Biography of Pedro Pablo Rubens (1577-1640)

Flemish painter, born on June 28, 1577 in Siegen and died in Antwerp in May 30, 1640.


Son of a Calvinist Antwerp, Jan Rubens, prestigious lawyer bourgeois that has to take refuge in the colony for religious reasons, and María Pypelincks; He/She spent his childhood in Cologne where he/she started his training as a painter. Later, after the death of his father, he/she returned to Antwerp. For a time, at the age of twelve years, he/she attended the classes of the latinist Rombaut Verdonck, but abandoned them because of the bad economic situation of the family. He/She worked as a page for a Lady of nobility.

In 1591 he/she was an apprentice in the workshop of the painter Tobias Verhaecht and subsequently passed to the of Adam van Noort, master also of Jacob Jordaens, and the Otto van Veen. The latter had lived in Italy and his teachings were completely subject to the lesson of the Italian masters of the 16th century. In 1598 he/she was already registered as a master painter in the St. Lucas Guild.

In 1600 he/she moved to Italy, where he/she remained until 1608. At first he/she settled in Venice, a city that made copies of Titian, Veronese , and Tintoretto. Then entered the service of Vincenzo Gonzaga, in Mantua, character focused on collecting works of art and the protection of artists. This will toggle the artistic activity with the diplomatic and policy. Hired, in principle, to copy pictures, got that within months will be sent you out to perfect his studies. He/She made several trips to Rome and Genoa, where he/she studied the works of the great masters of the Renaissance and of more recent Aníbal Carracci and Caravaggiopainters. This last is going to acquire the work the transit of the Virgin, which had been rejected, to place it in the place to which it had made. In 1602 he/she painted in Rome the exaltation of the cross, Jesus crowned with thorns and the erection of the cross, carried out for the Church of Santa Croce. In Mantua he/she painted, in 1605, circumcision, first step to confirm its Baroque tendency, and in 1608 the adoration of the shepherds, stating this trend.

Rubens and Isabel Brant. Rubens. Munich, 1609.

In 1603 he/she was sent to the Court of Madrid, on a diplomatic mission, accompanying a few works of art intended for the King. Here he/she carried out works such as the portrait of the Duke of Lerma (Museo del Prado of Madrid) and the table of Heraclitus and Democritus. His art was highly appreciated and became part of the Royal Collections.

On his return to Mantua painted Trinity worshipped by Vicente Gonzaga and his family, for the Church of the Jesuits in that city. In 1606 he/she returned to Rome, where he/she lived until his return to Antwerp. Of this time are the Virgin revered by Saints and angels, painted for the high altar of the Roman Church of Santa María in Vallicella; the first version of this work, made in table, was rejected and is currently preserved at the Museum of Grenoble. The final canvas is the place for which it was made.

Due to the illness of his mother, he/she returned to his homeland in 1608, with the protection of the Regents of the Netherlands, the Archdukes Alberto and Isabel Clara Eugenia, and the first mayor of the city, Nicolás Rockox; He/She founded an activisimo workshop, with numerous collaborators, among them was Van Dyck, and painted a number of works.

This first year in Antwerp are the adoration of the Magi, to the City Hall, and the Annunciation, painted for the Jesuits. The first work was commissioned by Nicolás Rockox, in 1612 was transferred to Spain by Rodrigo de Calderón, valid of Felipe III, and is currently preserved in the Museo del Prado. In 1610 he/she painted the erection of the cross and the descent, for the Cathedral of Antwerp, with notes caravagistas, which enshrine him as the first painter of Flanders, and works that acidic you fame and lots of new commissions.

Adoración de los Reyes Magos. Rubens. Museo del Prado. Madrid.

In 1609 he/she married a first Isabel Brant; the intense work of the workshop allowed him to buy a luxury and large house in Antwerp (Rubens Museum today), where he/she established his Studio and where he/she lived until his death. From this first marriage were born three children Clara-Serena, who died at the age of twelve, Alberto and Nicolás.

Important orders occurred; 1612 is the triptych of the resurrection of the Cathedral of Antwerp. 1615 is a splendid still life, Faun and bacchante, and works the battle of the Amazons and the last judgment.

From 1620 was dedicated to two important works: the decoration of the Church of the Jesuits of Antwerp, whose set is the last communion of San Francisco, painted for the altar of the Church, and the allegories of life painted for María of Médicis, Queen of France, formed by 21 fabrics intended for decoration of the Palace of Luxembourgwork for which he/she moved to France in 1622. Twenty-one boxes that make up the Assembly (currently at the Museum of the Louvre in Paris) displayed strong imagination of the teacher who, through a multitude of allegories and symbols, hides the poverty of the subject matter. For its realization it had numerous assistants.

At this time he/she alternated painting tables of altar, as the triptych of san Ildefonso, with works of mythological and allegorical subject, magnificent portraits as the of Elena Fourment, whom he/she married, and painting landscapes including landscape with Philemon and Baucis and autumnal landscape with the Steen Castle. He/She also developed an important diplomatic activity, mainly after the death of the Archduke Alberto in 1621. Appointed Director of the Archduchess Isabel, numerous diplomatic missions is commissioned.

