- Rubens, Peter Paul
- (1577-1640)Flemish painter. He worked in the baroque style and became the most internationally famous artist of northern Europe, admired for the lush colors, energetic spirit, and sensual, fleshly human figures typical of his works. His father, a prominent Protestant, fled Antwerp to escape Spanish persecution. After his death the family returned to Antwerp, and Peter Paul grew up a pious Catholic and loyal subject of the Spanish king. Trained by several leading Antwerp painters, he also received a good humanis-tic education and always reflected the tradition of Renaissance clas-sicism in his works, a tendency strengthened by eight years in Italy that began in 1600 at Venice and Mantua, took him to Rome in 1601, and gave him a chance to study the works of the major Re-naissance painters. In Italy he became successful both as a painter and as a courtier, receiving valuable commissions for paintings in churches at Rome and also serving as a member of a Mantuan em-bassy to Naples.In 1608 Rubens hurried back to Flanders because of his mother's fatal illness, intending to return promptly to Italy, but he received a commission to paint an Adoration of the Magi in 1609. The Spanish regents of the Netherlands then appointed him court painter, granted him valuable exemptions from taxes and other privileges, and helped him secure commissions that established him as the leading artist of the Spanish Netherlands, including two triptychs executed for churches in Antwerp, The Raising of the Cross (1609-1611) and The Descent from the Cross (1611). Rubens set up a large and productive workshop and produced much-admired paintings with both religious and secular themes, culminating in a vast commission to provide 39 ceiling paintings for the new Jesuit church at Antwerp, a task com-pleted (with the aid of many assistants) in the single year 1620. In 1621 he began serving as a secret diplomatic representative of the Archduchess Isabella, using his fame as an artist and collector of an-tiquities as a cover for political negotiations in the Dutch Republic, England, France, and Spain.At Paris in 1622 the queen-mother of France, Marie des Médicis, commissioned a series of works for the Luxembourg Palace com-memorating her career as queen and regent of France, including alle-gorical scenes like Henry IVReceiving the Portrait of Marie des Médi-cis and Marie des Médicis, Queen of France, Landing in Marseilles. The lavish colors and classicizing tendencies of Rubens' mature baroque style are also evident in the sensuous Garden of Love (ca. 1630-1632). In the late 1630s he designed and co-ordinated the work-shop production of a series of mythological sketches for a hunting lodge built near Madrid by Philip IV of Spain. Not long before his death he produced a striking self-portrait depicting himself as an ag-ing but poised and elegantly dressed knight. His influence is visible in the work of successors not only in the Netherlands but also in Italy, Spain, and France.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.