Andromeda, the daughter of the king of Ethiopia, Cepheus, and Cassiopea, who claimed that her daughter was more beautiful than all the Nereids. In jealousy Nereids asked Poseidon

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The Picture Gallery possesses one of the world's finest collections of European art from the 13th to 18th century. After the collection was founded in 1830, it was systematically built up and perfected. The exhibition includes masterpieces by artists from every age of art history such as van Eyck, Bruegel, Dürer, Raphael, Tizian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Vermeer and Rembrandt.

Andromeda, the daughter of  the king of Ethiopia, Cepheus, and Cassiopea, who claimed that her daughter was more beautiful than all the Nereids. In jealousy Nereids asked Poseidon to send a monster to waste Cepheus's kingdom. An oracle foretold that the country would be spared if Andromeda, whose beauty was guilty in their mischief, were given to the monster. The people of Ethiopia forced Cepheus to sacrifice his daughter: she was chained to the rock and waited for the monster to be devoured. There Perseus saw her. Perseus was coming back from his expedition against the Gorgons, with the head of Medusa in his bag. With the help of that head he turned the monster into stone and freed Andromeda. Then he married her and took with him to Argos.

Poseidon (his latin name Neptune) the god of the sea and its inhabitants, and one of the Olympians, the son of Cronus and Rhea, brother of Zeus, Hades, Demeter, Hera, Hestia. He was married to Amphitrite, a Nereid, and had by her the son Triton, a merman. Like other Olympians, had many love affairs and numerous children.

