Peter Paul Rubens
gigatos | March 30, 2022
Peter Paul Rubens (28 June 1577, Siegen – 30 May 1640, Antwerp) – Dutch (Flemish) painter, one of the founders of Baroque art, diplomat and collector. Rubens”s artistic legacy contains about 3000 paintings, much of which was done in collaboration with pupils and colleagues, the largest of whom was Antonis van Dyck (1599-1641). M. Jaffe”s catalog counts 1403 authentic canvases. Rubens”s extensive correspondence, mostly diplomatic, has survived. He was elevated to nobility by King Philip IV of Spain (1624) and was knighted by King Charles I of England (1630) with the inclusion of a heraldic lion in his personal coat of arms. With the acquisition of Het Sten Castle in 1635, Rubens received the title of liege lord.
Rubens” work is an organic fusion of the tradition of Bruegelian realism with the achievements of the Venetian school. Rubens specialized in religious painting (including altarpieces), he painted on mythological and allegorical subjects, portraits (a genre he abandoned in the last years of his life), landscapes and historical paintings, and also made sketches for skewers and book illustrations. In the technique of oil painting Rubens was one of the last artists to use wooden panels for easel works, even very large in size.
Peter Paul Rubens (in the local dialect “Peter Paul Ruebbens”) came from a venerable Antwerp family of craftsmen and entrepreneurs, mentioned in documents since 1396. His father, Jan Rubens, was a family of tanners, dyers and apothecaries; his mother, née Peipelinx, was a carpet weaver and merchant. Both families were well-to-do, owned real estate, but apparently had absolutely no interest in culture or art. Stepfather Jan Rubens – Jan Lantmetere – held a grocery store and appointed his stepson in the Faculty of Law at the University of Louvain. In 1550 Jan Rubens went to the University of Padua, and in 1554 at the University of Rome in the Department of Civil and Canon Law. In 1559 he returned home and almost immediately married Maria Peipelinx, and in 1562 he rose from the burgher class, being elected eschevin. The position entailed overseeing the enforcement of Spanish law. By 1568, Reubens had made no secret of his sympathies for Calvinism and had taken part in the preparation of the Orangist rebellion. The family was already large by then: in 1562 his son Jan Baptiste was born, in 1564-1565 daughters Blandina and Clara, and in 1567 his son Hendrik. Because of the terror of the Duke of Alba, the Rubenses moved to Maria”s relatives in Limburg, and in 1569 settled in Cologne.
Jan Rubens continued to perform the duties of a lawyer and did not abandon his sympathies for Calvinism, which was expressed, in particular, in the fact that he did not go to Mass. The family lived near the residence of William of Orange, with whose wife – Anna of Saxony – Rubens senior entered into a close relationship, which ended with an unwanted pregnancy. In March 1571, Jan Rubens was arrested for illicit affair and spent two years in prison in Dillenburg, and after the trial was exiled to a small town in the Duchy of Nassau, Siegen. His wife followed him, and two of her letters have survived, which, according to V. N. Lazarev, “are remarkable documents of a woman”s sublime love and selfless devotion.” The family was reunited on Trinity Day in 1573, and in 1574 her son Philip was born. To live in poverty: Jan Rubens did not have the right to work in his profession, Mary was engaged in gardening and rented rooms in the house, provided by relatives. June 29, 1577 their sixth child was born – Peter Paul. After Anna of Saxony died the same year, the Nassau family gave up pursuing the Rubens family. In 1581 the Rubens were able to return to Cologne, renting a large house on Sternegasse, which was later the residence of Maria de Medici. In this house a seventh child was born, a son named Bartolomeus, who did not live long. Jan Rubens repented and returned to the Catholic Church, after which he was again able to practice as a lawyer. In addition to his fees, the family”s income continued to come from renting rooms.
In Cologne Jan Rubens himself began to teach his children the Scriptures, Latin and French. However, the family fortune ended in 1587 after the death of the head of a fleeting fever. His eldest son Jan Baptiste left for Italy for good (he died there), and soon three more children died of illness. The widow, left with her eldest daughter and sons Philip and Peter, decided to return to Antwerp, devastated by the war. Philippe, distinguished by his aptitude for Latin, was assigned as secretary to Jean Richardot, advisor to the Spanish court. The 10-year-old Peter was sent to study at a Jesuit school, although he had not previously been particularly gifted. With the Jesuits, Peter acquired an excellent knowledge of Latin and classical antiquity and showed remarkable linguistic abilities: he was equally fluent in reading, writing and speaking in his native Dutch, Latin, French and Italian and had some knowledge of German, Spanish and English.
At the same time, his mother enrolled Peter in the secular school of Rombouts Verdonck, where he was able to discover his abilities in the humanities and began to learn Greek. His memory seemed fantastic to his contemporaries: he once had no difficulty in recalling the name of a Roman poetess, whom Juvenal had mentioned only once in one of his satires. His classmates were the children of Antwerp”s elite, including Balthasar Moretus, grandson of Christopher Plantin, Europe”s largest publisher. Peter and Balthasar maintained their friendship for the rest of their lives. In 1590, their studies had to be interrupted: Peter and Philippe”s sister, Blandina, married and her dowry consumed the remainder of the funds bequeathed by Jan Rubens. The sons had to seek their own livelihood: Philip, together with the sons of his employer, was sent to study with the famous humanist Justus Lipsius in Louvain. Maria Rubens arranged the 13-year-old Peter as a page to the Countess de Lalen (née Princess de Ligne) in Audenarde, where he continued his education at the expense of his patrons, acquired skills in calligraphy and eloquence, and acquired a taste for the elegance of clothing, in particular by learning how to effectively close his cloak.
After being a page for a little over a year, Rubens decisively declared to his mother that he intended to study painting. His friend Jacob Zandrart wrote: “unable to resist more inner impulse, which attracted him to painting, he asked his mother”s permission to devote himself entirely to this art. The same Zandrart said that the only source of aesthetic aspirations of Peter Rubens until the age of 14 was copying engravings from the Bible edition of Tobias Stimmera 1576. No trace of his early graphics has survived. According to C. Wedgwood, the choice of his first painting teacher, the landscape painter Tobias Verhacht, was largely accidental: he was married to a relative of Marie Rubens. A late start in his studies at the time meant that Rubens could not learn much from Verhacht and quickly left his studio. He moved on to Adam van Noort. Van Noort, though not a church commissioner, had a great reputation and Jacob Jordaens and Hendrik van Balen came out of his studio. A drastic change of scenery, however, did not change the tastes and aspirations of the young Rubens, he repelled the bohemian life that led van Noort. His apprenticeship in his studio lasted four years; according to Marie-Anne Lecuret, the most important lesson for Peter was his love and attention to “Flanders, whose lush beauty would later appear before us in Rubens” paintings.
Having acquired and honed his initial skills, in 1595 Rubens entered the studio of Antwerp”s most famous painter of the time, Otto van Veen (Venius), who had been educated in Italy and had brought the spirit of Mannerism to Flanders. Rubens was listed as his pupil until the age of 23, although at 21 he received a certificate “free artist. In Rome, Venius was favored by the Farnese family and received papal orders in the Vatican, was a secular man, an expert in Latin and antiquities. It was he who instilled in Peter Rubens a taste for the ancient classics and instilled in him the idea that talent cannot express itself without powerful patrons. Contemporaries noted that by the time Rubens came to him, Venius”s talent was on the decline and he was overly fond of allegories and symbols, turning his own painting into a kind of rebus. Venius”s Italo-Flemish style was marked by the imitation of Roman models, for example, silhouettes were outlined with a contour line. He rejected the national Flemish tradition (the importance of which Michelangelo recognized), but was never able to organically embrace the Italian school.
In 1598 Rubens was admitted as a free craftsman to the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke, but stayed with Venius and did not open his own studio. However, he was already entitled to take on apprentices himself, the first of whom was Deodato del Monte, son of a silversmith. Very few of Rubens” own works from this period have survived. Correspondence and documents mention his paintings, several were in his mother”s house, and she was very proud of them. The only work signed by Rubens from these years is a portrait of a young scholar in a black suit, in which the facial modeling attracts attention. The measuring instruments in his hands allowed critics to call the hero of the painting a geographer or architect. The portrait demonstrates the undoubted closeness of Rubens of those years to the old Dutch school established by van Eyck. Nor was there yet the virtuoso ease of brushwork that he had acquired in Italy. According to C. Wedgwood, “Rubens was good, but he was not a prodigy”, like van Dyck. He was still learning and matured late as a professional. He could only find the patterns and teachers he needed in Italy, where his brother Philippe was by then. It is not known where Peter got the money to travel abroad – perhaps he completed some kind of commission in Antwerp or sold some of his work. It is also possible that the money for the trip provided the father of Deodato del Monte, who accompanied Rubens as his pupil. On May 8, 1600 Rubens received a document signed by the burgomaster of Antwerp, stating that its submitter was in good health and there were no epidemics in the city.
At the Court of the Duke of Mantua
According to C. Wedgwood, “Rubens was better prepared than most of the young artists who crossed the Alps before him. By that time he was fluent in Latin and Italian, and was personally and by correspondence acquainted with all the famous antic scientists. From Antwerp he followed the Rhine to France, visited Paris, and then on to Venice. In the city he stayed in a prestigious hotel and soon made the acquaintance of a nobleman from Vincenzo I Gonzaga”s entourage, as the Duke of Mantua had come to the carnival from Spa, where he was undergoing treatment. The paintings Rubens took with him made an impression, and the artist was reported to the duke. As a result, the 23-year-old Flemish found himself in the service of the Court of Mantua and, having barely appeared in Italy, received a patron, a salary and a relatively high social position. There is speculation that the Duke, who had previously been in Antwerp, was already familiar with Rubens”s work. Despite his unbridled temper and debauchery, Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga was one of the most important patrons of the arts and was a connoisseur of music and poetry. He financially supported Claudio Monteverdi and rescued Torquato Tasso from a madhouse. The duke was eager to collect the best works of art, and in his palace Rubens first saw works by Titian, Veronese, Correggio, Mantegna, Giulio Romano. Although Gonzaga did not set out to educate the young artist, he gave Rubens a job that contributed to the rapid development of his talent: the Flemish had to select works of art for copying, and then was also involved in their acquisition, receiving a certain commission.
Joining Vincenzo Gonzaga”s retinue in October 1600, Rubens traveled with the court to Florence for the marriage in absentia of the younger sister of the duke”s consort, Maria de Medici. Rubens studied Florentine art intensively, in particular copying a cardboard of Leonardo da Vinci”s “Battle of Anguari.” He settled in Mantua from the summer of 1601, but was not going to sit in one place. On his travels indicates a correspondence with the Duke′s manager Annibale Chieppio, from which it follows that in Mantua Rubens spent a full three years out of eight years in Italy. At the court of the Duke, he spent the entire summer of 1601, the period from April 1602 to May 1603 and from May 1604 to the very end of 1605. Quite quickly, Rubens was appointed trustee of the Duke′s art gallery, but, in general, large orders were almost none (the only exception – the design of the Jesuit church in 1603), and even in 1607 he complained in a letter that his work is almost not represented in the collection Gonzaga. Taking advantage of the Duke”s inattention to his person, as early as 1601 Rubens set out on a journey across Italy, from a letter to his brother Philip in December of that year it follows that he toured “almost all the major Italian cities. The exact itineraries of Rubens” travels are difficult to reconstruct, documenting his multiple stays in Venice, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Padua, Verona, Lucca and Parma, possibly in Urbino, and in Milan, where he copied Leonardo”s Last Supper. He visited Rome twice, the first time being there in the summer of 1601, when he was sent there by the Duke to copy paintings from the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Montalto. His letters home and to his brother Philip were written in lively and rich Italian and signed “Pietro Pauolo,” a form he adhered to for the rest of his life. Italian remained the primary language of Rubens” foreign correspondence thereafter.
