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Peter Paul Rubens - 1577-1640

Written by Brett Nelson


Posted on March 18 2020

Peter Rubens was born in 1577 in Siegen, Nassau-Dillenburg, which is modern-day North Rhine-Westphalia, in Germany. Herr Rubens is most known for his Baroque style of painting, popular in the seventeenth century. During his teenage years he apprenticed with a number of famous or semi-famous painters from that era, including Otto van Veen and Tobias Verhaeghe.
On his travels through Italy in 1600 Herr Rubens gained financial backing from Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga to travel to Rome. As Rubens gained more popularity and became more well-known commission orders started coming in, usually from the Catholic church. In 1603 Duke Gonzaga sent Herr Rubens to Spain on a diplomatic mission, which ultimately was a success. He was well-liked within King Phillips III's court and painted a portrait of the Duke of Lerma before leaving. In 1604 he returned to Italy and spent several years there. While in Genoa he painted some of his most famous works such as the Marchesa Brigida Spinola-Doria. During his time in Rome between 1606 and 1608, Herr Rubens was given his largest commission – to pain, the high altar of the Santa Maria in Vallicella. The alter included a portrait of Saint Gregory the Great among other local saints and the Blessed Virgin Mother and Child.

In 1608 Herr Rubens' mother fell ill and so he left Italy – for the last time. He arrived in Antwerp, Belgium shortly after his mother passed, but some good fortune was still to be had. In 1609 Rubens was appointed to be the court painter for Albert VII, Archduke of Austria, and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain. Strangely, for the time, he was allowed to continue his residence in Antwerp instead of moving to Brussels where their court was. Herr Rubens was also allowed to take on more clients than just the Archduke and Archduchess. Later that year he met and married young Isabella Brant after the Archduchess passed away. Together they would have three children before her death in 1626.

In 1621 Marie de'Medici, the Queen Mother of France, commissioned two paintings from Herr Rubens about her life and her late husband, Henry IV of France's life. While he was able to finish only the Queen's painting he did begin work on Henry IV's. Work on the second painting ended when Queen Marie was exiled by her son, Louis XIII, in 1630. Between 1621 and 1630 Rubens did a lot of diplomatic work for both the French and the Spanish. In 1624 he was raised to the nobility by King Philip IV of Spain and then knighted in 1630 by King Charles of England. He was then knighted again by King Philip of Spain a few months later.

In 1630 Herr Rubens returned to Antwerp. After his wife died in the same year he remarried his niece, Helene Fourment. They would have five children together, with the youngest being born eight months after his death. In 1635 he and his family moved just outside of Antwerp to an estate he purchased. He spent most of his time there until his death in 1640. Herr Rubens's death was brought about due to a prolonged fight with gout causing his heart to fail.


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