mostly in Rome. During this period Rubens received, with the assistance of Cardinal Jacopo Serra (the brother of Maria Pallavicini), his most important commission to date for the High Altar of the city's most fashionable new church, Santa Maria in Vallicella
Santa Maria in Vallicella
Santa Maria in Vallicella, also called Chiesa Nuova, is a church in Rome, Italy, which today faces onto the main thoroughfare of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele...

 also known as the Chiesa Nuova.

The subject was to be St. Gregory the Great and important local saints adoring an icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

 of the Virgin and Child. The first version, a single canvas (now at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Grenoble), was immediately replaced by a second version on three slate panels that permits the actual miraculous holy image of the "Santa Maria in Vallicella" to be revealed on important feast days by a removable copper cover, also painted by the artist.

Rubens’ experiences in Italy continued to influence his work. He continued to write many of his letters and correspondences in Italian, signed his name as "Pietro Paolo Rubens", and spoke longingly of returning to the peninsula—a hope that never materialized.

Antwerp (1609–1621)

Upon hearing of his mother's illness in 1608, Rubens planned his departure from Italy for Antwerp. However, she died before he arrived home. His return coincided with a period of renewed prosperity in the city with the signing of Treaty of Antwerp
Treaty of Antwerp (1609)
The Treaty of Antwerp, which initiated the Twelve Years Truce, was an armistice signed in Antwerp on April 9, 1609, between Spain and the Netherlands, creating the major break in hostilities during the Eighty Years' War for independence conducted by the Seventeen Provinces in the Low...

 in April 1609, which initiated the Twelve Years' Truce
Twelve Years' Truce
The Twelve Years' Truce was the name given to the cessation of hostilities between the Habsburg rulers of Spain and the Southern Netherlands and the Dutch Republic as agreed in Antwerp on 9 April 1609. It was a watershed in the Eighty Years' War, marking the point from which the independence of the...

. In September of 1609 Rubens was appointed as court painter by Albert VII, Archduke of Austria
Albert VII, Archduke of Austria
Archduke Albert VII of Austria was, jointly with his wife, the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1598 and 1621, ruling the Habsburg territories in the southern Low Countries and the north of modern France...

 and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain
Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain
Isabella Clara Eugenia of Austria was sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands in the Low Countries and the north of modern France, together with her husband Albert. In some sources, she is referred to as Clara Isabella Eugenia...

, sovereigns of the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

. He received special permission to base his studio in Antwerp instead of at their court in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, and to also work for other clients. He remained close to the Archduchess Isabella until her death in 1633, and was called upon not only as a painter but also as an ambassador and diplomat. Rubens further cemented his ties to the city when, on 3 October 1609, he married Isabella Brant
Isabella Brant
Isabella Brant was a Flemish artists' model, the first wife of painter Peter Paul Rubens. She was the daughter of Jan Brant, an important city official in Antwerp, and Clara de Moy. Brant married Rubens on 3 October 1609 in Saint Michael's Abbey, Antwerp. They had three children: Clara, Nikolaas...

, the daughter of a leading Antwerp citizen and humanist, Jan Brant.

In 1610, Rubens moved into a new house and studio that he designed. Now the Rubenshuis
Rubenshuis
The Rubenshuis is the former home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. It is now a museum.- Rubens's house during his lifetime :...

 Museum, the Italian-influenced villa in the centre of Antwerp accommodated his workshop, where he and his apprentices made most of the paintings, and his personal art collection and library, both among the most extensive in Antwerp. During this time he built up a studio with numerous students and assistants. His most famous pupil was the young Anthony van Dyck
Anthony van Dyck
Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. He is most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next...

, who soon became the leading Flemish portraitist and collaborated frequently with Rubens. He also often collaborated with the many specialists active in the city, including the animal painter Frans Snyders who contributed the eagle to Prometheus Bound (illustrated below right), and his good friend the flower-painter Jan Brueghel the Elder
Jan Brueghel the Elder
Jan Brueghel the Elder was a Flemish painter, son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and father of Jan Brueghel the Younger. Nicknamed "Velvet" Brueghel, "Flower" Brueghel, and "Paradise" Brueghel, of which the latter two were derived from his floral still lifes which were his favored subjects, while the...

.

Altarpieces such as The Raising of the Cross
The Elevation of the Cross (Rubens)
The Elevation of the Cross is a triptych painting by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, completed in 1610-1611....