Rubens had a talent for making secular acquaintances. The Duke of Mantua”s estate manager, A. Chieppio, recommended the Flemish man to Cardinal Montalto, a nephew of Pope Clement VII. In turn, through Montalto, Rubens was presented to Sipione Borghese, a nephew of Pope Sixtus V, who was the official patron of German and Flemish artists in Rome. Thanks to instructions from Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga, Rubens traveled to Genoa, where he was received at the homes of Doria, Spinola and Pallavicini, gaining access to their art collections and acquiring more or less significant orders. Rubens, however, received his first official commission at home – in 1602. Archduke Albrecht of Brussels Austrian ordered zaaltar image of the discovery of the True Cross, which he instructed to perform in Rome, and the artist had to be Flemish, “provided that the amount of costs will not exceed 200 gold ecu. Jean Richardot – former employer of Philippe Rubens – remembered Peter, and January 12, 1602 held a formal signing of the contract. Already on January 26, Rubens presented the customer the central part of the composition, demonstrating his ability to quickly fulfill orders. From Rome, Rubens traveled to Verona to visit his older brother, where he depicted himself and his brother, their colleague Johannes Voverius and teacher Justus Lipsius, as well as his pupil Deodato del Monte against the background of the Mincho River in Mantua. More than half of those portrayed could not have been in Italy at the time, so the true meaning of the composition eludes modern scholars. The conception and realization of the painting are characterized by a combination of innovation and tradition: the coloring is clearly marked by an imitation of Titian, and the theme and composition equally clearly refer to Dutch corporate and family portraits. His first success with the Archduke drew the Duke of Gonzaga”s attention to his court painter. After the death of his mother, who was very devoted to the Jesuits, the duke ordered a church of this order to be erected in Mantua, and Rubens was commissioned to paint a picture depicting the worship of the Gonzaga family by the Holy Trinity. However, due to a number of circumstances, the painting was presented to the customer on Trinity Day, June 5, 1605.
In 1603, the Duke of Mantua was expecting an admiral”s rank from the Spanish king for his services in the fight against the Turks in Croatia and decided to remind himself. A voluminous gift was prepared, including many works of art. They required a clever and disposing person who could present the gifts at the right moment, making the monarch look his patron in the best possible light. On the recommendation of his steward, Chieppio, the duke endorsed Rubens. Before this happened the following story: Vincenzo Gonzaga unannounced appeared in the artist”s studio and found Rubens working on an allegorical canvas and reciting aloud Virgil”s “Georgics”. The duke addressed him in Latin and received a very courteous reply. Remembering that Jan van Eyck had once been sent by the Duke of Burgundy for his bride Isabella to the King of Portugal, the Duke of Gonzaga has entrusted Rubens ambassador. On March 5, 1605 a notice was sent to the attorney in Madrid that Pietro Paolo Rubens was appointed in charge of delivering gifts to King Philip III; on the same day the artist set out. The itinerary of the journey was ill-designed: it was to pass through Ferrara and Bologna to Florence and to embark on a ship at Livorno. It cost 150 scudos to transport the cargo across the Apennines, with little money allocated, customs officials trying to open the shipments, and the like. Next came an unpleasant incident at the court of Grand Duke Ferdinand. On March 29, the artist wrote to his patron Chieppio of Pisa:
The Grand Duke summoned me this afternoon; he spoke in the most friendly and courteous terms of Mr. Duke and our Most Serene Lady; he inquired with great curiosity about my journey and the things personally pertaining to me. This Sovereign astonished me by proving how well he knew the smallest details of the quality and number of gifts intended for one person or another; he also flattered me by telling me who I was, where I came from, what my trade was, and what place I occupied in it. I was utterly taken aback by all this, and was compelled to suspect the action of some domestic spirit, or the superior knowledge of the observers, not to say spies, who are in our Sovereign”s palace itself; it could not be otherwise, as I did not list the contents of my bales in the customs or in any other place.
Nevertheless, to get to Livorno managed to safely, the transition by sea to Alicante took 18 days. The Spanish court then moved to Valladolid, where Rubens reached on 13 May and did not catch the king – he was on a hunt in Aranjuez. However, the delays turned out to be good for the artist; on 24 May he reported to Quepio:
…The paintings, carefully stacked and packed by myself in the presence of His Grace, inspected in the presence of the customs officers in Alicante and found in perfect condition, were taken out of their boxes in the house of Mr. Annibale Iberti in such a deteriorated state that I almost despair of repairing them. The damage does not concern the surface of the paintings-it is not mold or stain that can be removed-but the canvases themselves; they were covered with sheets of tin, wrapped in double waxed cloth, and stacked in wooden chests, and yet the canvases are ruined and ruined by twenty-five days of continuous rain-an unheard of thing in Spain! The paints are cloudy, they have swollen and fallen off the canvases because they have absorbed water for so long; in many places all that remains is to remove them with a knife and then reapply them to the canvas.
The chargé d”affaires of the Duchy of Mantua, Iberti, suggested that Rubens hire a Spanish painter to clean the canvases, but the 26-year-old artist, who had no real diplomatic powers, rejected the offer. In June, Rubens washed the canvases in hot water, dried them in the sun, and undertook the restoration alone. He not only restored copies from Raphael”s paintings, executed in Rome by Pietro Facchetti, but also performed Democritus and Heraclitus himself. He had to paint repetitions of the paintings because two of the canvases among the gifts had perished irretrievably. The king returned to Valladolid in early July. Rubens and Iberti appeared before the Prime Minister, the Duke of Lerma, who took the copies presented as originals. If the Spanish prime minister showed affection for the artist, gave him many orders and invited him to live in his residence, with the attorney Iberti failed to establish relations. The attorney did not want Rubens to personally present the gifts to the king and did not allow him to have an audience, which the artist reported to the Duke of Mantua without emotion.
Rubens did not confront the ambassador, but instead went to the Escorial to copy Titian”s collection of more than 70 paintings. Most of them were commissioned or purchased by Emperor Charles V. Rubens took the copies to Italy and then transported them to Antwerp; after the artist”s death the copies he made were bought back and returned to Spain by King Philip IV. Rubens also carried out private commissions: he painted the cycle “The Twelve Apostles”, portraits of members of the family of the Duke of Lerma and the Duke of Infontado, to whom he was represented by the attorney Iberti.
Working in Spain, Rubens understood that he would not be in the country for long, so he hurried. In his copies of Titian, especially in the hair of the characters, the Flemish technique of applying paint thickly is noticeable. Rubens” copies, on the other hand, should rather be seen as variations on the theme of the original, as he invariably – albeit to varying degrees – resorted to remaking the original. Feeling the need for self-expression, he did not hesitate to correct the mistakes he noticed and showed creativity in colorism or shading. He ruled even the works of Michelangelo and Raphael, not to mention his contemporaries.
Rubens” most famous original work done in Spain was a ceremonial equestrian portrait of the Duke of Lerma, which opened the genre of ceremonial portraiture in his oeuvre. The method of working on this portrait was used by the artist for many years: first made a sketch or preliminary compositional sketch, then – always from life – wrote the face of the model. Only in the last turn on the canvas or on wood performed the entire portrait. Subsequently Rubens entrusted the work on clothing, accessories or backgrounds to his pupils, but in the beginning of his career he neglected the brigade method and executed all portrait details himself. M. Lebediansky noted that the background of the portrait, with the branching tree and the battle scene in the distance, was executed in a more generalized manner, without careful finishing, in contrast to the figure of the duke and his face. The Louvre Drawings Study preserves a preparatory composition sketch of the Duke of Lerma”s portrait, made in Italian pencil on tinted paper, for which a hired sitter posed. Already in the drawing, the entire composition, including the low horizon line and the contours of the tree, was represented. Unlike Titian”s portrait of Charles V, Rubens gave the composition more dynamics by pointing the rider directly at the viewer. The character”s face, however, looks detached from all other details of the painting and is presented completely unemotional. The main distinguishing feature of this work, which is characteristic of the Baroque portrait genre in general, is the system of devices and accessories that emphasize the heroic character of the model. This function in Rubens is performed by the armor, the active action in the background, and the representation of the portrayed person as if on an elevated pedestal.
The Duke of Lerma offered Rubens the position of official painter to the Spanish court, but Rubens rejected the offer. Soon he received a command from the Duke of Mantua to go to Paris to paint copies of the portraits for the palace”s gallery of beauties, but Rubens found it unworthy of himself. In early 1604 he returned to Mantua.
Mantua, Genoa, Rome
Rubens remained in Mantua until November 1605, fulfilling orders from Duke Vincenzo. In addition to completing a triptych of the Gonzaga family”s adoration of the Holy Spirit, he made two copies of Correggio”s paintings as a gift for Emperor Rudolph II. At the end of 1605, Peter Paul moved to Rome with his brother Philip, who then took a job as librarian to Cardinal Ascanio Colonna. The apartment was located in via Santa Croce near the Piazza di Spagna, and the brothers even hired two servants. The Colonna family (Caravaggio”s patrons) were not interested in the Flemish, but Scipione Borghese recommended him to the Order of Oratorians for the decoration of the church of Chiesa Nuova. He was to paint the Madonna for the main altar. M. Lecure did not think highly of the triptych for the church of Chiesa Nuova (central part – the Virgin, side parts – St. Gregory and St. Domitilla). She wrote that the canvas “looks impressively monumental,” and the characters are sculptural in form, almost like Veronese. However, the size of the figures depresses the dynamics of the composition. The coloristic task Rubens accomplished on the contrast of the light range of clothes and dark background (especially in “Domicile”), which with its stingy style may remind Caravaggio, but without his light effects. “There is nothing yet in these works except the impressive size of the male and female figures, which unites them and makes it easy to recognize the master”s hand. Rubens has not yet invented his own personal palette. Most of his works are reminiscent of his pen: the alternation of white with green, similar to Veronese or Giulio Romano, the Titian ochre, the dark coloring of Carracci…”.
In the midst of the preparations, Rubens was recalled to Mantua, but Scipione Borghese intervened and the artist was allowed to remain until the following spring. However, he continued to perform the instructions of the Mantuan court: found a residence in Rome for the ducal son, appointed cardinal, and acquired for the collection of the “Assumption of the Virgin” Caravaggio. He spent the winter of 1606 with his brother in Rome, in an apartment in via della Croce, where he fell seriously ill with pleurisy, but was able to recover thanks to the care of the Flemish doctor Faber. M. Lecure also noted that no evidence of Rubens” romantic aspirations remained from the Italian period. In Rome he communicated almost exclusively with the Flemish, lived in the Dutch quarter, but never took part in riotous entertainment and kept aloof. In spite of the sensuality of his work, “the sincere chastity of the artist must be taken as a given.
In June 1607 Vincenzo Gonzaga left for Genoa and was accompanied by Rubens. After getting to know the Doria family, he performed about half a dozen portraits on their commissions, as well as the “Circumcision of the Lord” for the Jesuit church. Rubens, together with Deodato del Monte, also decided to prepare a book on Italian architecture to introduce it to the Flemish. D. del Monte made measurements, and Rubens prepared 139 engraving sheets for the two-volume “Palaces of Genoa”, which, however, saw the light only in 1622. In September 1607 the artist returned to Rome. Order for the temple of Chiesa Nuova was ready in February 1608, but in the chancel was unsuccessfully resolved lighting, and the public could not even consider the outlines of the figures. The painting had to be hastily redone, and there was even the idea of transferring it from canvas to stone. The Oratorians also commissioned the artist for a large triptych. By this time, relations with the Gonzaga family had broken down. Philippe Rubens reported from Antwerp on the serious deterioration of their mother, who was 72 years old: she suffered from bouts of suffocation, which left no hope of recovery. To leave the service of the House of Gonzaga, Peter Paul Rubens appealed to Archduke Albrecht, but Albrecht”s request was refused by Vincenzo Gonzaga. On October 28, 1608, having completed the order for the Oratorians, Rubens left Rome of his own accord. In a letter to A. Chieppio, he said that when he had finished business in Flanders, will certainly return to Mantua and “give himself into the hands of His Grace. His last Italian letter has the characteristic note: “Salendo a cavallo” (“Getting on a horse”). He never returned to Italy again.
