Rubens, Pieter Paul (1577-1640)

"Rubens, Pieter Paul (1577-1640)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Thursday 28th April 2011

Pieter Paul Rubens, Flemish painter, was born in Siegen in 1577 and died in Antwerp in 1640. He was the son of a Calvinist from Antwerp who run away to Cologne for religious motives. Here young Rubens started his artistic formation, continued in Antwerp, where he and his family returned after the death of father. Already in 1598 he was a member of artistic association of St Luke. In 1600-1608 he lived in Italy. First stop was in Venice, where the copies of Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto were executed. Several months later he received orders from Vincenzo I Gonzaga, duke of Mantoa, and altered his artistic activity with the diplomatic and political ones. Rubens also sojourned in Rome and Genoa, studying classical and modern works of Carracci and Caravaggio. In 1602 he executed in Rome for the Chiesa di S.Croce in Gerusalemme: Exaltation of the Cross, Jesus crowned with thorns, and Erection of the Cross (now at Grasse-les-Cannes, Hopital de Petit-Paris), three paintings for the Chiesa della Trinita di Mantova (now divided between Palazzo Ducale di Mantova, Museums of Vienna, Antwerp and Nancy), and the Circumcision (1605, Genoa, Chiesa di S.Ambrogio). But the most important work created in Roman period is Adoration of shepherds (1608, Fermo, Chiesa di S.Filippo Neri).
rubens with wife
After return to the homeland in 1608, when his mother died, Rubens, favoured by the king and queen of Holland, Alberto and Isabella, dedicated himself to very intensive work, founding his famous house-workshop, where he created a huge number of works. In 1609, the year when he married Isabella Brant, was depicted Self-portrait with the wife (pictured) (Monaco, Alte Pin.). In the same year were executed Adoration of Magicians for the municipality of Antwerp (now in Madrid, Prado), and Annunciation (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Mus.) depicted for the Jesuits of Antwerp. The following creations were: Erection of the Cross (1610) and Deposition (1614) (both in Cathedral of Antwerp), Juno and Argo (Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum), Faun and Bacchante (1615-20, Vienna, Gal.Schonborn), Rape of the daughters of Leucippus (Monaco, Alte Pin.), Universal Judgement and Battle of amazons (1610-1615) (both in Monaco, Alte Pin.).

In 1620-1626 Rubens was occupied in two important undertakings: decoration of the Church of Jesuits in Antwerp, and a cycle of allegories of the life of Maria de'Medici (queen of France): 21 great paintings depicted for Palais du Luxembourg (pictured: Landing at Marseilles) (now in Louvre), splendid works shining with the fantasy and fine elaboration of every detail.

For Louis XIII, king of France, Rubens executed cartoons of tapestries: six Stories of Decius Mure (1617), and 12 Stories of Constantine (Philadelphia, Art Museum). At the same period were created such grandiose paintings as: Adoration of Magicians (Antwerp, Royal Mus. of fine arts), Madonna and Saints (Antewerp, Chiesa di S.Agostino), eight cartoons for the tapestries with Triumph of Eucharist (Madrid, Prado, Paris, Louvre).

After the death of wife in 1926, he continued his diplomatic activity in the Low Countries in 1627, Madrid (1628-29), England (1630), but at the same time kept on working creating large paintings on religious, mythological, and other subject: Triptych of St Ildefons (Kunsthistorisches Mus, Vienna, 1632), Martyrdom of St Livinius (Brussels, Royal Mus. of fine arts), nine paintings for the ceiling of Whitehall (London, 1634), 112 paintings for Philip IV of Spain (Madrid, Prado) (greatest part of them was executed by Rubens's work-shop), paintings for the entrance to the Antwerp of cardinal Ferdinand of Spain, admirable portraits (Helene Fourment, sister-in-law Susanne) and landscapes: Landscape with Filemone and Bauci (1630, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Mus.), Landscape with the cows (Monaco, Alte Pin.), Autumn landscape with the castle of Steen (1635, London, Nat.Gall.), Return from work (Florence, Pitti).

After two travels to Spain and England in 1628-30 the art of Rubens was signed with the development of light effects and influence of the works of Titian seen in Madrid: Elena Fourment (his second wife) with the son (1635, Monaco, Alte Pin.), and Rubens and Helene Fourment in the garden (Monaco, Alte Pin.).
rubens mariamedici

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