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Home >> Artists >> Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens

The Early Years of Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens was born on the 28th of June, 1577, to a Protestant father who had fled Antwerp in 1568 to escape religious persecution. In 1587, however, Rubens father died. And two years later, Rubens returned to Antwerp and was baptized a Catholic. Religion, we see, had played a central role in Rubens life, ever since he was a child. It was to later become a very important theme in his artistic work.

The Growth of an Artist

Rubens’s paintings, it is interesting to note, can be divided into three categories: those he painted himself, those he painted partially, and those he supervised. Of his many apprentices, the most famous is Anthony van Eyck

In 1600, Peter Paul Rubens went to Italy. Here he began studying Roman art and practicing his own painting by copying Italian masters of the time. It is believed that his style was much influences by Titian.

In 1610, he painted the first of his two master altarpieces for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp: The Raising of the Cross. This was followed by The Descent of the Cross, painted between 1611 and 1614.

Rubens was also commissioned to paint a series of allegorical paintings on the life of Marie de Medici. In the period between 1621 and 1630, Rubens was engaged with several diplomatic missions. In fact, he helped bring about a peace treaty between Spain and England in 1629-30. He painted Minerva Protects Pax from Mars. In thism he depicts Pax or Peace as a typically Rubenesque nude, offering her breast to Plutus, the child God of wealth. The message was simple: peace benefits the economy. The picture also shows Minerva, the Goddess of wisdom and arts, holding back Mars, the God of war. Charles I was very impressed with the painting, and knighted Rubens. He also commissioned him to paint the ceiling of the Banqueting House at the Palace of Whitehall.

In 1630, Rubens married the sixteen year old Hélène Fourment. She appears frequently in his paintings. Some of these paintings are The Garden of Love, The Three Graces and The Judgment of Paris.

Favorite Themes

One of the most characteristic features of Rubens’ painting is his fondness for full-bodied voluptuous women. It is from these women that Rubens loved to paint, that we now have the adjective Rubenesque.

He also enjoyed painting landscapes and historical places, portraits including self-portraits, and religious pieces.

Famous Paintings

Some of this Flemish painter’s most famous paintings are:
  • The Elevation of the Cross (1610)
  • The Descent of the Cross (1611-14)
  • Marie de Medici (1622025)
  • Assumption of the Virgin Mary (1626)
  • Hippopotamus Hunt (1615-16)
  • Massacre of the Innocents (1611-12)
  • The Calydonian Boar Hunt (1611-12)
  • The Garden of Love (1630-32)
  • The Three Graces (1620)
  • The Judgment of Paris (1632-35)
  • Peace and War (1629-30)
  • A Lion Hunt (1614-15)
  • The Death of Hippolytus (1611)

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