During the Italian period Rubens had not yet reached artistic maturity, and almost all critics unanimously declared that his Italian work was not entirely independent and was marked by the strong influence of the templates of the Bologna Academy. A huge part of his legacy of the Italian period consisted of sketches and copies from ancient and contemporary works of art. Rubens had no personal interest in great contemporaries and made no attempt to meet either Guido Reni or Caravaggio or Annibale Carracci in Rome. On the contrary, by making copies of works that attracted him, Rubens pursued two objectives. Firstly, he was enhancing his professional skills and secondly, he sought to create a personal catalog of works of art scattered through royal and private collections that he would be unlikely to find his way back into. In other words, he was preparing for himself a stock of subjects, models, and technical solutions. In his will, made before his death, he wrote that “his works will be of use to those of his heirs who will follow in his footsteps.” He did not, however, pursue any scholarly aim, nor did he attempt to produce a comprehensive catalog of ancient and Renaissance art, as he indulged his own personal tastes. The commissioned portraits of the Genoese aristocracy became the standard for baroque portraiture and for a long time defined the development of the genre in Italy, Flanders, and later in France and Spain. Rubens placed his portrait subjects against a neutral background or in front of drapery. The model”s social standing was always underlined with accessories and great attention was paid to the costume, which was painted with the utmost care. The main purpose of the artist was to create a halo around the depicted face and emphasize its importance. This was underlined by the dignity of gestures, poses and careful finishing of the smallest details. A striking example of such work was the portrait of the Marquise Veronica Spinola-Doria. According to N. Gritsai, “in the ”unworthy” of his brush the artist breathed new life into the genre of court portraiture, decisively freeing it from the characteristic of Mannerist art turn of the XVI and XVII centuries rigidity writing, stiffness compositions, intense withdrawal as if fenced off from the real world of images. Rubens brought motion and life to the portrait, freedom of pictorial form and richness of color, and enriched it with his sense of great style, reinforcing the importance of the background – landscape or architectural – in the presentation of the image; in general, he made the portrait a worthy task of truly monumental art.
Court painter. Marriage
It took Rubens five weeks to travel from Rome to Antwerp. Halfway there he received news that his mother had died on November 14. When he reached home in December, he hung one of the paintings intended for the Chiesa Nuovo in the crypt of the deceased. His state of mind was such that he wished for some time to seclude himself in a monastery and before the public appeared only in January the following year, 1609. Apparently, he intended to return to Italy. On April 10, 1609 Rubens wrote to Johann Faber in Rome: “… I still do not know what to decide – whether to stay at home, or permanently return to Rome, where I am invited on the most favorable terms. Philip Rubens took the post of Antwerp eschewen, which was once held by his father, but the family is gradually shifting roles, primacy has passed to the younger of the brothers. In his correspondence, his admiration for Peter, as M.-A. Lecureux put it, “reached the point of obsequiousness. It was Philip who introduced his brother to the high society of the Spanish Netherlands. The pinnacle was the presentation of the artist at the Archduke”s court, which took place, according to documents, on August 8, 1609. Duke Albrecht had little idea who Rubens was, but commissioned him for his portrait and that of his wife, and upon execution of the commission he immediately granted him a title. The credentials of court painter Peter Paul Rubens received on January 9, 1610.
Obviously, the royal couple had a desire to keep Rubens at court at any cost, and therefore, in addition to wages in his contract, it was stipulated the right to receive an honorarium for each completed painting. As a member of the Guild of St. Luke, Rubens was also a number of tax benefits. The most important achievement of Rubens M. Lecure called that he has remained to work in Antwerp, not in Brussels. The reasons for this the painter”s nephew – also Philippe Rubens – set out as follows: “…Out of fear, as if the court life, which imperceptibly captures any person without a rest, did not damage his studies of painting and not prevent him to achieve in the art of that perfection, the ability to which he felt in himself.” According to M. Lecure, this statement, picked up by many biographers, needed correction. Rubens felt organically in the court environment and was able to attract the attention of politicians of the first magnitude, but he had a different system of values:
In exchange for his services, he did not expect to climb the social ladder so much as to increase his notoriety. He saw no profit in becoming another Brussels nobleman – there were enough of them without him. He was aiming much higher – for the role of the best Flemish, or perhaps even the best European artist.
Philip Rubens noted that the Archduke couple literally bound his brother to them with gold chains: Peter Paul was granted a gold chain with a portrait of the Archduke and his wife worth 300 florins. The artist initially lived in his mother”s house on Couvain Street. Almost immediately upon his return to the city, Rubens proposed to his neighbor Isabella Brant, the niece of his brother”s wife Marie de Mois. Isabella”s father was the famous humanist Jan Brant, a longtime city clerk and follower of Justus Lipsius, who was also a publisher of ancient classics. The marriage was consummated with great haste. The groom was 32 years old, the bride 18, and they were married on October 8, 1609. After the wedding the young, according to custom, settled with the wife”s parents, in the business quarter. The only evidence of their wedding remains a Latin epithalam by Philippe Rubens, full of “playful greasiness” (in the words of E. Michel) and not too refined in style.
Even earlier, on June 29, Rubens had joined the Society of Novelists, where he had been accepted on the recommendation of Jan Brueghel. The society united Dutch artists who had made the journey to the other side of the Alps.
For his wedding, Rubens painted a double portrait, “In a Honeysuckle Arbor” (“Self-Portrait with Isabella Brant”). Its composition is extremely restrained, Rubens, seated on a bench under a honeysuckle bush, leaning slightly toward Isabella Brant sitting beside him, resting her hand on her husband”s arm. “No exaggerated affectation of feeling, everything is restrained and dignified.” Rubens has carefully worked out the details of his costume, especially the purpuren – a kind of camisole with a high collar, brown stockings and shoes; together with the expensive attire of his wife, the composition is close to a typical baroque portrait. The main difference is rooted in the relaxedness and freedom of the portrayed, which gives the subject a lyrical quality. Rubens spent a lot of effort on conveying the expressions of his face and his wife. According to M. Lebediansky, Rubens” interpretation of his image recalls Raphael”s Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione. Rubens depicted himself looking straight at the viewer, his face full of calm dignity. Isabella Brant smiles faintly, which hints at the feelings of joy and happiness she is experiencing. The foreshortening of the composition is unusual – Rubens is towering over Isabella, the viewer sees him as if from a bottom-up position. The figures are captured in a complex moment of movement and half-turn, but they are linked together by the overall oval of the portrait composition.
Rubens was secretive about everything that concerned his private life, his correspondence with his wife has not survived, his children were mentioned very rarely and only in the context of humanitarian interests. The true feelings of the artist towards his loved ones can only be judged from his many graphic and pictorial portraits. The only person for whom Rubens had absolute trust was his older brother Philip. Peter Paul”s letters to him have not survived, but messages from his older brother to his younger brother have. They show that Philip quickly grasped the magnitude of the genius of Rubens the younger and tried in every way to help him. After the death of Philip in 1611, Peter Paul gave him a magnificent funeral, adopted in their social circle, which cost 133 florins. By comparison, Philip”s family – his wife, two children, and two servants – spent about 400 florins a year.
Rubens had three children by his marriage to Isabella Brant. Daughter Clara-Serena was born in 1611 and died at the age of 12 from illness. Shortly before his death Rubens sketched her portrait. A son was born to the Rubenses only 7 years after their marriage and was named after the highest patron and godfather, Archduke Albrecht. He was evidently a beloved child, for he was the only one of all Peter Paul”s children to be mentioned in the correspondence. His father had given him up to the Augustinian monks and evidently had great plans for him. He wrote to Claude Peyrescu that his 12-year-old son was doing well in Greek literature. In general, the fate of Albert Rubens was more reminiscent of the fate of his late uncle Philip – he was not fond of painting (like all other Rubens′s descendants), made a trip to Italy in 1634. He was married to the daughter of Deodato del Monte, his father”s first student. Shortly before the death of Peter Paul Rubens, Albert took his place on the Privy Council in Brussels. He died in 1657; his son, Rubens” grandson, died after being bitten by a mad dog. Several canvases depicting Albert remain. The third child, Niklas Rubens, was born in 1618 and also became a hero of his father”s portraits. He was also named after his godfather – the Genoese banker Niccolò Pallavicini. Nicklas was awarded the title of nobility at an early age and died even earlier than his elder brother at the age of 37, leaving seven children.
In January 1611, Rubens purchased a large plot on the Rue de Vapper. It cost him 10,000 florins to build, with a frontage of 36 meters and a 24-by-48-meter garden at the bottom. The garden was home to the most diverse plants that Rubens could find and was adorned with copies of ancient arbors dedicated to Hercules, Bacchus, Ceres and Honorus. Equipping the house to the tastes of the owner delayed until 1616 and require considerable expense. This house was unanimously proclaimed by contemporaries as the most beautiful building in the city. It gave the impression of a “Renaissance palace” in the Gothic style of Antwerp. The studio occupied half of the house and Rubens housed his collection in the gallery, the only spacious room in the living quarters. According to M. Lecure, the construction of the mansion meant the final rejection of Italian plans, and the size of the house hinted at the career ambitions of its owner: Rubens was 35 years old, and he “knew what and how he would paint, and also knew how he would live.
Judging by the descriptions of his nephew, Philippe Rubens, Peter Paul led an almost bourgeois life in his pompous house. The artist would rise at four o”clock and go to matins and then work at painting. While he worked, a hired reader read aloud the classics, most often Plutarch, Titus Livy or Seneca. He often dictated his letters without taking his brush off. He usually stayed in the studio until five o”clock in the afternoon. Suffering from gout, Rubens ate a moderate lunch, and after meals he would go for a horseback ride, which could be combined with business visits to the city. Upon his return, he dined with selected friends. “He detested the abuse of wine and gluttony as well as gambling.” Among his friends who constantly visited the house were Antwerp”s burgomaster Nicholas Rocox, the secretary of state Gewarts, Balthasar Moretus, head of the third generation of the publishing family, and Jesuit scholars who had visited the city. Rubens corresponded constantly with Nicolas Peyresque, his brother Valavet and the librarian of the French king, Dupuis.
When the house was built, a separate domed hall with overhead lighting was provided in which sculptures and cameos taken out of Italy were placed. The design and architecture of the studio reflected the serious attitude to his work that Rubens expected from customers, models, and visitors. A special room was reserved for work on sketches and drawings, and model sitters were accepted in it. This room also served as a private study. For students was a special studio, even larger than the studio itself Rubens. Another room, decorated in dark colors, was reserved for the reception of visitors. The master”s finished works were also on display there, which the guests could also view from a wooden balcony. In this two-story room, work on large-scale commissions, primarily for churches, was in progress.
Income and royalties
Rubens was an extremely prolific painter. If we recognize that from his brush went about 1300 paintings, including a giant size (not counting the nearly 300 sketches, drawings and prints), we can calculate that in 41 years of active artistic activities, he wrote an average of 60 paintings per year, that is, 5 paintings per month. Appropriately were and his income, he could earn up to 100 guilders a week, and for large paintings received royalties from 200 to 500 guilders. M. Lecure notes that Leonardo da Vinci during the life of about 20 paintings and Vermeer Delft – 36, and did not sell any. Rubens made no secret of the commercial orientation of his art and attached great importance to material well-being. He compared his own art to a philosopher”s stone. There was a joke that the alchemist Brendel offered Rubens to invest in a laboratory for the transformation of lead into gold with half of future profits, to which the artist said that he had long found his philosopher”s stone, and that “none of your secrets are not worth as much as my palette and paintbrushes.
Rubens cared about his copyrights. A large part of his income came from the distribution of engravings with variations of the subjects of his paintings, they also served as advertising brochures. Rubens” engravings were first forged in the Republic of the United Provinces, which also had the largest market for original prints. With the help of Pieter van Veen – his teacher”s brother – and Dudley Carlton, England”s ambassador in The Hague, Rubens was granted a “privilege” of seven years on February 24, 1620. Under this right, the illegal reproduction of Rubens” engravings in Holland was punishable by confiscation of the prints and a fine of 100 florins. Rubens had earlier, on July 3, 1619, obtained a similar privilege in France for 10 years, of which Nicolas de Peyresque had been invaluable in helping him obtain. The Duke of Brabant granted the same privilege to Rubens on his territory on July 29, and on January 16, 1620 it was extended to all the Spanish Netherlands. The Kingdom of Spain granted Rubens the privilege only in 1630, but at once for 12 years with the right to transfer copyright to the heirs of the artist.
The multitude of Rubens”s works means that Rubensologists are far from always able to trace the history of each of them. From documents and correspondence we can usually only extract financial information. Rubens always concluded a contract with the customer, which stipulated the desired amount, size of the picture and its subject. The artist did not keep personal diaries, and his letters contain almost only business information. In Italy, copying the samples of his predecessors, he kept notebooks, in which he reflected on the laws of anatomy and geometry, developed the basics of his own aesthetics. In the Netherlands he abandoned this practice, so there is no direct evidence of how Rubens understood the interpretation of certain philosophical postulates and religious mysteries, human passions and other things.