Perseus was son of Zeus andDanae, grandson of Acrisius, who had been foretold that the son of Danae would kill him. After the boy was born Acrisius had Danae and Perseus thrown into the sea in a wooden chest. By the will of Zeus the chest was cast up on the shores of the island of Seriphos, where a fisherman, called Dictus, found them and took in his house. He rose Perseus as his own son. The King of the island Polydectes, brother of Dictus, fall in love with Danae and looked for a chance to get rid of Perseus. Polydectes challenged Perseus to fight the Gorgons. With the help of Athena and Hermes, who first brought him to the sea nymphs to help him get armed, Perseus managed to behead the sleeping Medusa. He put her head in the special pouch bag and started home. The sisters of Medusa awoke, infuriated they looked for the murderer of their sister, but could not spot him. On the way back he saved Andromeda and with her returned to Seriphos. There he found his mother and his adopted father Dictus seeking refuge at the altars of the gods, because Polydectes had tried to rape Danae. Perseus showed Polydectes the head of Medusa and the tyrant was turned into stone. Perseus made Dictus the king of the island and left for Argos with Andromeda. Their he participated in games and when he threw the discus, he hit to death Acrisius, who was present at games as a spectator. Thus the prophecy of the oracle came true.
Andromeda. c.1638. Oil on panel. Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany
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Peter Paul Rubens was born into the family of a Calvinist who had to live in exile from Antwerp. On his father's death, Ruben’s mother returned to Antwerp in 1587, where he was brought up and educated in the Catholic faith. At the age of fourteen (1591) he entered the household of a Flemish princess as a page, and began to study painting first under Tobias Verhaecht, then under Adam van Noort, and then under Otho Venius. In 1598, he was accepted as master in the Lukas Guild, though continued to work in Venius’s workshop until 1600.
In 1600, Rubens went to Italy. In Venice he was introduced to Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga and accepted his offer to join his court in Mantua. Rubens accompanied the duke on his travels to Florence and Rome; in Florence he happened to be present at the marriage of Marie de' Medici to Henry IV, King of France. Later his impressions would find reflection in the painting, devoted to the episode. In 1603, the duke sent him on a diplomatic mission to Spain. While in Italy, Rubens studied and copied Titian, Tintoretto, and Raphael, he also admired the works of his contemporaries, including Caravaggio and Carracci. During his Italian period he also produced some of his finest portraits at various princely Italian courts: The Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma (1603), Portrait of Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria (c.1606). In 1608, he returned to Antwerp as a known and successful painter.
In 1609, Rubens was appointed court painter to the Regent Albert and Isabella. He married Isabella Brant. In 1610, he built himself a large house and studio. During his Antwerp period, until 1622, he received a flood of commissions from the church, state and nobility. The Gobelin factory produced tapestries after his sketches, and engravers used his paintings, distributing the ‘Rubens style’ all over Europe. Among his best works are The Elevation of the Cross (the triptych). (1610-1611), The Descent from the Cross (the triptych). (1611-1614), The Union of Earth and Water (c.1618), Castor and Pollux Abduct the Daughters of Leukyppos (c.1618), The Battle of the Amazons (c.1618-1620), Perseus and Andromeda (c.1620-1621).
His largest commission was in 1621 for a series of 21 paintings for Marie de’Medici, the Queen Dowager of France, widow of Henry IV. The paintings, describing Marie's life, were for her palace in Paris. It was not an easy work. The queen was far from being a beauty, her life was not full of interesting events, besides she was of bad temper: she had constantly quarreled with her deceased husband, Henry IV, wasted enormous sums of money, and bothered her son, Louis XIII, with constant advice so that at last he ordered her out of Paris. Rubens’s diplomatic skills were much at hand in fulfilling the order. He successfully managed it within three years to the great satisfaction of the customer.
Between 1623 and 1631, Rubens traveled frequently on diplomatic missions, visiting London and Madrid, where he received peerages from both Charles I of England and Philip IV of Spain. Isabella Brant died in 1626; in 1630 Rubens married the 16-year-old Helene Fourment, who sat for many portraits and other works: Bathsheba at the Fountain. c.1635, The Fur Cloak (Helene Fourment). (1636-1639), The Three Graces. (c.1636-1638), Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment, and Their Son Peter Paul. (c.1639). After the death of Archduchess Isabella he gradually withdrew from the court and bought castle Steen near Mecheln. His last big commission was the decoration of the Spanish King’s hunting lodge, Torre de la Parada near Madrid, which he designed but was no longer able to carry out himself.
Rubens is often called Prince of Baroque painters. In his style he successfully united the features of Northern and Flemish art with those of Italy. His influence on the painters of his century was enormous, as it was on sculpture and architecture. He was a versatile genius and rivaled in inventive power the great minds of the Italian Renaissance. He was a humanist and classical archaeologist, a sumptuous designer of religious, historical and allegorical canvases and a supreme master in ‘pure’ landscape. Rubens was endlessly active. There are thousands of works by his hand, scattered through collections and museums across the world. The paintings amount to more than three thousand. He also gave the world the great number of pupils, the celebrated artists van Dyck, Jordaens, Snyders and Cornelis de Vos are among them.


Decius Mus, member of a noble Roman family and Council of Early Republic, sacrificed his life for the victory of Rome. About 340 BC, Rome fought against southern Italian cities. Two armies met near Naples. The Roman leaders were prophesied that the army which lost its commander would be victorious. Rubens depicted the moment when Decius Mus was explaining to his soldiers that he must allow himself to be killed.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. Decius Mus Addressing the Legions.

Rubens collected ancient coins and cameos. And this portrait, traditionally called Tiberius and Agrippina, might be the result of his studies. Tiberius Claudius Nero (42 BC -37 AD) the second emperor of Rome, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia, who three years after his birth became the wife of Octavian Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. He was married to Vispania Agrippina, daughter of the commander Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. Many historians, however, consider that the people on the portrait are Germanicus (15 BC - 9 AD), Tiberius's nephew and adopted son, and Agrippina the Elder ( 14 BC - 33 AD), another daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and the wife of Germanicus. They were the parents of the future Roman emperor Caligula and grandparents of emperor Nero.

See: Peter Paul Rubens. Tiberius and Agrippina.