(1610) and The Descent from the Cross (1611–1614) for the Cathedral of Our Lady
Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp
The Cathedral of Our Lady is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Antwerp, Belgium. Today's see of the Diocese of Antwerp was started in 1352 and, although the first stage of construction was ended in 1521, has never been 'completed'. In Gothic style, its architects were Jan and Pieter Appelmans...

 were particularly important in establishing Rubens as Flanders' leading painter shortly after his return. The Raising of the Cross, for example, demonstrates the artist's synthesis of Tintoretto's Crucifixion for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is a building in Venice, northern Italy.-History:The Scuola di San Rocco was established in 1478 by a group of wealthy Venetian citizens, next to the church of San Rocco, from which it takes its name.In January 1515 the project of the building was entrusted...

 in Venice, Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

's dynamic figures, and Rubens's own personal style. This painting has been held as a prime example of Baroque religious art.

Rubens used the production of prints
Old master print
An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition . A date of about 1830 is usually taken as marking the end of the period whose prints are covered by this term. The main techniques concerned are woodcut, engraving and etching, although there are...

 and book title-pages, especially for his friend Balthasar Moretus, the owner of the large Plantin-Moretus publishing house
Plantin Press
The Plantin Press at Antwerp was one of the focal centers of the fine printed book in the 16th century.Christophe Plantin of Touraine, trained as a bookbinder, fled from Paris, where at least one printer had recently been burned at the stake for heresy, for Antwerp, where he bound books, became a...

, to extend his fame throughout Europe during this part of his career. With the exception of a couple of brilliant etching
Etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

s, he only produced drawings for these himself, leaving the printmaking
Printmaking
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable...

 to specialists, such as Lucas Vorsterman
Lucas Vorsterman
Lucas Vorsterman was a Baroque engraver. He worked with the artists Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, as well as for patrons such as Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel and Charles I of England....

. He recruited a number of engravers trained by Goltzius, who he carefully schooled in the more vigorous style he wanted. He also designed the last significant woodcut
Woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

s before the 19th century revival in the technique. Rubens established copyright for his prints, most significantly in Holland, where his work was widely copied through prints. In addition he established copyrights for his work in England, France and Spain.

The Marie de' Medici Cycle and diplomatic missions (1621–1630)

In 1621, the Queen Mother of France, Marie de' Medici
Marie de' Medici
Marie de Médicis , Italian Maria de' Medici, was queen consort of France, as the second wife of King Henry IV of France, of the House of Bourbon. She herself was a member of the wealthy and powerful House of Medici...

, commissioned Rubens to paint two large allegorical cycles celebrating her life and the life of her late husband, Henry IV
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

, for the Luxembourg Palace
Luxembourg Palace
The Luxembourg Palace in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, north of the Luxembourg Garden , is the seat of the French Senate.The formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and provided with large basins of water where children sail model...

 in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. The Marie de' Medici cycle
Marie de' Medici cycle
The Marie de' Medici Cycle is a series of twenty-four paintings by Peter Paul Rubens commissioned by Marie de' Medici, wife of Henry IV of France, for the Luxembourg Palace in Paris. Rubens received the commission in the autumn of 1621...

 (now in the Louvre) was installed in 1625, and although he began work on the second series it was never completed. Marie was exiled from France in 1630 by her son, Louis XIII
Louis XIII of France
Louis XIII was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1610 to 1643.Louis was only eight years old when he succeeded his father. His mother, Marie de Medici, acted as regent during Louis' minority...

, and died in 1642 in the same house in Cologne where Rubens had lived as a child.

After the end of the Twelve Years' Truce in 1621, the Spanish Habsburg
Habsburg
The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

 rulers entrusted Rubens with a number of diplomatic missions. In 1624 the French ambassador wrote from Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

: "Rubens is here to take the likeness of the prince of Poland, by order of the infanta" (Prince Władysław IV Vasa
Władysław IV Vasa
Władysław IV Vasa was a Polish and Swedish prince from the House of Vasa. He reigned as King of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 8 November 1632 to his death in 1648....

 arrived in Brussels as the personal guest of the Infanta
Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain
Isabella Clara Eugenia of Austria was sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands in the Low Countries and the north of modern France, together with her husband Albert. In some sources, she is referred to as Clara Isabella Eugenia...

 on 2 September 1624).

Between 1627 and 1630, Rubens's diplomatic career was particularly active, and he moved between the courts of Spain and England in an attempt to bring peace between the Spanish Netherlands and the United Provinces
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

. He also made several trips to the northern Netherlands as both an artist and a diplomat. At the courts he sometimes encountered the attitude that courtiers should not use their hands in any art or trade, but he was also received as a gentleman by many. It was during this period that Rubens was twice knighted, first by Philip IV of Spain in 1624, and then by Charles I of England in 1630. He was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University in 1629.
Rubens was in Madrid for eight months in 1628–1629. In addition to diplomatic negotiations, he executed several important works for Philip IV and private patrons. He also began a renewed study of Titian's paintings, copying numerous works including the Madrid Fall of Man (1628–29). During this stay, he befriended the court painter Diego Velázquez
Diego Velázquez
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist...

 and the two planned to travel to Italy together the following year. Rubens, however, returned to Antwerp and Velázquez made the journey without him.