According to I. E. Pruss, Rubens” painting is characterized by a special airiness. The transitions of light and shadows are barely noticeable, and the shadows are light and cool in tone. Rubens used a white, smooth ground and in the old Dutch tradition of painting on polished board, which gives the color a special intensity, and the paint layer formed a smooth enamel surface. Rubens applied the paint in fluid, transparent layers through which the underglaze or tone of the ground shone through. The color scheme of the Rubens palette was recreated in 1847 by the Ghent painter J. Rainier. It was not particularly rich – all of Rubens” paintings were painted in lead whitewash, yellow ochre, lacquer marin, ultramarine and brown resin, with the occasional use of vermilion and soot. Rubens did not use deaf shadows, the transitions between light and shadow are not sharp, everything is artistically generalized and brought into light and color harmony. Rubens is characterized by writing with long, wavy strokes, going along the form, which is especially noticeable when depicting strands of hair, painted with one movement of the brush. According to N. A. Dmitrieva, Rubens is one of the artists who should be perceived in the original rather than in reproductions. “His rather heavy compositions and heavy bodies do not seem so in the original: they look light, filled with a kind of grace.
Students and colleagues
Rubens” rapid rise to prominence aroused a certain jealousy in the artistic community of Antwerp. In particular, the elder of the St. Luke”s Guild, the painter-magician Abraham Jansens (1575-1632), who had also worked three years in Italy, offered Rubens a “duel,” in which the artists each had to paint a picture of the same subject. Rubens very subtly rejected his participation in the contest, informing him that his works were on display in public and private collections in Italy and Spain, and nothing prevented Jansens from going there with his works and hanging them side by side.
Those wishing to work in the studio Rubens was so much that in 1611 he wrote to Jacques de Bee that many who wanted to learn from him, agreed to wait a few years, and for two years had to turn down more than a hundred applicants, including relatives of Rubens and Isabella Brant. Jacob Jordaens, Frans Snyders, the three Teniers brothers, and Antonis van Dyck all came out of Rubens” studio. Besides these first-rate artists, Erasmus Quellin senior, Jan van den Hoecke, Pieter van Mol, Justus van Egmont, Abraham van Diepenbeek, Jan van Stock and many others worked for Rubens. Quellin officially took over his workshop after his teacher”s death, while van Egmont made a career in France and was one of the founders of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
Rubens referred to the novice painters as “postgraduates,” each of whom had a particular specialization. In addition to apprentices, Rubens had established masters who were used to paint landscapes, figures, flowers or animals – the brigade method was considered normal in the art world of the Netherlands until the early 1700s. Rubens distinguished – also in terms of value – between paintings painted by pupils, co-authored or alone. He doubled the price for works executed entirely by himself. Naturally, the relationship was far from idyllic: if Zandrart is to be believed, Rubens even envied Jordaens as an artist who was not inferior to him in mastery of coloristry, and in the ability to convey the passion of the characters even surpassed him. For 30 years, Frans Snyders painted animals, flowers and fruit for Rubens” paintings; in the great Flemish painter”s will Snyders was appointed administrator of his estate.
The relationship between Rubens and van Dyck, who spent three years in the studio, was most turbulent. In the studio on rue de Vapper, he entered at the age of 20, when he was already two years in the guild on the rights of the free master. The patron recognized his supreme talent and allowed him to feel like a maestro: for example, only he was allowed to read Rubens”s Italian diaries describing his impressions and technical findings. Van Dyck trusted Rubens to paint reduced copies of paintings from which engravings were made, then distributed throughout Europe. However, when van Dyck was invited to England, Rubens would not retain him. Rumor had it that he had managed to inspire a “well-known feelings” Isabella Brant. They parted, however, quite peacefully: van Dyck gave his former patron a portrait of Isabella Brant, “Ecce Homo” and “Gethsemane,” and Rubens donated the best Spanish stallion from his stables.
Rubens” relationship with Jan Bruegel the Younger occupied a special place: it was a kind of friendly mutual assistance. They made their first work together even before Rubens” departure for Italy in 1598, it was “The Battle of the Amazons. After Rubens” return, they continued to collaborate, and, according to Anne Volette, “it was a collaboration of a rare kind – not just between artists of equal status, but between painters whose stylistic quests were directed in different areas – multi-figure and allegorical-historical scenes by Rubens and atmospheric effects in landscapes and still lifes by Brueghel. The correspondence preserves remarkable examples of the artists” style of communication, when Bruegel could call a colleague in a letter to Cardinal Federico Borromeo of Milan “my secretary Rubens.” Borromeo, a connoisseur of Flemish art, commissioned Bruegel in 1606-1621. At least one still life with flowers for Borromeo Rubens and Bruegel executed together. The creative commonwealth seamlessly evolved into a personal one: Rubens painted Jan Bruegel with his entire family and executed the painting “The Apostle Peter with the Keys” for the tombstone of Peter Bruegel senior in the Brussels cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-la-Chapelle. Isabella Brant became godmother to Jan Bruegel”s children, as did Rubens; after Jan”s untimely death from cholera, Rubens became his executor.
The work of Rubens in the 1610s
During his first decade in Antwerp, Rubens” studio worked primarily on commissions from monastic orders, city authorities and the Plantin-Moretus printery. In the first ten years, Rubens created about 200 paintings, mostly religious content, not counting the few paintings of mythological content and two dozen portraits. Almost all of these works were large in size, as served to decorate churches, palaces and municipal buildings. In 1609, Rubens and Jan Bruegel executed a portrait of the Archduke couple, with Bruegel painting the landscape in the background. Rubens” style on the first official commission manifested itself only in the bright red drapery cutting off the background and giving depth to the image. Careful elaboration of the lace collars, the texture of the pearls, the silk handkerchief, and the gloves clasped in the Archduke”s hand were common. The painting was signed by both artists. In 1610 Nicolas Rococs commissioned The Adoration of the Magi for the town hall, and in 1612 the painting was already presented to Rodrigo Calderon, Count d”Oliva. However, a new stage in the work of Rubens was associated with an order of the prior of the church of St. Walburga, a mediator in the transaction was a philosopher and collector Cornelis van der Hest. It was about the Exaltation of the Cross. Mindful of an unpleasant Roman experience, Rubens worked directly in the church, which allowed him to take into account all the peculiarities of perception of the canvas.
The painting of the Exaltation of the Cross marked both a strong Italian influence and the beginning of liberation from it. Critic E. Fromentin noted above all the influence of Tintoretto”s style with its emphasized theatricality, as well as Michelangelo”s monumentality of the figures and the careful elaboration of each muscle group. Each character in the triptych has his own unique character, which is revealed through the interaction with the other participants in the composition. In the central part of the triptych, Christ”s arms are not spread wide apart, as required by the canon, but stretched upwards above his head. His face is distorted in a fit of pain, his fingers are tightly clenched, and all his body muscles are tense. The efforts of the executioners who raise the cross, the sharp angles of the figures, the elaboration of the glare of light and shadows contribute to the demonstration of the drama that unites man and nature. The faithful contemplating the painting should not have had the slightest doubt of the scale of the sacrifice made for them. N. A. Dmitrieva asserted that the Exaltation of the Cross is based on the tense struggle of the people with the heavy cross that they exert great effort to lift together with the body of the crucified man. It is not about the suffering of the crucified, but about the efforts of those who crucify.
The triptych The Deposition of the Cross for the Antwerp City Cathedral was commissioned to Rubens in 1611 by the Antwerp Riflemen”s Guild. Triptychs were traditional in Dutch art, but Rubens boldly broke with the tradition of depicting on the side sashes either portraits of the commissioning donors or events directly related to the subject of the central part. The artist combined three simultaneous events within the framework of a single work. The side sashes depict the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth and the Circumcision of the Lord, which are painted in festive colors. The Gospel heroes are dressed in elegant costumes and look like lay people, which is also emphasized by the combination of bright, saturated colors. However, the dressy and festive atmosphere of these scenes contrasts with the central scene, as it shows only the prologue to the martyrdom of the Savior. Rubens combined the scenes of the beginning of life and its earthly conclusion. In contrast, the coloring of the central scene is dominated by white, black and red tones. The intense shading used clearly demonstrates an assimilation of Caravagista techniques and was chosen quite deliberately so that the scene would be clearly visible in the semi-darkness of the cathedral. The composition of the central figure was inspired by the antique sculptural group depicting Laocoon and his sons, and the falling diagonal of the dead Christ”s hands gave the scene a finished dystopia and tragedy.
The Antwerp works of 1609-1611 show the rapid evolution of Rubens in technical terms. This is especially noticeable in the writing of decorative draperies. In the first works (especially in the painting The Adoration of the Shepherds) the figures and their garments in polished stiffness more like sculptures, the folds of clothing in the academic manner were laid in the correct order or even depicted flying in the wind, although this was not provided by the subject. In altarpiece draperies began to look natural, the artist learned to convey the movement of the fabric in accordance with the natural movements of the person wearing the fabric. Rubens liked a darkened background, which brightly depicted the foreground. Apparently, he considered the abundance of characters depicted to be a virtue of the painting. The huge number of figures allowed him to place them according to the principle of contrast, and the artist”s actions were built on the principle of theatrical mise en scène: Rubens” compositions are dynamic and always form a single whole.
During his first decade of independent work Rubens painted seven paintings of the Crucifixion, five of the removal from the Cross, three of the Exaltation of the Cross, five of the Holy Families, six of the Adoration of the Christ Child (the Magi and shepherds), many images of St. Francis, Christ with the Apostles – and many other religious subjects. All of them without exception were approved by the customers and censors, in spite of their openly secular artistic solutions. M. Lecure wrote ironically: “Under the brush of Peter Powell, the flight to Egypt takes on the features of a village genre scene. Mary and Joseph”s retreat resembles a family picnic, with loving parents looking after a child. Compared to the feverish ecstasy of Surbaran”s blessed martyrs, Rubens”s dying righteous look strikingly cheerful. His spiritual art is devoid of spirituality.
Rubens did not hesitate to use nudity in religious subjects. In The Great Judgment, the outstretched arms and bodies of the characters form a kind of arch, with God on top. The bodies are neither swarthy, as was the custom in Italian art, nor milky white, as in the Flemish tradition, but are rendered in pink, amber and terracotta. Guido Reni said back in Italy that “Rubens sprinkles blood into his paints,” emphasizing how realistically he had learned to depict human flesh. In his mythological and allegorical paintings this tendency only intensified, and Rubens did not share humanistic theories about the depiction of the human body. His nudes have no historical-educational or metaphysical connotations; in one of his letters Rubens argued that if man is made of flesh and blood, then he should be portrayed as such.
Rubens” Nude Genre and the Problem of Portraiture
In depicting human figures, Rubens developed his own approach. The men in his paintings are always sturdily built, even the great martyrs, whose status can only be seen by the pallor of their skin. Rubens”s male figures are always trim, broad-shouldered, with well-developed musculature in their arms and legs. In contrast, women are characterized by extreme looseness of form. The treatise The Theory of the Human Figure, attributed to Rubens, states that the basic element of the female figure is the circle. Indeed, in Rubens”s depictions of women, the lines of the abdomen, hips, and calves are inscribed in a circle; however, this rule does not apply when depicting breasts. M. Lecure stated that “one gets the impression that when working on the female figure Rubens once and for all forbade himself to use the angle. The peculiarity of Rubens”s depictions of women is such that C. Clarke emphasized in his monograph on nudity in art (1956) that even among art critics is considered a sign of good taste to criticize Rubens as “the artist who painted fat naked women” and, moreover, to use the term “vulgar. A decade later, D. Wedgwood noted that, apparently, Rubens is better than any other artist in the history of art has reached mastery in the depiction of living flesh. Only Titian of his predecessors and Renoir of his successors could match him in depicting the female form.
According to C. Clarke, Rubens”s exuberance of the flesh can only be understood given that he was the greatest religious artist of his time. He cited the Three Graces as an example, noting that the opulence of these figures is nothing less than a hymn of gratitude for the abundance of earthly goods, embodying “the same ingenuous religious feeling as the sheaves of wheat and piles of pumpkins that decorate the village church during the harvest festival. Rubens”s women are part of nature and represent a more optimistic view of nature than the ancient one. Moreover, in Rubens” worldview, the faith of Christ and the subject of the triumph of the Holy Communion were quite compatible with the belief in the natural order of things and the wholeness of the entire universe. In other words, the world could be comprehended through personification, and man felt in himself a direct involvement in world processes.
