Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens was born on June 28, 1577 in Siegen, Germany. His father was Jan Rubens and his mother was Maria Pypelincks. Jan was a lawyer in Antwerp, but had to flee to Germany along with his wife in order to escape religious prejudice. Peter’s father became a legal advisor to Anna of Saxony, the wife of William 1 of Orange which later developed into a love affair. As the result of this illicit relationship, Jan was thrown into jail. He was released 2 years after and lived a peaceful life in Siegen, where Peter was born. The family then went back to Cologne and lived there for a couple of years until his father died. They returned to Antwerp after his father death and he was Peter was raised to be devoted Catholic.
Peter was properly schooled in Greek and Latin when he resided in Antwerp and at the age of 14 he became a student of Tobias Verhaecht. While he was under the apprenticeship of Verhaecht, he also studied under the guidance of 2 prominent painters of the time, Otto van Veen and Adam van Noort. He perfected his artistic skills by copying the works of earlier artist such as Raphael and Raimondi. He finished his studies in 1598 and was accepted as an master in the Guild of St. Luke at Antwerp.
In the 1600, Ruben then moved to Rome to improve further his artistic nature. He was very eager to learn and he admired the works of Raphael and Michelangelo. In was in this period that he was able to paint 3 paintings for the Sta. Croce church in Gerusalemme. A few years have passed and he decided to remain in Rome. He was then commissioned to make paintings for the altar of Santa Maria in Vallicella. His original painting for the altar was the image of the Madonna and child along with St. Gregory and the saints. This was a great work, however he was forced to replaced it with 3 copper slate paintings because of the unfavorable lighting conditions of the church. He then had to go back to Antwerp before the unveiling of his work because of his mother’s illness. Little did he know, that was the last time he would ever set foot in Italy. He came in too late because his mother had passed away.
Though Rubens had intentions of going back to Italy, he instead found reasons to remain in Antwerp such as being appointed as a court painter and his marriage to Isabella Brant. He then purchased a house in Antwerp and he also made the charming “Rubens And His Wife In The Honeysuckle Arbor” painting.
His first big project in Antwerp was the “Raising Of The Cross” and then followed by the “Descent Of The Cross” which all can be found in the Cathedral of Antwerp. He became very successful after leaving Italy that even established a workshop will students of his own. Aside from that, he was also commission to do 39 ceiling paintings at the Jesuit Church which was eventually destroyed in the fire of 1718.
Ruben’s fame reached international success as he was contracted by Marie de Medici, the Queen Mother of France, to paint allegorical cycles of her life and her husband’s. And after some time, he engaged in diplomatic activities and had become an important part in bringing out peace between Spain and England.
Peter Paul Rubens returned to Antwerp on March 1630. He then married 16 year old Helena Fourment after the death of Isabella in 1626. He continued doing diplomatic related works apart from his art. Helena became an inspiration for Rubens to develop fondness in painting voluptuous women. He continued making art pieces until he retreated to his Estate, the Steen. Peter Paul Rubens died on May 30, 1640 due to heart failure which was later diagnosed to be the result of his chronic gout.
Rubens excelled much on the Baroque art theme that most of the time he was hired to do religious painting inside churches and cathedrals. Much of his works are forceful, but not detailed. Apart from using canvases, he was one of the few who made use of wooden panels and he used slate to lessen the reflection in altarpieces.
Rubens was one of the bold artists who dared paint full figured women. His frequent liking of these subjects gave rise to the term “Rubenesque” or “Rubensian” which means plus-sized woman.