Deborah Kip, Wife of Sir Balthasar Gerbier, and Her Children. In 1629, Rubens spent several months in London as the houseguest of Balthasar Gerbier, a Flemish-born art dealer and diplomatic courier. Gerbier's Dutch-born wife, Deborah Kip, is depicted here with four of their nine children.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. Deborah Kip, Wife of Sir Balthasar Gerbier, and Her Children.

Maria de' Medici (1573-1642), Queen of France, was born into the family of Francesco de'Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1600 she became the second wife of Henry IV (Henry of Navarre) of France, after his assassination in 1610 she became regent for her son Louis XIII. Because of constant intrigues she was exiled by her son in 1617, they reconciled in 1622, however when she again started plots against king's minister, Cardinal Richelieu, Louis exiled her again. Her daughter Henrietta Maria married Charles I of England.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. Portrait of Marie de' Medici.
Life of Marie de'Medici
The Destiny of Marie de' Medici. The Three Fates spin the thread of fate for the unborn child and are watched by the supreme god Zeus (Jupiter) and his wife Hera (Juno).
Peter Paul Rubens. The Destiny of Marie de' Medici.
The Birth of Marie de' Medici. Hera presents the glimmering infant to the personification of Florence, where she was born.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Birth of Marie de' Medici.
Marie's Education. Apollo, the patron god of arts, and Hermes, the messenger of the Olympian Gods, lead her in music and eloquence, Athena (Minevra), goddess of wisdom, teaches her to read, and the Tree Graces offer her beauty.
Peter Paul Rubens. Marie's Education.
Henry IV Receives the Portrait. Hera, who patronizes marriage, sends a portrait showing Marie's irresistible beauty to Henry IV, King of France.
Peter Paul Rubens. Henry IV Receives the Portrait.
The Marriage. The King, too busy to travel, marries Marie by proxy in Florence.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Marriage.
The Landing at Marseilles. Escorted by spectacular sea gods and goddesses, Marie is welcomed by the figure in a helmet, personification of France, Fame, which blows pipes, announces her coming to the people.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Landing at Marseilles.
The Meeting at Lyons. Marie and Henry IV meet at Lyons. The city is personified by the figure of a woman in a chariot drawn by the lions. The city greets the newlyweds.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Meeting at Lyons.
The Birth of Louis XIII. The newborn Dauphin is held by Health, the figure with an arm entwined by a serpent, while Fertility presents the Queen with a basket of infants and flowers.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Birth of Louis XIII.
Institution of the Regency. Leaving for the war against Austria, Henry entrusts the Queen with the government (symbolized by an orb marked with a fleur-de-lys) and with his son, the Dauphin.
Peter Paul Rubens. Institution of the Regency.
Coronation of Marie de' Medici. To increase the authority of the regency the King has the Queen crowned in her own right at St. Denis.
Peter Paul Rubens. Coronation of Marie de' Medici.
Apotheosis of Henry IV. The King, assassinated by a madman, is lifted to the heavens by the Olympian gods, while the bereaved Queen accepts from France the orb, symbol of government.
Peter Paul Rubens. Apotheosis of Henry IV.
The Council of the Gods. To illustrate the Queen's role as the divinely appointed ruler of France, she is portrayed talking with Zeus, while Apollo, armed with his bow, is chasing away her enemies.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Council of the Gods.
The Capture of Juliers. After taking an Austrian held town the Queen, at the head of her army, is crowned by Victory and accompanied by Generosity.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Capture of Juliers.
The Exchange of Princesses. Surrounded by gods and goddesses, Princess Anne of Austria (on the left) and princess Elizabeth of France (on the right) are meeting before their marriages to the brothers of each other, Princes of Spain (future Philip IV of Spain) and France (future Louis XIII of France).
Peter Paul Rubens. The Exchange of Princesses.
The Happiness of the Regency. An allegory of the happy benefits of the Regency.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Happiness of the Regency.
The Majority of Louis XIII. Coming of age in 1614, the Dauphin takes over the rudder of the Ship of State, which is rowed by Strength and Faith, Justice and Prudence.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Majority of Louis XIII.
The Flight from Blois. Marie's opposition to her son has led to her confinement to Blois, from which she escaped by night. The account of her triumphs does not omit her reverses, but her dignity remains intact.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Flight from Blois.
The Treaty of Angoulême. Accepting an olive branch from Hermes, the Queen agrees to discuss peace with her son.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Treaty of Angoulême.
The Piece of Angers. Hermes leads the Queen Mother to the Temple of Concord, while Innocence bars the entry of Fury, Fraud, and Envy under a still stormy sky.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Peace of Angers.
The Queen's Reconciliation with Her Son. While Justice aims thunderbolts at the hydra-headed calumnies, the godlike Louis raises his mother toward a break in the storm clouds and the prospect of peace
Peter Paul Rubens. The Queen's Reconciliation with Her Son.
The Triumph of Truth. Time raises truth to take her place at the meeting between mother and son.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Triumph of Truth.