Rubens” nudes were the result of an enormous amount of analytical work. Peter Paul Rubens developed a method that subsequently became part of the arsenal of all academic schools of painting: he painted ancient statues and copied the work of his predecessors until he fully assimilated the ideal of completeness of form. Then, working from life, he subordinated real visible forms to the canon imprinted in memory. For this reason it is quite difficult to determine from where the images are borrowed. For example, in the painting Venus, Bacchus and Area, the pose of Area is borrowed from the crouching Aphrodite of Daedalus, while Venus probably goes back to Michelangelo”s Leda. This painting, with its figures in relief, is one of Rubens” most classicist. In the baroque composition Perseus Liberating Andromeda from the Hermitage collection, the figure of Andromeda is derived from one of the ancient statues of Venus Pudica (Venus the Chaste). The prototype may have been a copy of Praxiteles” Aphrodite of Cnidus in Rubens” sketch, which survives only in copy. According to C. Clarke, the greatness of Rubens the artist was expressed in the fact that he understood the moment when you can abandon the strict canon of classical form. D. Wedgwood on the example of the painting “Three Graces” also demonstrated how Rubens transformed the standard form and pose of ancient sculptures for his own purposes.
Rubens, like the Renaissance masters, sought to give the figures a full-bodied materiality. Renaissance artists sought to do this by realizing a closed form with the ideal finality of a sphere or cylinder. Rubens sought a similar effect through the overlapping lines and molding of the forms enclosed in them. C. Clarke wrote: “Even if he had no natural attraction to fat women, he would have considered the folds of lush flesh necessary to sculpt the form.” Rubens detected movement in the wrinkles and folds of stretched or relaxed skin.
A peculiar feature of Rubens the individual and Rubens the painter was his dislike of portraits. If he agreed to an order, he was always posed by members of the upper aristocracy, as was the case in Genoa with Spinola and Doria, as well as the Duke of Brabant and the bourgeois of Antwerp. As a rule, a portrait was only the beginning of a large commission, for example, to decorate a palace or a tombstone. In agreeing to paint a portrait, Rubens made no secret of the fact that he was doing a great favor. The paradox against this background is that in the narrative canvases produced by the brigade method in his studio, Rubens preferred to paint faces. Graphic and pictorial portraits of relatives or sympathetic people are numerous in Rubens”s legacy. For example, Rubens painted his son”s future mother-in-law, Susanna Fauremen, six times, even more often than his wife, beginning in 1620.
К. Clark wrote that the question of portraiture is even more complicated when working in the genre of nudes. In any concept of nudity the nature of the head crowning the body is decisive, which is true even for classical statues in which the expression of faces is reduced to a minimum. In the case of the nude figure, the face remains a subordinate element of the whole, but should not go unnoticed. For Rubens – as for any major master – the solution was to create a type, and he did for the depiction of the female nude body what Michelangelo did for the male. According to C. Clark, “he so fully realized the expressive possibilities of female nudity that throughout the next century artists who were not slaves to academism looked at him through Rubens” eyes, depicting lush, pearl-colored bodies.” This was especially true of French art, with Rubens” sense of color and skin texture being realized in the work of Antoine Watteau, and the type developed by Rubens reflected in the works of Boucher and Fragonard.
The chaste Rubens never worked with nude nudes in his studio and painted only faces from life. There are well-known parallels between the structure of the bodies and the expressions of the faces in his paintings, which can only be explained by the work of the master”s imagination.
Rubens the intellectual. “The Four Philosophers.”
Rubens, like all his contemporaries, considered the unattainable model of antiquity. Fluent in Latin, he preferred to read books in this language all his life, and not only Roman classics, but also Latin translations of ancient Greek writers and philosophers, as well as serious moral and philosophical literature of his time, which was also published in Latin. Rubens” correspondence contains many Latin quotations, both exact ones from memory and his own aphorisms. He cited most frequently Juvenal”s satires, Virgil”s poems, and the works of Plutarch and Tacitus. He took a professional interest in Latin literature, and his correspondence preserves his discussions of manuscript copies of unknown or as yet unpublished works of ancient authors. Rubens wrote freely in Latin, using it either to discuss problems of philosophy and high politics or, conversely, to cipher statements not intended for outsiders. Letters to Secretary of State Gewarts from Spain are written in a diptych mixture of Flemish and Latin, with business and mundane matters discussed in Dutch and scientific and political matters in Latin, including passages about the Spaniards” hatred of Count Duke Olivares.
Rubens was well versed in art and the history of material culture and stood out in this area even among his scholarly friends. He was especially fond of gems and coins, and one antique gem he could not sell with his collection to the Duke of Buckingham – he was so attached to it. In the eyes of Rubens and his entourage, antiquity was the era of the highest flowering of civilization, which should be commensurate with it and imitate it. Naturally, antiquity served Rubens as a source of themes and patterns, individual motifs and compositional techniques. Rubens drew from antiquity two permanent themes in his paintings – Bacchanalia and Triumph after a battle, which symbolized for him two complementary sides of existence, the natural and the sublime-human. The connection with antiquity was manifested not only in the structure of Rubens”s artistic thought, but also in many specific details. He was well aware of the forms of ancient architecture, ornaments, utensils, clothing and other things. Nicolas de Peyresque admired the accuracy of the images of the sandals of the Roman soldiers for a series of skewers about the exploits of Emperor Constantine. Rubens” correspondence contains multi-page passages on the forms and uses of antique tripods, images on antique silver spoons, and other things. His visual memory was as good as his memory for texts. At the same time, to the displeasure of the classicist critics, Rubens treated the legacy of antiquity freely and did not adhere to archaeological accuracy. His ancient heroes and early Christian martyrs are dressed in silk and velvet according to contemporary fashion. This met the aesthetic needs of Rubens himself, who did not want to sacrifice the variety of figures and coloristic juxtapositions. In a letter to Francis Junius on August 1, 1637, Rubens compared the attempt to follow antique painting to the efforts of Orpheus to catch the shadow of Eurydice and reminded him that, when taking antique statues as an example, one must always remember the difference between the artistic language of painting and sculpture.
A source of scientific and aesthetic ideas for the artist was also the circle of the famous scholar Justus Lipsius, which included his brother Philip Rubens. Peter Paul himself was also well acquainted with the philosophy of neostoicism, but at the same time he was apparently close to Erasmus” image of the rational and virtuous “Christian warrior. These motifs were expressed in the portrait known as The Four Philosophers. The portrait is undated, but it is generally considered a tribute to Brother Philip, who died August 8, 1611, and Justus Lipsius, who died March 23, 1606, while the Rubens brothers were still in Italy. Accordingly, the philosopher was placed at the very center of the composition, and a bust of Seneca alluded to his last scientific work. The executor of Lipsius” last will was another of his favorite disciples, Jan Voverius, shown in profile on the right side of the painting. The symbolic meaning of the painting was revealed in the three books lying in front of those depicted. Lipsius points to a certain passage in the fourth, revealed volume. These may be the writings of Seneca. Philip Rubens holds a pen, ready to take notes, and Voverius opens another book. All three are dressed in austere dark suits, emphasizing their status, Lipsia highlights a fur collar, then donated to the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral in Hull. In addition to those listed, the canvas depicts its author”s self-portrait – separate from the scholars on the left – and (bottom right) Lipsius”s beloved dog, named Pug. In the background, the window shows the landscape. The columns framing the window are similar to those preserved on the Palatine Hill in Rome and refer to the portico stoic, echoing the portrait bust of Seneca. The composition of the painting is multidimensional and can be read in various ways. First, it is built on the symmetrical arrangement of the Rubens brothers on the left edge of the painting and the Lipsius and Voverius opposing this group on the right. On the other hand, Voverius, Lipsius and Philippe Rubens are depicted compactly, while Peter Paul Rubens and Seneca, left and right, are placed above the group of scholars in the background, but flush with Lipsius” head. Finally, there is also a third – diagonal – axis of composition, formed by the columns in the window and the two closed books on the table. The bust of Seneca depicted in the painting belonged to the artist and was used in several paintings and engravings. In the 1615 reissue of Lipsius” collection of Seneca”s writings, the illustrations were engraved from sketches by Rubens, and the preface called him “the Apelles of our day,” whose work serves as a fitting epitaph to both Seneca and Lipsius.
Mark Morford compared the Four Philosophers with a 1606 Padua Self-Portrait with Friends, dedicated to the death of Lipsius in the same year. The center of the composition of the night self-portrait is formed by a triad of faces of the Voverius and the Rubens brothers, while the profile of Lipsius, shifted to the very edge, serves as a genius guardian of the entire group, which is to adhere to a stoic philosophy without a teacher. In The Four Philosophers, Peter Paul Rubens portrayed himself separately, probably signifying the need to continue life already without his brother and his Stoicism.
Rubens and Animalistics
From 1610 to 1620, at the request of the landlords of Antwerp Rubens performed about ten paintings on hunting subjects, not including paintings of lions, the religious image of the patron saint of hunters st. Hubert, Diana on the hunt, and the like. The realism of these scenes was based on an in-depth study of nature and zoology: the list of books commissioned by the artist from Plantin-Moretus publishers includes several special works. Sketches of animals he was engaged in the menagerie of the Duke of Gonzaga, and copying in Rome, ancient sarcophagi, did not miss the story of the hunt for the Calidonian beast. He also copied the head of a rhinoceros by Durer. There is an anecdote that Rubens, working on the painting The Hunt for Lions, invited the tamer with his pet into the studio and was so captivated by the spectacle of the open mouth that he again and again made the tamer to tantalize the lion. This subsequently caused the tamer to be devoured by a lion in Bruges.
Baroque. “Flemish Sistine.”
М. Lecure wondered whether Rubens could be considered a Baroque painter, and acknowledged that this notion, difficult to define temporally and spatially, aptly demonstrates his duality. The heyday of Rubens” work came at the peak of the Baroque period. According to I. E. Pruss, he was one of the creators of this style and its largest representative, but in many respects his creative credo was akin to the Renaissance. In the first place, this referred to the perception of the world. M. Lecure viewed the Baroque as the art of the world that had lost its immutability. The discovery of the New World and the infinity of the universe brought to life many new beliefs, and seventeenth-century man was faced with the need to rethink cosmology. Hence the era”s love of multiple elements and visibility, its love of ornamentation and public splendor. Rubens still perceived the world as a comprehensive unity, with man as the center of the universe, to be glorified in every possible way.
E. I. Rothenberg wrote about the duality of Baroque and Rubens”s work. He called Rubens “the most mythological” of the painters of his century, because with him the myth is realized as a natural form of the primary sense of life. In its mythological beginning, he surpassed not only the artists of the Renaissance, but even the very antiquity, as “ancient art does not know so open and so powerful pressure of the vital instinct, which we find in the works of Rubens – in the creations of classical Greece, the natural and organic elements were in a mandatory balance with the ordering factors. This dominance of the elemental-natural element in the worldview of Rubens and the painters of the Flemish school close to him in an era as complex and reflexive as the seventeenth century seems unexpected. <…> In contrast to the ambivalent structure of the Baroque image in Italian art, based on the union and simultaneously on the antithesis of two substances – matter and spirit – the spiritual beginning of Rubens”s images is perceived not as an independent substance, opposing the material substance, but as the natural generation and development of a single basis – the matter revived and thus spiritualized. Dualistic antinomy is opposed to the true image monism”.
If we count the Baroque style from the Roman buildings of the Jesuit order, then historically Rubens announced his affiliation to this style in 1620, when he accepted an order from the Jesuits to design the facade and interior decoration of the Church of St. Ignatius (now dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo). The order was grandiose in scale and very tight schedule: the contract was signed on March 20, 1620, and the work was delivered at the end of that year. Rubens stood between Michelangelo and Bernini as the artist of his era who was able to combine painting, sculpture and architecture in his art. In Rubens” workshop, 39 canvases were painted, drawings and models of the facade and internal sculptural decoration were made. In July 1718 the church burned down, and from the painting of the artist has left no trace, with the exception of a few preliminary sketches and sketches. From these latter it follows that Rubens conceived the structure as a “Flemish Sistine”: as in the Vatican, each of the 39 paintings was inscribed in a separate vault. The Jesuits had a very specific goal in mind: Rubens was commissioned with the “Bible of the Poor”, which alternated between Old Testament and New Testament subjects. The artist was able to realize grand aspirations when he had to build compositions and figures so that parishioners could see them from afar at the right angle. The facade sculptures were also modeled after Rubens. Rubens had the idea of a three-part composition of the facade, with levels united by volutes, just as in the Roman Church of Il Gesù. The white marble façade symbolized the Heavenly Jerusalem that came down to earth.
