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Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens (June 28, 1577 - May 30, 1640) was a Flemish baroque painter.

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He was born in Siegen , Westphalia, to a successful Protestant lawyer, who had fled Antwerp to escape religious persecution. After his father's death, Rubens and his mother returned to Antwerp, where he had himself baptized a Catholic. Religion was to figure prominently in much of his later work.

In Antwerp, his mother apprenticed Rubens to some of the leading painters of the time.

In 1600, he went to Italy, where he worked as a court painter to the duke of Mantua. He studied ancient Roman art and learned by copying the works of the great Italian masters. His mature style was profoundly influenced by Titian.

Upon the death of his mother in 1608, Rubens returned to Antwerp. A year later, he married Isabella Brant, the daughter of Jan Brant, a leading Antwerp humanist. His altar pieces The Raising of the Cross (1610) and The Descent of the Cross (1611-1614) for the Cathedral of Our Lady established Rubens as Flanders' leading religious painter.

He received numerous commissions from the French court, including a series of allegorical paintings on the life of Marie de' Medici (now in the Louvre). He and his workshop executed many monumental religious paintings, e.g. the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral of Antwerp.

In the period between 1621 and 1630, Rubens was enthrusted with a number of diplomatic missions by the Spanish Habsburg rulers. He was knighted by King Charles I of England for his diplomatic efforts to bring about a peace treaty between that country and Spain. He was also commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Banqueting House at the Palace of Whitehall.

In 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, the 53-year-old painter married the 16-year-old Helen Fourment. Rubens had three children with Isabella and five with Helen; his youngest child was born eight months after his death. Helen's charms recur in later works such as The Garden of Love, The Three Graces and The Jugdment of Paris, which he painted for the Spanish court and are now in the Prado.

Rubens died of gout, aged 63, and was interred in Saint James' church, Antwerp, Belgium.

At a Sotheby's auction on July 10, 2002, Rubens' painting "The Massacre of the Innocents" was sold for 49.5million (US$76.2 million) to Lord Thomson.

Painting for Peace

His picture in the National Gallery, London, The Allegory of Peace and War, 1629, reflects, and even illustrates, his strong concern for peace. It was given to King Charles I and helped to create a peace treaty between London and Madrid. He even visited Holland which was “enemy territory” partly to meet Dutch artists and partly to seek for reconciliation. It was here that he came up against the attitude that courtiers should not use their hands in any art or craft. But because he was such a fine artist King Philip and King Charles both enjoyed his company as well as his art. Rubens is to be seen as a highly talented artist, a scholar and diplomat, brilliant at drawing and painting). Allegory on the Blessings of Peace is the only surviving Rubens' ceiling painting.


"The Adoration of the Magii", painted 1624.
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"The Adoration of the Magii", painted 1624.
"Portrait of Marie de' Medici." c. 1622. Oil on canvas. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
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"Portrait of Marie de' Medici." c. 1622. Oil on canvas. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
"Self-Portrait without a Hat." c. 1639. Oil on canvas. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy.
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"Self-Portrait without a Hat." c. 1639. Oil on canvas. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy.


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Last updated: 11-01-2004 08:06:44