Peter Paul Rubens – Renaissance History

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577 – 1640 per ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’

Rubens and Isabella Brant in the Honeysuckle Bower, 1609–10

Flemish (Belgian) painter who was the greatest exponent of Baroque painting’s dynamism, vitality, and sensuous exuberance. Though his masterpieces include portraits and landscapes, Rubens is perhaps best known for his religious and mythological compositions. As the impresario of vast decorative programs, he presided over the most famous painter’s studio in Europe. His powers of invention were matched by extraordinary energy and versatility.

Beyond his artistic prowess, Rubens achieved widespread fame as ‘the painter of princes and the prince of painters’. Traveling widely, he accepted commissions in Italy, Spain, Belgium and England. He moved freely among royal courts for discreet meetings with sovereigns and their ministers, who would discuss matters of state while sitting for their portraits. In his time, he had an international reputation for intellect and artistic genius. The peace treaty of 1630 between England and Spain is specifically attributed to Rubens.

Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma, 1603. Painted during Rubens's first trip to Spain in 1603

Known for a robust style – muscular, graceful physiques and rich interplay of light and color, his prediliction for the full-figured feminine gave rise to the adjetive: ‘Rubenesque’. The twilight decade of 1630-40 witnessed some of his most exhuberant works as he broadened hs style with looser, more tactile, almost impressionistic brushwork.

He’s credited with having directly taught Anthony Van Dyck and known to have inspired Rembrandt and Diego Velazquez.

Hippopotamus Hunt (1616). Rubens is known for the frenetic energy and lusty ebullience of his paintings.