Life of Rubens in the early 1620s
Rubens” financial and reputational prosperity could be called into question in 1621-1622, when the 12-year truce between Catholics and Protestants ended in the Netherlands and the Thirty Years” War began in neighboring Germany. However, outwardly little has changed in the life of Rubens: he spent a lot of time for orders in the studio, took a dinner Antwerp bourgeois, chaired the Society of Romanists. On Saturdays and Sundays he carried out orders from the Plantin – Moretus printing shop: he drew frontispieces, designed title pages and created illustrations. He also received commissions from sculptors, including Lucas Fiderbe, who based all of his statues on Rubens”s models and sketches. Peter Paul collaborated with the Rückert family of harpsichord makers and sketched carpets and tapestries for the merchant Sveerts.
In 1622 Rubens published an album of the Palaces of Genoa in two volumes, the first devoted to antiquity and the second to his time. The book included 139 inset tables with illustrations based on drawings and measurements by Rubens and Deodat del Monte from 15 years earlier. The artist”s reasons for choosing mercantile Genoa over Rome, Florence, or Venice lay on the surface. The native of merchant Antwerp wrote in the preface to the book that he preferred the Genoese houses, “more suitable for ordinary families than for the court of a sovereign prince. In a sense, Rubens was creating a future job for himself with this edition. Calling the Gothic style “barbaric,” he agitated wealthy Dutchmen to build houses with spacious halls and staircases, and the imposing size of the altars in the New Manner churches, the coffered vaults and spacious piers could best be filled with paintings from his studio.
Rubens vividly continued to be interested not only in theoretical science, but also in applied science. Among his interlocutors and correspondents were Hugo Grotius and Cornelis Drebbel, and, communicating with the latter, Rubens became interested not only in optics, but also in the problem of the “perpetuum mobile”. To make such a device, he even had to hire the Brabant mint master Jean de Montfort. From the descriptions, the device looked more like a thermometer and was described in a book on atmospheric research. In the humanities he became more and more interested in medieval and modern French history (including Froissart”s Chronicles), even writing out for himself the memoirs of Hossat, the mediator of Henry IV”s conversion to the Catholic faith, and collecting documents about the reign of that king and his heir, Louis XIII. He also wrote himself copies of the edicts forbidding duels, and followed the trials of aristocrats who had violated the prohibition. Rubens was one of the subscribers to the newspapers that had just appeared, including the Rhenish Gazette and the Italian Chronicle, the latter of which he strongly recommended to all his acquaintances and also forwarded to Peyrescu.
Rubens” true passion was collecting art objects, which he had been fascinated by while still in Italy. He was particularly interested in coins and medals, as well as gems, which were sources of details about the religious and domestic customs of antiquity and an invaluable guide to chronology. As early as 1618-1619 Rubens corresponded with the English statesman and amateur painter Dedley Carlton. His collection of antiques Rubens valued at 6850 gold florins, and offered to pay for their 12 paintings, an admirer of which was Carleton. The deal was done, and the artist became the owner of 21 large, 8 “children”s” and 4 belted sculptures, 57 busts, 17 pedestals, 5 urns, 5 bas-reliefs and a set of other items. They were placed in his domestic rotunda “with order and symmetry” . His interest in the affairs of the French court and the needs of collecting gradually led Rubens to the execution of artistic and political orders.
Maria de Medici Gallery
In 1621, reconciled with her son Louis XIII, Queen Mother Mary de Medici decided to decorate her residence, the Luxembourg Palace. It was Rubens who was invited to perform the 24 paintings. This was mainly because the major French painters, Poussin and Lorrain, were in Rome that year, while the Italians, Guido Reni or Guercino, were not about to leave Italy. The queen wished to arrange a gallery of fame, like the one once created by Vasari in Florence”s Palazzo Vecchio. By that time Rubens had managed to perform for the French court a series of trellises glorifying Constantine the Great. Maria de Medici”s friendship with Archduchess Isabel Clara Eugenia may have played a role. Negotiations with the artist began in 1621; in November the royal intendant Richelieu gave his consent, and on December 23 Nicolas de Peyresque wrote to Rubens about his invitation to Paris.
Rubens arrived in the French capital in January 1622. During negotiations with the queen, Richelieu and the treasurer Abbé de Saint-Ambroise, the subjects of the first 15 canvases were determined. The artist was faced with the daunting task of creating a modern myth around the queen in the absence of bright positive subjects in her life, and in view of the very tense relations between the queen-mother, the king and Cardinal Richelieu. Rubens found the court environment and the Parisian way of life alien, and he left the city on March 4. During this period a face-to-face acquaintance with Peyresque took place. A major success was the signing of a contract for 20,000 ecus, which stipulated that even in the event of the death of the customer will be paid for the part of the order already completed. Rubens preferred to execute the work in Antwerp, but he corresponded intensively, agreeing on all the details. By May 19, 1622 was ready to concept of the upcoming work, which caused severe discontent in the artistic world of Paris, was even started a rumor about the death of Rubens, which he denied personally. The rumor had a real basis: the engraver Lucas Vorstermann, irritated by the master”s exactingness, attacked Rubens with a poker. Soon Rubens was demanded to send back sketches of paintings for review, which offended him as a sign of mistrust of his craftsmanship; he would not comply with the demand. Peyresque then remarked that the cartons might fall into the hands of envious people who would make copies of them. As it turned out later, the initiator of this history was the treasurer of the Abbe de Saint-Ambroise, who wanted to get some things Rubens for his collection. In November 1622 a plague broke out in Antwerp, but Rubens worked steadily on the order. By January 1623, the gallery of paintings was nearly complete. The artist demanded that two rooms in the Luxembourg Palace be prepared for him and was preparing to present the paintings in Paris. Peyresque, in a letter dated May 10, 1623, recommended that Rubens take a number of diplomatic steps, in particular to present the painting to Richelieu. By that time he had presented the finished paintings in Brussels and the Archduchess was very pleased with them. May 24, Rubens arrived in Paris, bringing with him 9 more paintings and a collection of medals of the Duke of Arschot for sale. Queen and Duke Richelieu reached Rubens only in mid-June, according to Roger de Peel, the Queen was equally captivated by the paintings and Rubens′ mannerisms, and the Cardinal “with admiration looked at the paintings and could not admire them. Critics, however, attacked the cartons for the trellis with the story of Constantine, accusing Rubens of violating anatomy (the feet of the Equal-to-the-Apostles emperor were allegedly depicted as crooked). The artist returned home at the very end of June and announced that it would take a month and a half to complete the cycle. However, he was next invited to Paris only on February 4, 1625.
A new trip to Paris proved unsuccessful. The city was celebrating the marriage in absentia of Princess Henrietta to the King of England, and the Duke of Buckingham was the groom”s representative. On May 13, 1625, the platform on which Rubens was seated collapsed, but the artist grasped the beam and was unharmed. Soon after, while trying on shoes, a shoemaker injured Rubens” foot and he was unable to move for 10 days. Rubens was waiting for a second order: it was supposed to create a gallery of paintings from the life of Henry IV, but the Queen procrastinated; in addition, the fee for completed orders have not come. According to D. Wedgwood, the reason were suspicions Richelieu that Rubens was a Spanish agent. Artist complained in letters that the French court tired of him. The only consolation was that he was allowed access to the Fontainebleau collections and was able to make copies of paintings by Primaticcio and Giulio Romano. On 11 June Peter Paul Rubens arrived in Brussels and the next day in his native Antwerp.
The paintings in this series represent the entire life of Maria de Medici, from her birth to her reconciliation with her son in 1625. The compositions are all done in a crowded, theatrical style, which may recall both Veronese and Michelangelo at the same time. E. Fromentin, however, noted that the paintings have almost no Rubensian amber tones, their coloring is reminiscent of his Italian works. Contemporaries seemed inappropriate placement of the Olympic gods, where it would be enough of the authority of the Church. The nude Mercury placed in the scene of the signing of the Angoulême Agreement between Cardinal Larochefoucauld and de Guise was particularly frowned upon. Rubens”s paintings also contain several elements of a clearly satirical nature: for example, in several scenes he placed a dog in the foreground, a gift from the Dowager Duchess Isabelle Clara Eugenia to the Queen, which he himself had brought from Brussels to Paris. Baudelaire was delighted 200 years later to discover that, on an officious canvas, Rubens had shod Henry IV in an unkempt boot and a crumpled stocking.
The execution of an official commission from the French kingdom brought Rubens many honors. On June 30, 1623 he was awarded a pension of 10 ecus “in recognition of his services to the King”, and on June 5, 1624 King Philip IV of Spain, at the artist”s request, supported by the Privy Council in Brussels, granted him nobility.
The beginning of a diplomatic career
After the siege of Breda began, Rubens tried to make a career as a diplomat at the Brussels court. His informant in the affairs of the United Provinces was his wife”s cousin, Jan Brant. The Archduchess, however, did not attach much importance to his virtues as an adviser, but commissioned a portrait of the Polish envoy for Rubens in 1624, which provoked a scathing comment from a French agent. However, at the wedding of Princess Henrietta in Paris in May 1625, Rubens was able to make contacts at the English court and personally with the Duke of Buckingham, becoming the only authoritative liaison between the Spanish authorities and the English court, which could put pressure on the Dutch. Buckingham”s representative, Baltasar Gerbier, was himself approached by Rubens, as the duke sought to acquire the artist”s rich collection. At a personal meeting, Rubens was commissioned to paint two portraits and was given some details about Charles I”s foreign policy strategy. He then made a short trip to Germany, reporting back to the Duchess. As the plague returned to Antwerp, Rubens took the family to Laeken in October 1625. Rubens painted all the prominent figures of the opposing parties: a half-length portrait of Buckingham in sangina and horse – oil, the commander Spinola, and even the Dowager Duchess, who on July 10, 1625 stopped at his house on the way from Breda. Finally the Duke of Buckingham personally visited Rubens and bought his collection for 100,000 florins. Along the way the artist received from him the full text of the Anglo-Dutch treaty, which he immediately sent to Paris. The Duke of Richelieu commissioned him for two paintings and resolved the issue with the triumphal gallery of Henry IV. Nevertheless, Spinola did not appreciate Rubens” connections and regarded him only as a liaison with Jan Brant. Rubens continued to actively supply the Brussels court with information from England, but Madrid never appreciated its importance.
The Death of Isabella Brant
In February 1626, Rubens returned home from a four-month trip to England. The plague epidemic in Antwerp had not subsided, and its victim was 34-year-old Isabella Brant – the artist”s lawful wife. On July 15, Rubens allowed himself a rare expression of feeling in a letter to the librarian Dupuis:
Truly I have lost an excellent friend, whom I could and should have loved, because she possessed none of the faults of her sex; she was neither stern nor weak, but so kind and so honest, so virtuous, that all loved her alive and mourn her dead. This loss is worthy of deep distress, and since the only cure for all sorrow is oblivion, child of time, I will have to place all my hope in it. But it will be very difficult for me to separate my grief from the memory that I must forever cherish of a dear and above all revered being.
The first person to respond to Rubens” grief was Count Duke Olivares, in a letter of August 8, 1626, who even scolded the artist-diplomat for excessive restraint:
You do not write to me about the death of your wife (thus showing your usual modesty and modesty), but I have learned of it and sympathize with your loneliness, for I know how deeply you loved and honored her. I am counting on your discretion and believe that in such cases it is more appropriate to keep courage and submit to the will of God than to find reasons for consolation.
Rubens buried his wife beside her mother and decorated the tombstone with an image of the Virgin and Child and an epitaph of his own composition. In November, after a short trip to Paris, Rubens went to hand over the art collection sold to Buckingham. According to the inventory there were: 19 paintings by Titian, 2 – Correggio, 21 – Bassano, 13 – Veronese, 8 – Palma, 17 – Tintoretto, 3 – Raphael, 3 – Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens′ own works – 13, 8 of Hans Holbein Jr, Quentin Massey – 1, Snyders – 2, Antonio Moreau – 8, William Kay – 6. In addition: 9 statues of metal, 2 statues of ivory, 2 marble statues and 12 boxes of gems.
The death of Isabella Brant pushed Rubens into big politics, and for several years he almost stopped painting, although the studio continued to work on numerous commissions. Diplomatic assignments and the travels associated with them helped to smooth over time the loss and revive the skills of Pieter Paul Rubens.
Anglo-Spanish negotiations and Rubens
Rubens was also ambitious: by initiating negotiations with the General States, he hoped to raise his public profile considerably. Another motive: in one of his letters Rubens openly declared that on the eve of a major war he worried only about “the safety of his rings and his person. The new plan of Rubens, unanimously approved in Brussels Archduchess Isabel and in Madrid Count-Duke Olivares and King Philip, was to begin separate talks between the Republic of the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands, and the conclusion of peace could only occur when neutralized by England – the main Dutch ally. This required the conclusion of an Anglo-Spanish treaty, which would also lead to the encirclement of France with the possessions or allies of the Spanish kingdom.