His stay in Antwerp was brief, and he soon travelled on to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 where he remained until April 1630. An important work from this period is the Allegory of Peace and War (1629; National Gallery
National Gallery, London
The National Gallery is an art museum on Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. The gallery is an exempt charity, and a non-departmental public body of the Department for Culture, Media...

, London). It illustrates the artist's strong concern for peace, and was given to Charles I as a gift.

While Rubens's international reputation with collectors and nobility abroad continued to grow during this decade, he and his workshop also continued to paint monumental paintings for local patrons in Antwerp. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Rubens)
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary or Assumption of the Holy Virgin, is a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, completed in 1626 as an altarpiece for the high altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, where it remains....

(1625–6) for the Cathedral of Antwerp is one prominent example.

Last decade (1630–1640)

Rubens's last decade was spent in and around Antwerp. Major works for foreign patrons still occupied him, such as the ceiling paintings for the Banqueting House at Inigo Jones's
Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones is the first significant British architect of the modern period, and the first to bring Italianate Renaissance architecture to England...

 Palace of Whitehall
Palace of Whitehall
The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698 when all except Inigo Jones's 1622 Banqueting House was destroyed by fire...

, but he also explored more personal artistic directions.

In 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, the 53-year-old painter married 16-year-old Hélène Fourment. Hélène inspired the voluptuous figures in many of his paintings from the 1630s, including The Feast of Venus (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), The Three Graces (Prado, Madrid) and The Judgment of Paris (Prado, Madrid). In the latter painting, which was made for the Spanish court, the artist's young wife was recognized by viewers in the figure of Venus
Venus (mythology)
Venus is a Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty, sex,sexual seduction and fertility, who played a key role in many Roman religious festivals and myths...

. In an intimate portrait of her, Hélène Fourment in a Fur Wrap, also known as Het Pelsken (illustrated left), Rubens's wife is even partially modelled after classical sculptures of the Venus Pudica, such as the Medici Venus
Venus de' Medici
The Venus de' Medici or Medici Venus is a lifesize Hellenistic marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. It is a 1st century BC marble copy, perhaps made in Athens, of a bronze original Greek sculpture, following the type of the Aphrodite of Cnidos, which would have been made...

.

In 1635, Rubens bought an estate outside of Antwerp, the Steen, where he spent much of his time. Landscapes, such as his Château de Steen with Hunter (National Gallery, London) and Farmers Returning from the Fields (Pitti Gallery, Florence), reflect the more personal nature of many of his later works. He also drew upon the Netherlandish traditions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder for inspiration in later works like Flemish Kermis (c. 1630; Louvre, Paris).

Rubens died from gout
Gout
Gout is a medical condition usually characterized by recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis—a red, tender, hot, swollen joint. The metatarsal-phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe is the most commonly affected . However, it may also present as tophi, kidney stones, or urate...

 on 30 May 1640. He was interred in Saint Jacob's church, Antwerp. The artist had eight children, three with Isabella and five with Hélène; his youngest child was born eight months after his death.

Art

Rubens was a prolific artist. His commissioned works were mostly religious subjects, "history" paintings, which included mythological subjects, and hunt scenes. He painted portraits, especially of friends, and self-portraits, and in later life painted several landscapes. Rubens designed tapestries and prints, as well as his own house. He also oversaw the ephemeral
Ephemeral
Ephemeral things are transitory, existing only briefly. Typically the term is used to describe objects found in nature, although it can describe a wide range of things....

 decorations of the Joyous Entry
Joyous Entry
A Joyous Entry was a local name used for the royal entry - the first official peaceable visit of a reigning monarch, prince, duke or governor into a city - mainly in the Duchy of Brabant or the County of Flanders and occasionally in France, Luxembourg or Hungary, often coinciding with...

 into Antwerp by the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand
Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand
Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand was Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Infante of Spain, Archduke of Austria, Archbishop of Toledo , and military...

 in 1635.