In August 1628 he/she travelled to Spain, to participate in the peace negotiations between Spanish and English, here he/she received numerous commissions, mostly portraits for the Royal family. In Madrid he/she met Velázquez, but he/she mainly devoted himself to the study of Venetian painting that was in the Royal Collections. After this trip his work progressed did a painting more warm, full of light, printing product that produced you the works of Titian views, along with Velazquez, in el Escorial. An example of this will be works as Elena Fourment with his son in 1635 and the garden of love.

The success of his mission at the Court of Madrid made that he/she was appointed Secretary of the private Council of the Netherlands, where his son he/she served to his death. He/She again left his country, with the Mission of Anglo-French relations in England to deal with Carlos I. After this trip, in 1630, he/she requested to be away from diplomatic activities to devote himself completely to his work of painter. During María Médicis flee to the Spanish Netherlands, however, was mixed in political and diplomatic affairs, and continued to be agent of the Archduchess until her death in 1633.

Helena Fourment and a child. Rubens. Netherlands.

In 1630, in the month of December, he/she married Elena Fourment, young 17-year-old, with whom he/she had five children. In 1632 he/she painted the triptych of San Ildefonso, last commissioned by the Archduchess. In 1634 he/she sent to London nine canvases to decorate the Whitehall. In 1635 he/she projected the lavish decoration of the city for the reception of the new Governor of the Netherlands, the cardinal infante Don Fernando, who protected it and named Chamber painter as previous Governors.

In 1634, he/she received the last great assignment of his life. Felipe IV, King of Spain, commissioned him the decoration of the Tower of the stop, series with mythological themes and representations of the metamorphoses of Ovid. His hand out all the sketches of pictures that worked the best artists of Antwerp; in 1638 arrived in Spain a first shipment consisting of twelve hundred works. An important part of these works was lost due to a fire in the hunting lodge, the rest are conserved in the museo del Prado of Madrid.

Overwhelmed of commissions, the artist carried out a gigantic work, which earned him public recognition and a considerable fortune. In February 1640 he/she was appointed an honorary member of the Academy of San Lucas in Italy. In May of the same year, ill from gout, died at his home in Antwerp.

Statue of Rubens (Antwerp).


Rubens is, without doubt, the most important figure of the Flemish Baroque. Man cheerful and vitalist, your personality is according to art, that art of movement, the exuberance and the ardor. Deeply known Venetian painting, which will mark its production. The work of Tiziano will be one of their best lessons, but also will influence you the work of artists of the moment like Carracci, Caravaggio, he/she admired, and Velázquez, with whom he/she was associated in the Spanish Court. It carries out numerous copies of works by Venetian painters and he/she brings together an important collection of paintings.

His style is characterized by a broad brushstroke and a colorful, always bright and cheerful, rich with complicated diagonal and dynamic compositions. The perfect harmony between color and dynamism is its most prominent note. His boundless imagination and its perfect technical domain allow you to paint, from complex and dramatic passions of Christ, to voluptuous mythological series, where the figures are placed in warm open spaces, where contrasts the great development of the robes with light nudity.

Throughout his extensive production scholars have been defined different stages. A first period, which corresponds to the years of their stay in Italy (1600-1608), in which he/she learns the lesson of the great masters of the Renaissance. His study of Mantegna, classical statuary and artists such as Leonardo or Miguel Ángel, will be definitive. Learn balance and monumentality in the compositions, while the dynamism of works as the Battalla Anghiari, and strain contained in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.

The works carried out in the following years, until his second trip to Spain, moment in which explores in depth the Venetian painting, show lighting trends that come from the influences received from Correggio and Caravaggio's tenebrism.

From his second trip to Spain in 1628, embodies the influence of Venetian painting to his art. It will examine to Tintoretto, Veronese and, above all, Tiziano, author who marked him deeply. From this moment you can say that his painting enters a stage of full maturity, in which his works reach the highest quotas of Baroque. Movement, the compositional bias, turmoil and instability are consistent in their works.

In his later years, and especially after the acquisition of the Steen Castle, grandiose themes are giving way to other simpler, which seems to want to silence your imagination and look its surroundings.

Triumph of Venus. Rubens. Netherlands.

Rubens painting was the precursor to the Baroque trend that would dominate Europe in the second half of the 17TH century.


Two are the themes dealt with mainly by Rubens, the religious and the mythological. His religious themes were perfectly adapted to the postulates of the Counter-Reformation; away from the drama of other artists, its eloquent Baroque style and cheerful tones become deeds entertaining pages. Its taste humanist will reveal in the treatment of mythological themes, which, in reality, always were a pretext to cultivate the naked.

Triumph of the Church. Rubens. Museo del Prado. Madrid.

He was also in great author of portraits. Painted recursively Elena Forment, his second wife, his self-portrait, his sons and their friends, but, above all, he/she painted portraits of senior figures as the Duke of Lerma, King Felipe IV the Archdukes Alberto and Isabel Clara Eugenia, as well as numerous European Princes.

Self portrait (oil on canvas, 1628). Gallery of the Uffizi (Florence, Italy).