In January 1627 Gerber delivered to Rubens a letter of credence from Buckingham and a draft of the Anglo-Spanish agreement. Among its items were articles on the cessation of hostilities and a regime of free trade between England, Spain, Denmark and Holland while the treaty was being prepared and duly drawn up. These documents were handed to the Archduchess, who suggested that bilateral relations be limited. Buckingham agreed to these terms; Rubens proved trustworthy at the English court, but in Madrid his actions were again viewed with skepticism. The Infanta Isabel was even censured in a personal letter from Philip IV. Rubens, who tried to participate in the Spanish-Savoy negotiations (Duke Charles-Emmanuel was ready to support the Spanish side against France), was dismissed by personal order of the king. In June 1627 King Philip delegated authority to negotiate with England to the Archduchess of Brussels, dating the decree to February 24, 1626.
In July 1627, Rubens traveled to Holland to meet with Gerbier, framing it as a pleasure trip. He visited Delft and Utrecht, aroused the suspicions of the British ambassador, and negotiations were on the verge of breaking down. At this time came the news of the Franco-Spanish treaty of a joint invasion of the British Isles and the restoration of the Catholic faith there, which had been signed by Olivares as early as March 20, 1627. This explains the false dates on the documents sent to Brussels and the refusal of the Spanish envoy to France to meet with Rubens. The artist learned all about it personally from the Infanta and was deeply discouraged. September 18, he wrote to Buckingham that by treaty Spain provides France 60 military ships, but the Infanta is determined to delay their delivery, and Rubens will continue to work in the same direction, although no one asked him to do so. It was Rubens who voiced the dissatisfaction of the Flemish nobility with Spanish policy at the High Council meeting in Brussels. Because the invasion was indefinitely delayed and the aid to the French Protestants was ruinous, King Charles I decided to return to negotiations with Spain. Rubens informed Spinola of this in December 1627, and in January Spinola left for Madrid with an envoy, Don Diego Messia. The initiative encountered the opposition of King Philip, who went to the trouble of delaying all decisions; Spinola was sent as viceroy to Milan, where he died in 1630.
In the same December 1627 Rubens tried to reach the leadership of the Protestant League by receiving the Danish envoy to The Hague, Vosbergen, in his studio. The Danish proposals Rubens also sent Spinola to Madrid, hoping to secure concessions from Holland. In a sense, Rubens” house became the “reception room” of the Brussels court: the envoys of Lorraine and England lodged there before official receptions. In addition, Rubens”s numerous correspondents in the antique trade allowed for an extensive secret correspondence in which the artist used at least four different ciphers. Most notable against this background is that Rubens did not abandon his plans for the Henry IV Gallery, and on January 27, 1628 he informed the Abbé de Saint-Ambroise that he had begun work on sketches. However, the project never materialized.
On May 1, 1628, an order came from Madrid to forward all the correspondence with English officials that Rubens had accumulated over three years. Despite the insult of this order (the king did not trust the artist”s analytical skills), Rubens decided to personally take the archive to the Spanish capital. On July 4 Madrid consented, following a letter from the Infanta that Rubens had not leaked or distorted information. The official reason for the trip was a royal commission to paint a ceremonial portrait. Rubens drew up a will for both of his sons before he left. This document listed houses in Basquel and Rue Juif, a farm in Swindrecht of 32 arpans, a rent of 3,717 florins paid by Brabant, Antwerp, Ypres and Ninova. From the sale of the collection to Buckingham 84,000 florins remained, the other money went to buy 3 houses in Basquel and 4 houses in Rue d”Agno, adjacent to the artist”s possessions. The farm in Eckeren brought 400 florins a year. In addition, he received 3,173 florins in state rent from the income of the Brussels Canal. The register does not include the works of art he created, nor his collection of antique gems. The jewels of the late Isabella Brant were valued at 2,700 florins. After certifying his will on August 28, Rubens departed for Spain the next day.
The trip to Spain was Rubens” first official diplomatic assignment, and he had the necessary credentials from Brussels and rode on a call from Madrid. Rubens took some paintings with him, but he was in a hurry: he did not stop by Paris or Provence to visit Peyrescu, the only exception being his two-day trip to the besieged La Rochelle. On September 15, the artist arrived in Madrid. His appearance caused grave concern to the papal nuncio Giovanbattista Pamphili. At a royal audience, Philip IV did not express particular enthusiasm for the works of Rubens, on Sept. 28 was to meet the royal council on the question of whether to proceed with the negotiations with the British. The expected British envoy did not arrive because of the attempt on Buckingham in Portsmouth on 23 August, of which Madrid learned only on 5 October. Active Rubens was bored with court life: he did not share the king”s passion for opera, has not found common themes for conversations with Olivares, and therefore returned to painting, which he reported to Peyrescu December 2.
Although almost no one in Madrid believed Rubens” claims to an artistic mission, for eight months of his second stay in Spain he practiced painting almost exclusively. By order of the king, a studio was set up for Rubens in the palace, and Philip IV visited him daily, although the Flemish society clearly appealed to the monarch more than his art. Nevertheless, Rubens painted portraits of the king and his brother Cardinal Ferdinand, the queen, the Infanta Maria Theresa, and so on. For his equestrian portrait of the king, Rubens received poetic praise from Lope de Vega, who called him a “new Titian.” By royal order all the art collections were opened to Rubens, and the court painter Diego de Velázquez was appointed as his guide. Rubens seized the moment to copy, as in his youth, the works of Titian that interested him – 32 paintings in all. With Velázquez they were able to find common ground and engaged in horseback riding. A description of Rubens” life in Spain was left by Velázquez”s father-in-law, Pacheco.
Rubens” diplomatic correspondence from Madrid is lost, so only the final decision is known: Olivares sent the artist on a mission to England, giving him a diamond ring worth 2,000 ducats as a parting gift. On April 28, 1629, Rubens left by mail carriage for Brussels. The day before his departure King Philip appointed Rubens secretary of the Privy Council of the Netherlands.
According to M. Lecuret, Rubens was sent to London on a reconnaissance mission, and at the same time he was to smooth out all the friction in relations, so that then a completely ready agreement was signed. The task was grandiose: the deal Richelieu was preparing with England was to be frustrated; the head of the French Huguenots, Soubiz, was to be persuaded to return to France in order to stir up trouble further; the possibility of reconciling the Elector of the Palatinate with the Austrian Emperor was to be found, as it was the main reason for London”s desire for negotiations; finally, all efforts were to be made to conclude an armistice between Spain and the United Provinces. “If Reubens had succeeded in accomplishing all these tasks, he would have nipped the Thirty Years” War in the bud.”
Leaving Madrid on April 28, Rubens was in Paris on May 11 and in Brussels two days later. The Infanta Isabella provided him with sufficient funds to live in London, but freed the envoy from the need to negotiate with The Hague, because one of her emissaries, Jan Kesseler, was there. Nor did Reubens receive any money to give to Marshal Soubiz. On the way he stopped by his workshop in Antwerp and took his brother-in-law, Hendrik Brant, with him. On June 3 they boarded a warship sent by King Charles at Dunkirk. On Trinity Day, June 5, 1629 Commissioner Rubens was already in London.
Rubens” allies in his mission were the Savoy envoys, while the Dutch envoy, Joachimi, emphasized in every way that Rubens was in the English capital on direct professional duty. His position became disadvantageous after the arrival of the French envoy de Châteauneuf, because the Frenchman had the right to make decisions on the spot, while Rubens had to report to Olivares for every step. In those days mail from London to Madrid took 11 days and decision-making took a long time. The king, however, was extremely kind to Rubens and treated him as a plenipotentiary representative of a foreign power.
Rubens spent ten months in London. Here he acquired a society that was pleasing to him as an antiquarian and an artist, he was in close contact with his father and daughter Gentileschi, Ben Jonson, and made a personal acquaintance with Cornelis Drebbel. He became acquainted with the collector Cotton and gained access to the collections of the Earl of Arundel. The University of Cambridge awarded him a Master of Arts degree. Rubens” mood is evidenced by his letter to Peirescu of August 9:
…Thus, on this island I have by no means encountered the savagery which one might expect, judging by its climate, so far removed from Italian delights. I confess even that I have never seen so many pictures by the finest masters as in the palace of the King of England and the late Duke of Buckingham. The Comte d”Arundel possesses innumerable ancient statues as well as Greek and Latin inscriptions, which Your Grace knows from the edition and scholarly commentary of John Selden, a work worthy of this most learned and delicate mind…
Rubens was received by the King”s favorite, the Earl of Carlisle, and once again took up his brushwork, following the wishes of Gervais and secular society. In the royal assembly, he copied for himself Mantegna”s Triumph of Caesar series, which had once been in the collection of the Duke of Mantua and had been acquired by King Charles. In fact, negotiations began entirely unsuccessfully, since the king, despite his great affection for the artist and respect for his status, was unwilling to make concessions even in minor details. The Duke of Soubiz pestered the envoy with complaints about his lack of money and soon gave up the fight altogether. The arrival of a French ambassador with great financial resources meant that Rubens was out of the “diplomatic race. However, thanks to excellent relations with the king, he won the appointment of an envoy to Madrid Francis Cottington, pro-Spanish Catholic, which is exactly what persuaded the artist to stay in London. However, military defeats in the Spanish Netherlands and Olivares” lack of clarity meant that the restoration of relations was impossible. On January 11, 1630 a Spanish envoy, Don Carlos Coloma, arrived in London. After the transfer of cases and papers to him on March 6, Rubens left the English capital.
Just before his departure, on March 3, 1630, King Charles I knighted the artist, adding to his coat of arms the English royal lion on a red background in the upper left quarter of the blazon. Until the end of the 19th century, only eight foreign artists were knighted. Rubens also received a jeweled sword, a diamond ribbon for his hat, and a diamond ring from the finger of the monarch. He also received a passport ordering all Dutch courts not to obstruct Rubens. At Dover, Rubens encountered an unexpected problem: he was approached by young English Catholics with a request to help them leave for Flanders: the girls wanted to go to a monastery and the young men wanted to go to a Jesuit seminary. Rubens was forced to appeal to both the English minister and the Spanish envoy; negotiations lasted 18 days, but nothing is known of their results. On March 23 he left England, and on April 6 Balthasar Moretus recorded in his diary the arrival of Rubens in Antwerp. The Archduchess reimbursed him for all his expenses and signed a petition granting the artist a Spanish knighthood similar to the English one. By that time, however, Rubens”s studio had nearly collapsed, and the “aspirants” scattered. On August 20, 1631 King Philip IV granted the request for the title. A peace treaty between England and Spain was still signed November 15, 1630, ratification took place on Dec. 17. There was not a word about the status of the Palatinate and the reconciliation between Flanders and Holland. Rubens” diplomatic mission ended in total failure.
Maria de Medici”s Expulsion and Separate Negotiations at The Hague
After the events of July 1631, Maria de Medici fled from the confines of the French kingdom and took refuge in Hagenau. The Archduchess did not want to keep the queen mother in Brussels and seconded Rubens, who met her in Mons on 29 July. After speaking to the queen and the infanta, Rubens wrote to Olivares on August 1, suggesting that he intervene in the dynastic feud. The proposal was considered at the Privy Council on 16 August and rejected. Queen Maria de Medici, realizing there would be no help from Spain, settled in a monastery in Antwerp and frequently paid Rubens visits. She even tried to sell him her jewels to hire troops; Rubens bought something. However, the Infanta Isabel in April 1632 allowed Rubens to leave the French affairs. Even earlier, he had been instructed to travel to The Hague for separate negotiations with the stategalter of the United Provinces. The nine-day trip proved extremely unsuccessful. Hugo Grotius even reported to Dupuy that Rubens had been expelled by the state governor.
After the siege of Maastricht in June 1632 the Infanta again sent to the Dutch Rubens, and on August 26 he arrived at the Protestant assembly in Liege, but returned after three days, because the Spaniards categorically refused to negotiate. It was decided to gather in Brussels General States and send commissioners to The Hague in December 1632, Rubens was to accompany them again. The delegation was headed by the Duke of Arszot, who vehemently perceived any attempt to interfere with the artist in the negotiations. January 24, 1633 at a meeting of the States-General, the bishops of Ypres and Namur, demanded to clarify what place in their delegation takes Rubens. When the embassy passed through Antwerp on January 28, Rubens did not meet with its members and sent a letter to the head of the embassy, in response receiving a note with the phrase “we do not need artists,” which quickly became anecdotal. Rubens made his last attempt to return to diplomatic activity in 1635, but it ended before it had even begun: the artist was not issued a transit passport to visit Holland through England.