Duke of Lerma, Francisco Gomez de Sandoval y Rojas (1553-1625), Spanish statesman of a noble family, he, while in the service of Philip II, won the confidence of the heir to the throne, who on becoming the king, Philip III, in 1598 entrusted him with the conduct of public affairs and in 1599 made him Duke of Lerma. He enjoyed considerable influence on Spanish and European policy. In 1618 Pope Paul V appointed him a cardinal.

Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, called ‘the Younger’ (c. 4 BC – 65 AD), Roman stoic philosopher and statesman, was born in Spain to a noble Roman family. His father, Seneca ‘the Older’ was a philosopher. He began his political career in Rome in 31. In 41, however, he was exiled to Corsica by the Emperor Claudius for adultery with the emperor’s niece Julia. In 49 Claudius, under the influence of his 3rd wife Agrippina the Younger, sister of Julia, returned Seneca to Rome and appointed him the tutor to his step-son, future Emperor Nero. For some period Seneca exercised considerable influence on Nero, but later came out of favor, was accused of treason and condemned to commit suicide, which he did. Seneca is the author of a number of philosophical essays.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. The Death of Seneca.

The Four Evangelists: 4 authors of Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. The Four Evangelists.

The Four Philosophers. From right to left: Jan Voverius, Justus Lipsius (1547-1606), Flemish humanist, professor of classics at Jena, Leiden and Louvain; Rubens's brother Philip and self-portrait of Rubens.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. The Four Philosophers.

Henry IV, known as Henry of Navarre (1553-1610) king of France from 1589, the first of the Bourbon dynasty, headed the French Protestants. He was spared during the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre of Huguenots only because he was married to Margaret of Valois, sister of Charles IX and Henri III. For three years he was a captive of the French court, but then managed to escape and again headed the Protestants. As a result of intrigues and wars, which he successfully won, he managed to become the King of France. Though he adopted Catholicism, he issued edits to protect the rights of Protestant minority. In 1600 he married his second wife Marie de'Medici, by whom he had several children, Louis XIII and Henrietta Maria among them.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. Henry IV at the Battle of Ivry. The Triumph Entrance of Henry IV into Paris.

Susanna Fourment was related by marriage to Rubens' first wife, Isabella Brant (see Isabella's portraits by Rubens and van Dyck). Later the widowed Rubens married Susanna's sister Helena Fourment.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. Portrait of Susanne Fourment ("Le Chapeau de paille").
also her portrait by van Dyck, who depicted widowed Susanna with her young daughter Clara.

Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria (1584 - ?) Genoese aristocrat, a Spinola by birth, in 1605 married Giacomo Massimiliano Doria. The portrait is painted in the year following her marriage.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. Portrait of Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria.

