Sir Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish painter, born in 1577 in Siegan, nowadays Germany. He lost his father at the age of 10 and his mother brought the family back to the city of Antwerp when Rubens was 12 years old. There he studied Latin and classical literature but more importantly, he became an apprentice to some of the most famous painters at the time.
The real start of Rubens’s artistic career began with his journey to Italy. He spent 8 years travelling across the country where he was heavily influenced not only by the works of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio but also by Greek art as well. In 1601 the young painter received his first significant job – 3 altarpieces for the church of Santa Croce in Jerusalem, Rome. By the time Rubens came back to Antwerp in 1608, he was already a very well-known painter. He was also appointed a court painter by Albert VII, archduke of Austria and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain which only insured his importance to the artistic world at that time. He continued working on religion-related pieces as the altarpieces ‘The Raising of the Cross’ and ‘The Descent from the Cross’ for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp and other churches in the city. Rubens also drew title-pages and illustrations for books, did ceiling paintings, collected art and due to his relations to the royal court he was alsp a diplomat an ambassador. He was a prolific painter – he received numerous commissions, painted portraits, mythological pieces and landscapes. During the 1620’s Rubens completed the Marie de’ Medici cycle – a series of 24 paintings and repeatedly travelled to Spain on diplomatic missions. He was raised to knighthood by Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England.
After the death of his first wife, Isabella Brant, Rubens married the 16-year-old Hélène Fourment when he was 53 years old. She played a really big role in Rubens’s artistic life – she was the muse that inspired numerous nude paintings of voluptuous women. Today we use ‘Rubenesque’ as a synonym of full-figured.
Rubens died on 30 May 1640 in Antwerp. But this wonderful Baroque artist left countless paintings not only in private collections around the world but also in churches and museums like the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Louvre in Paris. And of course, the house in which the master himself lived and worked, the Rubenshuis. Situated in the heart of Antwerp, the Italian-style villa was designed by Rubens. Todays it is a cosy museum where visitors can enjoy some of the artist’s paintings and drawings, the elegant courtyard and beautiful garden.