“My passion comes from the heavens, not from earthly musings.”
Few artists have been as popular or successful in their own lifetime as Peter Paul Rubens.
Born in the town of Siegen in Germany he is most closely associated with the city of Antwerp where he was raised, trained as an artist, established his studio, and was to have one of his many homes.
His father, Jan Rubens, was a prosperous lawyer and magistrate but one whose suspected Calvinism led to the fear, if not always the reality, of persecution which led to frequent flight and constant instability but never to impoverishment and the dread pauperism.
When his father died in 1587, the young Rubens, born a Protestant, was raised a Catholic by his mother and educated in the humanist tradition providing him with a perspective that allowed him to carefully navigate the political and religious controversies of his day.
Indeed, he was to acquire a diplomacy as delicate as his brushwork and become as well-versed in the art of fine words as he was with oil on canvass.
He made friends in high-places, and he kept them, so much so that he could be knighted by both the Catholic Philip IV of Spain and the Protestant Charles I of England.
Although he was loathe to politicise his art, never shy of being all things to all men, his historical and religious work became very visible exemplars of the Counter-Reformation strategy of using art as propaganda.
Said to have been influenced by Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, but most particularly Caravaggio, he never permitted the reality of the Italians vision to impinge upon his own. For him art was the portrayal of beauty whether contrived or merely imagined. He had no desire to devote his exquisite baroque style to the depiction of warts.
With his ability to make a small man larger than life, a sallow woman the buxom beauty of rude good health there were few notable people in seventeenth century Europe who did not want to be painted by Peter Paul Rubens.
He was the ‘Glamourist’ of his age.
Anne of Austria
Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia
Sir Francis Drake
Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel
Landscape by Moonlight
Feast of Herodes
Fall of Man
St George and the Dragon