Democritus (460-370 BC), Greek philosopher, born in Abdera in Thrace. He has works on ethics, physics, mathematics, cosmology and music. He is best known for his atomic theory, which he developed from Leucippus. According to the theory the world consists of infinite number of minute particles; their different combinations explain the variety of properties and qualities of the matter.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. Democritus.
Democritus by Diego Velázquez

Mucius Scaevola Before Porsenna. The subject of the picture is taken from the early history of ancient Rome. In 509 BC the Etruscan King Porsenna besieged Rome, which had driven away their king Tarquinius and declared the Republic. Romans bravely defended their city, but the forces were not equal. Then a young Roman, Mucius Scaevola, decided to kill Porcenna. He entered the Etruscan camp and, having mistaken another man for Porcenna, killed him. He was immediately captured and put in front of Porcenna, who began to mock the young man. Then Scaevola stepped toward a fire-camp and put his right hand into it. Despite pain, without changing the face, he said to Porcenna in calm voice that 300 young Romans had given the oath to kill the king; he, Scaevola was only the first, the others would be luckier. Porcenna was so much astonished with the young man that the next day offered Rome the peaceful agreement.
See: Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. Mucius Scaevola Before Porsenna.

The Union of Earth and Water. The four elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, were considered to be fundamental elements of the world contents, and were usually depicted as classical gods and goddesses. Earth is personified by Demeter (Ceres); Water is personified by a river god; Air is usually represented by Hera (Juno); Fire is represented by Hephestus (Vulcan) or may be depicted as a woman with her head in flames.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. The Union of Earth and Water.

Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633), daughter of King Philip II and his third wife, Elizabeth Valois, married Archduke of Austria Albert VII (1598-1621). Jointly they ruled the Spanish Netherlands. Their attempts, both diplomatic and military, to reunite the country met with failure. After Albert's death (1621), sovereignty of the Spanish Netherlands reverted to Spain, and Isabella ruled as governor of the country for her nephew, King Philip IV of Spain, until her death.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. The St. Ildefonso Altar (right wing). Archduchess Isabella.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels. In Christian belief, before the creation of man, one of archangels, Lucifer, backed by some angels, rebelled against God and was driven by Him into Hell, where they remain under the names of Satan and the devils (or demons, evil spirits) enemies of God and active promoters of evil. In Medieval art Satan and devils are often depicted as monsters, dragons, and beasts. Since th early Renaissance the artists depict the devil as the classical Satyr with horns and hoofs, which signifies that paganism was enemy of the Church. Satan likes to disguise as a monk, or a lord, but betrays himself by a hoof or claw. Satan constantly fights against God over souls of men. The main business of devils is to seduce mankind.
See: Peter Paul Rubens. Fall of the Rebel Angels.

Queen Tomyris before the Head of Cyrus. The most detailed and earliest account of the story is given by Herodotus. Cyrus, the greatest Persian king (c. 550 BC), sought to conquer the Messagetae which was ruled by the widowed Queen Tomyris. First he tried to woo her, but after she refused he captured and killed Tomyris's son. Then she vowed to avenge. Another battle Tomyris's troops won, she found his body, cut off the head and put it in a bowl of blood with the famous words 'Satia te sanguine quem semper sitisti' (Sate thyself on the blood for which thou hast always thirsted).
See: Andrea del Castagno. Queen Tomyris.
Peter Paul Rubens. Queen Tomyris before the Head of Cyrus.

Painting of Western Europe. XVII century. by E. Rotenberg. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1989.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.
Rubens (Art and Ideas) by Kristin Lohse Belkin. Phaidon Press Inc., 1998.
The Making of Rubens by Svetlana Alpers (Editor). Yale Univ Pr, 1996.
Rubens and His Age/Rubens En Zijn Tijd by Nora De Poorter, Guido Jansen, Jeroen Gitaij. University of Washington Press, 1991.
Rubens: Garden of Love by Peter Paul Rubens, Federico Zeri (Editor), Marco Dolcetta. NDE Canada Corp., 1999.
Rubens: A Double Life by Marie-Anne Lescourret, Elfreda Powell (Translator). Ivan R Dee, Inc., 1993.
Masters of Art: Rubens by Charles Scribner. Harry N Abrams, 1989.
Peter Paul Rubens: A Touch of Brilliance by Mikhail Piotrovksy, Natalya Gritsay, Alexey Larionov, Vegelin Van Claer, Stephanie-Suzanne Durante, James Cuno. Prestel, 2004.
Rubens: A Portrait by Paul Oppenheimer. Cooper Square Publishers, 2002.