Immediately after his return from England, Rubens proposed to Helena Fourmen, whom he married on December 6, 1630. For this he had to ask the Archduchess for permission to celebrate the wedding during the Lent of Philip. He wrote about his decision with the utmost frankness to Abbot Peirescu four years later:
I decided to marry again, because I did not feel myself ripe for abstinence and celibacy; however, if it is right to put the mortification of the flesh first, fruimur licita voluptate cum grationem actione. I took a young wife, the daughter of honest townspeople, though I was persuaded on all sides to choose at Court; but I was afraid of commune illud nobllitatis malum superbiam praesertim in illo sexu. I wanted a wife who would not blush when she saw me take up my brushes, and, to tell the truth, it would have been hard to lose a precious treasure of freedom in exchange for the kisses of an old woman.
Rubens was 53 years old and his wife 16, the same age as his son Albert. By marriage, Helena was related to Isabella Brandt: her sister Clara Brandt was married to Daniel Foreman the Younger (1592-1648), Helena”s brother. Helena was the tenth child in the family, and Rubens first depicted her at the age of 11 for his painting The Raising of the Virgin. However, with her older sister Susanna, he performed 7 portraits – more than with Isabella Brant. As wedding gifts, Helena received from Rubens five gold chains, including two with diamonds, three strands of pearls, a diamond necklace, the same earrings, gold and enamel buttons, a purse with gold coins and many expensive outfits.
The humanist Jan-Caspar Gevartius – himself an admirer of Helena”s beauty – dedicated a long Latin poem to Rubens” marriage, which began with the following hexameters:
As noted by V. Lazarev, the second marriage filled Rubens” life with a completely new content. One lover by nature, Rubens led in Italy and in widowhood chaste life, never dispensed with petty intrigues and romances, and, as a temperamental man, was extremely restrained. His intimate experiences, he translated into the values of the aesthetic order. Rubens began to write more “for himself”, creating with his wife dozens of sketches and portraits, with a high erotic style (“Footstep” and “Coat”). N. A. Dmitrieva even asserted that the Louvre portrait of Helen Fauremen “strikes with lightness and freshness of brushwork: it seems that it could have been painted by Renoir.
From August 8, 1630 Rubens enjoyed the privilege of not paying taxes to the city treasury and membership fees to the Guild of St. Luke. In 1632, Rubens secured an extension of copyright for reproductions of his paintings in France, but an enterprising merchant challenged a lower court decision and appealed to the Paris Parliament. On December 8, 1635, the artist informed Peyrescu that the litigation was not over. The reason for the litigation was the date of the Crucifixion engraving: before the copyright renewal or after? In the end, Rubens lost the trial in 1636 because he claimed he was in England in 1631 when the engraving was made, which was not true.
In 1634 Rubens received the largest official commission of his career for the decoration of Antwerp in honor of the arrival of the new ruler of the Netherlands, Ferdinand of Austria. The ceremony was scheduled for April 17, 1635, and the preparations took over a year. Rubens was made available to all the city”s craftsmen, including stonemasons, painters, and plasterers. The artist sent agents to Rome and Lombardy, who copied for him the necessary architectural models. Rubens designed five triumphal arches, five theaters, and several grand porticoes, including a 12-row one dedicated to the 12 German emperors. Jacob Jordaens, Cornelis de Vos, Erasmus Quellin III, and Lucas Fiderbe were responsible for the decoration. The strenuous work resulted in a severe attack of gout, and Rubens was carried in a wheel chair. The triumphal procession of the Cardinal-infant lasted an entire day, which ended in the cathedral. Rubens, bedridden by an attack, was unable to attend the ceremony, but Ferdinand of Austria paid him a personal visit home. At night the celebrations continued in the light of 300 barrels of tar. Rubens was awarded a prize of 5,600 florins for the grand extravaganza, although he had invested 80,000 of his own money to decorate the ceremony. To cut costs a little, the municipality sold some of the paintings to the Court of Brussels.
In the mid-1630s, Rubens” small estate at Eckeren suffered because of a dam breach, in addition, it was located in the front line and was subject to looting. On May 12, 1635, a notarial deed was signed for Rubens” purchase of the Steen estate in Eleveite. The deed lists “a large stone house in the form of a castle,” a pond, and a farm of 4 bonyas and 50 verges, “surrounded by woods.” The purchase cost 93,000 guilders, but the expenses were not limited to this, as Rubens removed the tower and drawbridge, giving the manor house a more Renaissance appearance. In particular, the loopholes were removed. It cost another 7,000 florins. However, thanks to Rubens” economic talents, by the time of his death the estate had expanded to five times its original size. The estate allowed Rubens to acquire the title of liege lord, the highest possible social status for him, with which the epitaph on his tombstone begins.
After the castle was built, Rubens appeared less and less often in the studio at Wapper. In his absence, the elder in the studio remained L. Fiderbe, a sculptor who worked exclusively on the master”s drawings. Rubens no longer took graduate students, and only established artists worked in the studio – including J. Jordaens, C. de Vos, van Balen”s sons Jan and Caspar, and many others. Jan Quellin II from 1637 dealt exclusively with orders from Plantin”s publishing house. The workshop has not returned to the order of 1620-ies: each of the assistants signed the completed orders with his own name. Nevertheless, in a catalog of paintings by Rubens in the last years of his life was listed 60 paintings performed by him personally, about 100 paintings ordered by the King of Spain, a lot of orders publishing house Plantin-Moretus, and so on.
Marriage to Helena Fauremen drastically changed Rubens” way of life. During the 10 years of marriage five children were born: daughter Clara Johanna, son Francis, Isabella Helena, Peter Paul and posthumous daughter Constance Albertine (she was born 8 months after her father”s death). On the estate he ceased to be alienated from rural festivities, abandoned his abstinent lifestyle, and once complained to L. Faderbe that his castle had run out of wine supplies. However, this has not affected the development of Rubens as an artist: he was increasingly working “for himself”, which brought to his painting direct, deeply personal experience. A great innovation was the landscape genre, in which nature itself was the main character; after the death of Rubens remains 17 landscapes. He never worked in plein air and did not recreate any particular landscape, so his work is seen as a generalized image of rural Flanders with its natural elements and the simple joys of the settlers. There were also more refined subjects: in The Garden of Love Rubens presented a picture of secular amusements, later developed by Watteau into an entire genre.
Dying and Inheritance
After 1635, Rubens” gout attacks became more severe and prolonged: an attack that year put him in bed for a month. An attack in April 1638 struck his right hand, depriving him of the ability to paint. In February 1639 the artist”s condition was already a cause for concern. May 27, 1640 Rubens drew up a will, and on May 30 he suffered an attack of such force that his heart failed: shortly before noon the artist died. His body on the same day was transferred to Sint-Jacobskirk, in the crypt of the Fauremen family. A funeral service was held on June 2. However, the division of property and the settlement of all disputes took the heirs of about 5 years. The total value of all movable and immovable property and art collections was estimated at 400,000 florins, which roughly corresponded to 2,500,000 Belgian gold francs in 1900. There was a condition in the will that if any of the sons wished to continue their father”s work or one of the daughters married the artist, then the collection was to be kept intact and was not to be sold.
According to the will, the silver and jewels were divided between the widow and her five children and two sons from her first marriage. A collection of medals and gems and a library went to her eldest son Albert. Portraits of family members went to those who posed for them. The deceased”s closet and other items, including globes, were sold off. After selling his first collection to the Duke of Buckingham, Rubens had time to amass a new art collection, reflected in the inventory. The inventory counts 314 paintings, not counting the unfinished or nearly finished works of Rubens himself. The Venetian school was most represented in his collection: works by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Palma, and Mutsiano. Next came Old Dutch and German paintings, represented mainly by portraits of Jan van Eyck, Hugo van der Goes, Dürer, Holbein, Quentin Masseys, Willem Kay, Luca of Leiden, van Hemessen, A. More, van Scorel and Floris. Thirteen works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, mostly landscapes, were in the collection. Many works by Perugino, Bronzino, the Antwerp contemporaries and Adrian Brauwer. The first sale of the property of Rubens brought 52 thousand florins, the second – more than 8 thousand. On behalf of the Spanish king were bought four paintings for 42 thousand florins. The same monarch bought several dozen more paintings for 27,100 florins – among them three paintings by Titian, two by Tintoretto, three by Veronese, one by Paul Brill, four by Elsheimer, one by Mutsiano, five copies of paintings by Titian and thirteen canvases by Rubens. The price charged for Rubens” copies was three times that of the Titian originals. About fifty paintings went under the hammer one by one for a rather high price, so, a landscape with the castle of Steen bought for 1200 florins, the eldest son of the artist Albert. The large house on the Wapper with the workshop could not be sold because of the excessive cost, so Helena Foormen lived there until her second marriage. The Steen estate was valued at 100 thousand florins, half of it was bequeathed to the widow, the other half to her children.
Rubens” works were unreservedly accepted by both secular and ecclesiastical customers, and he was hardly criticized during his lifetime. However, in the second half of the seventeenth century in France, where he first encountered rejection, a confrontation between “Rubensists” and “Poussensists” began. In the disputes of the critics belonging to both camps, the demands made on line and color came to the fore. Like the academists and impressionists of the 19th century, they opposed line and drawing to color. In addition, the “Rubensists” wished to depict nature, while the “Poussenists” sought to subordinate it to an abstract ideal. In this respect, Rubens was approved by the representatives of 19th-century Romanticism. Various aspects of Rubens”s work attracted a variety of artists. A direct “heir” to the pastoral line in his art was Antoine Watteau, born 44 years after Rubens” death. Of the small canvas by Rubens presented to him, he wrote that he installed it in his studio as if “in a sanctuary for worship.” Joshua Reynolds, creator of the Romantic landscape genre, studied Rubens”s work professionally during his travels in the Netherlands. Reynolds believed that Rubens had perfected the technical, artisanal side of artistic creation. “The difference between Rubens and any other artist who lived before him is felt most strongly in color. The effect produced on the viewer by his paintings may well be compared with stacks of flowers … at the same time, he managed to avoid the effect of defiantly bright colors, which might reasonably be expected from such a riot of color …”.
He was greatly appreciated by Eugène Delacroix, who found in Rubens the master”s ability to convey the highest intensity of emotion. In the diary of Delacroix Rubens – “Homer of painting” – is mentioned 169 times. Delacroix”s main ideological opponent – the maestro of French academism, Jean-Auguste Engres – refused to include Rubens in the composition of his program picture “The Apotheosis of Homer”, calling him a “butcher”. In the Impressionist generation, Renoir was compared to Rubens, who also carefully studied his technique. However, VN Lazarev, in the preface to the Russian edition of Rubens letters stated: “Neither Watteau, nor Boucher, nor Renoir could not give a more perfect examples of painting. …They are always inferior to Rubens in terms of spontaneous sensuality and healthy eroticism. Compared with Rubens, Watteau appears as a morbid melancholic, Boucher as a cold libertine, Renoir as a refined voluptuary.
Vincent van Gogh had a particular opinion of Rubens. He considered the artist”s religious paintings unnecessarily theatrical, but he admired his ability to express mood with paint, as well as his ability to paint quickly and confidently. This coincided with a scholarly study of Rubens” work, begun by a small monograph by the orientalist painter Eugène Fromanten. Fromentin believed that Rubens was “praised but not looked at.” Further, Max Rooses and S. Ruelin of the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp published virtually all of the surviving documents related to Rubens, all of his correspondence, notebooks and literary experiences. However, during the period of the dominance of the avant-garde, critics openly attacked Rubens”s legacy, and even Erwin Panofsky verbatim about his landscapes: “It”s just a painting”. Pablo Picasso was openly negative about the artist”s legacy, saying in one interview that it was “a talent, but a useless talent, for it has been used for evil.
The return of interest in the Baroque after the 1950s revived interest in Rubens, including in the art market. At Christie”s London auction, Rubens” painting “The Massacre of Babes” sold for 75 million euros in 2002, and “Lot and His Daughters” sold for 52 million euros in 2016, making him one of the most expensive Old Masters. The high prices are also due to the fact that a number of Rubens” paintings are available for resale, unlike his younger contemporaries Rembrandt or Velázquez, whose paintings are in state museums.
An asteroid in the main belt, discovered at La Silla Observatory in 1994, and a crater 158 kilometers in diameter on Mercury are named after Rubens.