Rubens, equestrian portrait of the Duke of Lerma. Museo del Prado.

Still life, landscape, etc. also cultivated all other genres The hunting box was again assessed by it. This was a theme that is perfectly suited to the temperament of the painter and the kind of art that developed; moved compositions, men and horses fight lions, leopards or wild boar.

The abundance of your orders forced him to have an important and active workshop, where attended by specialized collaborators: Van Dyck, for a brief time, for figures; Jan Brueghel, the flowers and fruits; Frans Snyders and Paul de Vos for animals; and Jan Wildens and Lucas van Uden for landscape. Among its collaborators were also their own recorders, formed in his style: Claes Pieter Soutman, Lucas Vorsterman, Paulus Pontius, the brothers Bolswert, etc.


The rising of the cross

It was made for the Cathedral of Antwerp, in 1602. The composition is ordered in the lathe to the diagonal forming the body of Christ, strongly lit. This is presented in a non-traditional way, as a newly nailed and elevated by burly soldiers body. The torture of Christ is highlight the intense color and body lighting, full of serenity, as well as the drama of the topic expressed, man, and his human loss. This same diagonal composition manifests itself in the deposition of Christ, painted for the same Cathedral.

The equestrian portrait of the Duke of Lerma

Made in 1603, it is currently preserved in the Museum of the Prado in Madrid. It is his first trip to Spain, as an Ambassador of the Duke of Mantua. The sitter is represented on horseback and in front, in the midst of a landscape. This type of equestrian representation is one of the great contributions of Rubens to the European Baroque, since they leave the side own compositions of the Renaissance, to establish a deep diagonal marked by the horse and the front character.Cold blue lighting recalls the art of Tintoretto and Venetian circles, while the contrasting sonorous remind the Caravaggio painting.

The adoration of the Magi

This work was performed in 1608, commissioned by the municipality of Antwerp. Shortly afterwards, in 1612, it was given to Don Rodrigo Calderón, from whose almoneda Felipe IV purchased it so that it was part of the Spanish Royal Collections. Currently preserved in the Museum of the Prado.La work such and as today look it is the product of an extension and repaint done by the own Rubens in his second trip to Spain (1628-1629). The original composition is formed by the birth scene and the figures closer to her, the King, red tunic, and slaves carrying gifts. Figures in the background and with poor lighting are the product of the expansion of the membership.This work reveals still the influence of the Italian painters had exerted on Rubens, especially Veronese, from which it takes the rich play of light, the profiling of the drawing and the exquisite aristocratic style, although Rubens loads it strength, life and movement.

The portrait of the Queen María de Médicis

Painted by Rubens towards 1622, remained in power until the death of the artist. It was subsequently acquired by the King Felipe IV, for the Spanish Royal collections, and is currently preserved in the Museum of the Prado.El portrait looks like an unfinished sketch, done by the painter for the decoration of the Palace of Luxembourg. The portrayed is represented on a clear neutral background, in a black suit, where only stresses the head and hands through the lighter tone of cuffs and collar. All the viewer's attention is fixed on the face and hands of the portrayed, filled with light and expressivity.

The garden of love

The garden of love (oil on canvas, 1630-1632). Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain).

Executed in 1630, the garden of love belongs to a group of works that Rubens made for your own enjoyment and for the decoration of your home. In them is their own experiences and moods. This work was performed after having contracted his second marriage with Elena Forment, which would be a source of constant inspiration for the mature Rubens.She represents a group of men and women, in the middle of a game of loving courtship, among which mingle small putti. Composition, full of rhythm and movement, is framed in the midst of a landscape defined by overblown architectures. Ever wanted to interpret as a daily scene that takes place in the garden of own townhouse by Rubens, since in it, the real and the imaginary are in the same plane, to be part of the group the own mature Rubens with his young wife, as one couple more composition.

In the compositions of mythological or allegorical subject, Rubens presents scenes with large number of characters, full of sensual feelings and acute observation of nature. It has a wide chromatic range at the service of a great movement that conveys your vitalism and his optimism towards life. Opulence and pleasure sensual nudes is another of the characteristics of this type of works, which reaches its highest expression in the three Graces, which takes up a composition of Botticelli: his spring work. These issues developed an intense activity in the last years of his life, sometimes making large cycles of literary inspiration, others painting loose episodes, always locking up any teaching or moral consequence.

The three graces (oil on canvas, ca.1630). Museo del Prado (Madrid, Spain).

Landscape with Steen Tower

Numerous are the landscapes that performs with the theme of his country house in Steen. In them it unifies the vision of men, animals, vegetation, and architectures, using an atmospheric environment, carried out by means of a broad brushstroke of great chromatic harmony.


AZCÁRATE RISTORI, J.M.: Rubens, Baroque painter. (Madrid, CSIC, 1992).

LASSAIGNE, j.: From Hieronymus Bosch to Rubens. (Barcelona, 1977).

VOSTERS, S.: Rubens and Spain. (Madrid, Cátedra, 1990).

WEDGWOOD, C.V.: The world of Rubens: 1577-1640 (Amsterdam, 1982)


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