Back to Rubens's Page


Toronto is enjoying a three month long visit of Treasures from the Hermitage at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The first of three exhibits from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg scheduled for the AGO over the next few years, Rubens and his Age focuses on the master painter and his circle of superb students and associates from the great period of Flemish Baroque Art. Apart from the rare opportunity to see works from the vaults of the Hermitage, many of which have never been exhibited outside Russia, the exhibit provides a wonderfully rich history lesson of the kind which only great paintings can teach us.


The 17th century was the last period of political and artistic greatness for Flanders. The southern Catholic part of the Netherlands, which had remained loyal to the Spanish Crown while Northern Holland successfully rebelled was soon strangled by their Northern neighbors and then stagnated until the late 19th century when an artist of the caliber of James Ensor and later Rene Magritte emerged from the rubble. For most of us Flemish Art is unknown territory, an undiscovered country from which no traveler has recently returned. Thus the exhibit asks us to take an imaginative leap into a time and place very different is some ways form the way we live now.


Peter Paul Rubens was the painter of the first part of the 17th Century in Catholic Europe. How he became so is an interesting story.


Rubens was educated to be a humanist but like all great artists choose his profession for himself. The combination of first-rate classical education with an innate visual genius made for an unprecedented combination in an artist.


It has been said that no artist has ever been as well educated as Rubens. After training with three minor artists in Antwerp. Rubens set off for Italy to complete his education; a position at the court of the Duke of Mantua was quickly accepted and he stayed in Italy for eight years. His job was to travel to all the major artistic collections, especially Rome and Venice painting copies of famous works of art, especially paintings of beautiful women, for the Duke's collection. He was also sent to Spain where he had an opportunity to study the enormous collection of Titian masterworks in the Royal Collection in Madrid.


Jacob Jordaens

Self-portrait among
Parents, Brothers
and Sisters



Copying the masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance especially and the recently unearthed sculptures of classical antiquity, Rubens sketched and painted and encompassed all that was best in Italian and Classical art. Rubens combined the lessons of Antique Sculpture with the vaunting ambition of the High Renaissance giants in an unprecedented way. He used the plastic lessons of sculpture as a composition model but insisted that flesh should look like flesh in a painting thus developing his breakthrough approach to the naked body. In this he never forgot the earthy luminous realism of the old Netherlandish tradition of the 15th and 16th century (Van Eyck, Van Weyden, Breughel). You won't appreciate Rubens the master of the female nude until you consider that he was the greatest influence on French painting from the 18th to the 20th century: Watteau, Fragonard, Delacroix, and Renoir were his among his loyal followers.


Rubens was to develop a phenomenal ability to analyze the different styles of painting and sculpture and then synthesis them into whatever his clients wanted. His clients included just about every Catholic monarch, as well as Catholic leaning Protestants like King Charles I of England, and every major religious order in Western Europe. Not to mention every wealthy connoisseur of painting. To satisfy an ever growing demand Rubens opened the largest art workshop Europe has ever seen: he would paint an small initial oil sketch which when approved and contracted for would be given over to one or more of his students to paint the full length canvas, finally Rubens would add the finishing touches and sign it. Thus he became both a teacher and a hugely successful businessman.


The Union of
Earth and Water



But Fame was for Rubens something that went beyond material worldly success; he sought above all to bring the blessings of humanistic reason to bear on the Europe riven by religious and dynastic wars. In 1609, because he spoke several languages and was so well educated, Rubens was appointed court painter to the Archduke Albert and his wife the Infanta Isabella, the Spanish Viceroys in the Netherlands. Isabella became his close confidant and sent him on important diplomatic missions to Spain, Holland and England. One of the best paintings in the exhibit is The Union of Earth and Water, which celebrates the opening of the Scheldt River to Flemish commerce after having been closed by the Dutch. The past and future prosperity of Antwerp depend on free access through this river to the North Sea.


