Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist who is renowned for the paintings and drawings he created in a Baroque style in the early decades of the 17th century. His artworks ranged from portraits, self-portraits, landscapes and hunting scenes to biblical and mythological pictures. These influenced a vast array of artists who came after him, such as Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Jean-Antoine Watteau and John Constable.

Rubens was born in Westphalia in present-day Germany in 1577. He moved with his family to Antwerp at a young age and trained under a handful of artists there. Arguably his real education, however, came upon leaving for Italy in 1600, where he encountered the works of Mantegna, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and other masters.

Rubens ended up spending eight years in Italy, most of it as court painter to Vincenzo I Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. He didn’t only create artworks for Gonzaga, however — he also went on diplomatic missions for him. An urbane figure who spoke five languages, Rubens for much of his life twinned a career as an emissary with one as an artist.

In 1608, he returned to Antwerp for good. The city was then part of the Spanish Netherlands, and Rubens — a devout Catholic — frequently produced pictures in line with the Counter Reformation. Two of his best-known works, the triptychs The Elevation of the Cross and The Descent from the Cross, were painted for Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady and can still be seen there.

His style was essentially a mix of Northern European naturalism with the colour and dramatics of Italian Renaissance art.

‘The painter of princes and the prince of painters’ is how one of Rubens’ peers described him. This reflected the fact that his works were coveted by many of Europe’s most important figures. These included Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella, the rulers of the Spanish Netherlands; Charles I, the King of England; and Philip IV, the King of Spain, for whom he painted Saturn devouring a Son in 1636–38 (a canvas which can today be found in the Museo del Prado in Madrid).

Late in life, Rubens turned increasingly to painting landscapes around a rural castle he acquired called Het Steen. He died in 1640, aged 62.

SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS (1577-1640)

Lot and his Daughters

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen, Westphalia 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Portrait of a commander, three-quarter-length, being dressed for battle

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen, Westphalia 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Two studies of a man, head and shoulders

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Portrait of a young woman, half-length, holding a chain

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen, Westphalia 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Head of a bearded man in profile holding a bronze figure

Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Scipio Africanus welcomed outside the gates of Rome, after Giulio Romano

SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS (SIEGEN 1577-1640 ANTWERP)

Head study of a bearded old man

SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS (SIEGEN 1577-1640 ANTWERP)

Portrait of a lady, probably Isabella Brant (1591-1626), as a shepherdess

SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS (SIEGEN 1577-1640 ANTWERP)

Head study of an old woman with a veil, formerly identified as Maria Pypelinckx, the artist's mother, looking down in profile to the left

SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS (SIEGEN 1577-1640 ANVERS)

Étude d’homme agenouillé vu de profil

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

The Archduke Albert and Infanta Isabella, Governors of the Netherlands: Design for the title page of the 'Gelresche Rechten' ('Rights of the Province of Gelderland') ( recto ); The same composition traced through in reverse ( verso )

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

The Vision of Saint Augustine

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

An écorché study of the legs of a male nude, with a subsidiary study of the right leg

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

A double-sided sheet of studies: Hippodameia abducted by the centaur Eurytion, and Hercules overcoming the river-god Achelous in the form of a bull ( recto ); Christ shown to the People, and The Way to Calvary ( verso )

After Sir Peter Paul Rubens

The Virgin and Child with Saints George, Jerome, Mary Magdalene and three others

Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Eucharistic Teachers and Saints: Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine, Clara, Thomas Aquinas, Norbert and Jerome, with the dove of the Holy Spirit

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Figure studies ( recto and verso )

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Three figures in classical mantles, probably apostles

Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen, Westphalia 1577-1640 Antwerp)

The Virgin supporting the Christ Child on a parapet

Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen, Westphalia 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Portrait of Cornelis Lantschot, three-quarter length, holding gloves, a landscape beyond

FOLLOWER OF SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS

The Roman Emperors Augustus; Caligula; Claudius; Nero; Galba; Vespasian; Titus; and Domitian

Circle of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen, Westphalia 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Portrait of a gentleman, probably Peter van Hecke; and Portrait of a Lady, probably his wife, Clara Fourment.

Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp)

Portrait of a lady, traditionally identified as Helena Fourment (1614-1673)

CIRCLE OF SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS (SIEGEN 1577-1640 ANTWERP)

The Fortitude of Scaevola - en brunaille

After Sir Peter Paul Rubens

Diana at the stag hunt

ÉCOLE FLAMANDE DU XVIIÈME SIÈCLE

La Sainte Conversation