[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Rubens (1577 - 1640)

Related: Antwerpen - eroticism in art - art of Belgium - 1600s

Contemporaries: Elizabeth Bathory - Shakespeare - Caravaggio - Robert Fludd - Jacques Callot - Artemisia Gentileschi - René Descartes

Rubens's name is attached to Antwerp like Warhol's to New York.

Three Graces<

The Three Graces

"Who it was who first represented the Graces naked, whether in sculpture or in painting, I could not discover. During the earlier period, certainly, sculptors and painters alike represented them draped. [...] But later artists, I do not know the reason, have changed the way of portraying them. Certainly to-day sculptors and painters represent Graces naked." --Pausanias [Jul 2006]

Medusa () - Rubens

The Fur Cloak (Helene Fourment) (1636-1639) - Peter Paul Rubens.


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

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. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Paul_Rubens [Aug 2004]


Picasso's Guernica is in part modelled on Rubens's The Horrors of War. Guernica's most heart-churning image, that of a woman cradling her baby, whose face is a brief cartoon of death, deliberately invokes the woman with her baby in Rubens's allegory. This kind of quotation mattered to Picasso, who saw fascism as the enemy of art and whose affinity for Rubens goes beyond one painting. In the 1930s, Picasso constantly suggests Rubens. Paintings such as Nude in a Red Armchair (1932) in Tate Modern are voluptuously Rubensian; and he also pursues, in some of his most shocking paintings, the violence of Rubens's A Lion Hunt. --http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,903646,00.html [Aug 2004]


He painted a picture in England as a gift for Charles I, an allegory of war and peace. Rubens's painting, Minerva Protects Pax from Mars, owned by the National Gallery, has a unique status among anti-war artworks: this is not a protest from below, a banner in the street, but an argument presented in the most powerful political circles. Pax - Peace - is a bountiful Rubens nude, offering her breast to Plutus, the child god of wealth. The painting's main argument is a hardheaded one, for all the gorgeous painterly effects: peace is good for the economy. At the feet of Pax, a satyr, a creature of pleasure, examines an overflowing horn of plenty; another attendant brings gold and jewels. --http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,903646,00.html [Aug 2004]


Antwerp, where Rubens lived, was a city haunted by horrors of war. The most explicitly contemporary, documentary painting of The Massacre of the Innocents, which boldly depicts it as a modern act of warfare in an icy northern landscape, is by Rubens's Flemish predecessor Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Unlike that of Bruegel, Rubens's Massacre is set historically, in a decaying classical city. Or is it? Rubens's scene might recall the Sack of Antwerp in 1576, in which 7,000 people died in military rape and killing. An English observer compared the aftermath of the Antwerp massacre to Michelangelo's Last Judgment, an epic of contorted bodies. The violence of Rubens's Massacre is shoved in our face by a theatrical presentation that turns the city street into a stage set, at the very front of which, pressed horribly towards us, is a fleshy tangle of clawing fingers, plunging swords and murderedbabies. This is, just as explicitly as in Bruegel, a painting of armoured soldiers killing infants. The soldier in dark shining armour anticipates Mars in The Horrors of War. The sheer quantity of flesh we are confronted with is oppressive; there is a claustrophobia in the way Rubens forces us to look at those tiny discoloured corpses. --http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,903646,00.html [Aug 2004]

Overweight women

Overweight women were just a passing fashion, just as extremely skinny women are a fashion passing today. Waifs don't and never did reflect our true views of beauty. In fact, we often wonder how so perverted a view of women's bodies could have become popular. The same is true of Rubens fat women. They no more reflected people's true views of beauty then than waifs do today.--http://www.bodyinmind.com/may16,1998.htm [Aug 2004]

The Horrors of War (1638) - Rubens

In search of representation of violence in the visual arts.

The Horrors of War (1638) - Rubens

Picasso's Guernica is in part modelled on Rubens's The Horrors of War. Guernica's most heart-churning image, that of a woman cradling her baby, whose face is a brief cartoon of death, deliberately invokes the woman with her baby in Rubens's allegory. This kind of quotation mattered to Picasso, who saw fascism as the enemy of art. --Jonathan Jones via http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,903646,00.html [Aug 2004]

Rubens' The Horrors of War was painted for Ferdinand II, the Grand Duke of Tuscany to whom it was delivered in 1638, along with an explanation written by the artist and outlining the allegorical content. That Rubens felt compelled to write such a guide reveals not only the complexity of the content, but also the intensity of Rubens' determination that his message be understood. The image is a scathing indictment of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) and its devastation of European life and culture. --http://edtech.tennessee.edu/itc/grants/twt2000/modules/dhabel/rubens-s.htm [Jul 2006]

See also: war - horror - art horror - aestheticization of violence

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications