Peter Paul Rubens

Flemish , 1577 - 1640

Peter Paul Rubens was born in 1577 into the family of a Calvinist living in exile from Antwerp. In 1591 Rubens entered the household of a Flemish princess as a page. He studied painting first under Tobias Verhaecht, then under Adam van Noort and Otho Venius. He was accepted in 1598 as a master in the Lukas Guild and continued to work in Venius’s workshop until 1600 when he traveled to Italy.

While in Venice, Rubens was introduced to Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga who offered him a place on his court in Mantua. Rubens joined the duke on his travels to Florence and Rome. In 1603 the duke sent Rubens on a diplomatic mission to Spain. In Italy, Rubens studied and copied works by Tintoretto, Raphael and Titian. He also produced some of his finest portraits at various Italian courts. He returned to Antwerp in 1608 with a reputation as a known and successful painter. He was appointed court painter to the Regent Albert and Isabella in 1609 and in the year that followed he married Isabella Brant. While in Antwerp, he received numerous commissions from the church, state and nobility. Engravers used his paintings, distributing his style throughout Europe.

In 1621, Rubens received his largest commission for a series of 21 paintings for Marie de’Medici, the Queen Dowager of France. In the years that followed, he traveled frequently on diplomatic missions, spending time in London and Madrid. Ruben’s last commission of great importance was the decoration of the Spanish King’s hunting lodge, Torre de la Parada near Madrid. He created the design, but was not able to complete the job personally. Rubens captured numerous commemorated occasions, triumphal entries and eucharistic events in his sketches, etchings, tapestries and paintings.

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