His drawing
Drawing
Drawing is a form of visual art that makes use of any number of drawing instruments to mark a two-dimensional medium. Common instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, markers, styluses, and various metals .An artist who...

s are mostly extremely forceful but not detailed; he also made great use of oil sketch
Oil sketch
An Oil sketch or oil study is an artwork made primarily in oil paints that is more abbreviated in handling than a fully finished painting. Originally these were created as preparatory studies or modelli, especially so as to gain approval for the design of a larger commissioned painting...

es as preparatory studies. He was one of the last major artists to make consistent use of wooden panels
Panel painting
A panel painting is a painting made on a flat panel made of wood, either a single piece, or a number of pieces joined together. Until canvas became the more popular support medium in the 16th century, it was the normal form of support for a painting not on a wall or vellum, which was used for...

 as a support medium, even for very large works, but he used canvas
Canvas
Canvas is an extremely heavy-duty plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required. It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface, typically stretched across a wooden frame...

 as well, especially when the work needed to be sent a long distance. For altarpiece
Altarpiece
An altarpiece is a picture or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church. The altarpiece is often made up of two or more separate panels created using a technique known as panel painting. It is then called a diptych, triptych or polyptych for two,...

s he sometimes painted on slate
Slate
Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. The result is a foliated rock in which the foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering...

 to reduce reflection problems.

His fondness of painting full-figured women gave rise to the terms 'Rubensian' or 'Rubenesque' for plus-sized women
Big Beautiful Woman
"Big Beautiful Woman" is a term most frequently used in the context of, affirmation of or sexual attraction to overweight or obese women...

. The term 'Rubensiaans' is also commonly used in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 to denote such women.

Workshop

Paintings can be divided into three categories: those he painted by himself, those he painted in part (mainly hands and faces), and those he only supervised. He had, as was usual at the time, a large workshop with many apprentices and students, some of whom, such as Anthony Van Dyck
Anthony van Dyck
Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. He is most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next...

, became famous in their own right. He also often sub-contracted elements such as animals or still-life in large compositions to specialists such as Frans Snyders, or other artists such as Jacob Jordaens
Jacob Jordaens
Jacob Jordaens was one of three Flemish Baroque painters, along with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, to bring prestige to the Antwerp school of painting. Unlike those contemporaries he never traveled abroad to study Italian painting, and his career is marked by an indifference to their...

.

Value of works

At a Sotheby's
Sotheby's
Sotheby's is the world's fourth oldest auction house in continuous operation.-History:The oldest auction house in operation is the Stockholms Auktionsverk founded in 1674, the second oldest is Göteborgs Auktionsverk founded in 1681 and third oldest being founded in 1731, all Swedish...

 auction on 10 July 2002, Rubens' newly discovered painting Massacre of the Innocents
Massacre of the Innocents (Rubens)
The Massacre of the Innocents is the title of either of two paintings by Peter Paul Rubens depicting an episode of the biblical Massacre of the Innocents as related in the Gospel of Matthew.-The lost masterpiece:...

sold for £49.5million ($
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

76.2 million) to Lord Thomson. It is a current record for an Old Master
Old Master
"Old Master" is a term for a European painter of skill who worked before about 1800, or a painting by such an artist. An "old master print" is an original print made by an artist in the same period...

 painting.

Sources

  • Held, Julius S. (1975) "On the Date and Function of Some Allegorical Sketches by Rubens." In: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Vol. 38: 218–233.
  • Held, Julius S. (1983) "Thoughts on Rubens' Beginnings." In: Ringling Museum of Art Journal: 14–35. ISBN 0-916758-12-5.
  • Pauw-De Veen, Lydia de. "Rubens and the graphic arts." In: Connoisseur CXCV/786 (Aug 1977): 243–251.

Further reading

  • Alpers, Svetlana. The Making of Rubens. New Haven 1995.
  • Heinen, Ulrich, "Rubens zwischen Predigt und Kunst." Weimar 1996.
  • Büttner, Nils, Herr P. P. Rubens. Göttingen 2006.
  • Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. An Illustrated Catalogue Raisonne of the Work of Peter Paul Rubens Based on the Material Assembled by the Late Dr. Ludwig Burchard in Twenty-Seven Parts, Edited by the Nationaal Centrum Voor de Plastische Kunsten Van de XVI en de XVII Eeuw.
  • Lilar, Suzanne
    Suzanne Lilar
    Suzanne, Baroness Lilar was a Flemish Belgian essayist, novelist, and playwright writing in French...

    , Le Couple (1963), Paris, Grasset; Reedited 1970, Bernard Grasset Coll. Diamant, 1972, Livre de Poche; 1982, Brussels, Les Éperonniers, ISBN 2-8713-2193-0; Translated as Aspects of Love in Western Society in 1965, by and with a foreword by Jonathan Griffin, New York, McGraw-Hill, LC 65-19851.
  • Vlieghe, Hans, Flemish Art and Architecture 1585-1700, Yale University Press, Pelican History of Art, New Haven and London, 1998. ISBN 0-300-07038-1
  • Lamster, Mark, Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens, 2009.

External links

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