Rubens went to England to negotiate a peace treaty with the King of England and Spain and while there became a favorite of the court of King Charles I - as did his most brilliant student, Anthony Van Dyck, in the next decade. The marvelous work of Van Dyck are well represented in this exhibit, including the brilliant religious painting of Christ Showing His Wounds, his own self-portrait, and a final gallery devoted to his English portraits.


When Rubens retired from public life he wrote about ripping off the golden chain that had bound him to the courts of Europe. In his last years, remarried to a young beautiful wife, retiring to his estate, he painted some of the most astonishing paintings. Two of these gorgeous landscapes are in the exhibit.


Landscape with a Rainbow



Peace, harmony, abundance, and love these are the great themes of Rubens and his age, which this exhibit illustrates so well. I have not begun to tell you about all the wonderful still lives, flower paintings and genre scenes in the exhibit from less well known artists working within Rubens circle.


Take this as a very good introduction to Rubens and Van Dyck, to Catholic Europe in the 17th Century and finally to the Hermitage that great museum which Catherine the Great founded in the 18th century.

Rubens and his Age: Through August 12 at the Art Gallery of Ontario
FERRARA, Italy - Peter Paul Rubens reached the peak of his career during the Thirty Years War, one of the most bloody, wide-ranging and protracted conflicts in history.

But while European courts were busily promoting war, the genius of the northern baroque's studio in Antwerp practically became an alternative court devoted to the arts of peace, and one to which princes, generals and grandees flocked to pay their respects and purchase works. And such was his prestige that Rubens himself was in demand to undertake diplomatic missions.

Even when they were at war with one another, monarchs vied for the opportunity to have the same artist decorate their palaces and banqueting halls and to portray them in the same magnificent Rubens manner.

Rubens's triumphal progress outstripped anything achieved by kings and commanders on the battlefield, and by the time of his death in 1640 he was probably the most universally acclaimed man of the epoch. He is now the central figure of ''Rubens and His Age,'' at the Palazzo dei Diamanti here (until June 27). Of more than 75 pictures on show, more than a score are by the master himself, with other contemporary artists well represented, including Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens, who both worked in Rubens's studio.

The quality of the paintings on display - which include religious and mythological works, portraiture, still life, landscape and genre scenes - is generally high, and a large number come from private collections and from Mexico, which sent remarkable pieces, among them a stunning ''Portrait of a Spanish Nobleman,'' whose author and sitter remain a mystery. (This picture is from the Museo Nacional de San Carlos in Mexico City, where an earlier version of the show was staged last winter.)

Returning to his hometown of Antwerp after an extended sojourn in Italy and an embassy to Spain, Rubens was prevailed upon to become court painter to the governors of the Spanish Netherlands, the Habsburg Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella, lavish and enthusiastic patrons of the arts, who were engaged in making Spain's dominion in the Low Countries a showcase of the Catholic Reaction.

The Truce of 1609 brought temporary respite in the struggle between Spain and the rebellious Protestant United Provinces of the Dutch Republic to the north, but hostilities resumed in 1621.

Having been recovered from the secessionist United Provinces in 1585, Antwerp was geographically on the front line. But the decades-long wars between Spain and the Dutch were extraordinarily static. There was only one pitched battle in this theater of the Thirty Years War, near Antwerp in 1638, the rest of the fighting consisting of extended and incredibly costly sieges of heavily fortified towns, which left much of the rest of the Netherlands relatively unaffected.

Thus Rubens could continue to operate his studio, which would have been inconceivable in other war zones.


AT one level Rubens became the supreme example of the human face of the Counter-Reformation, and the ideal exponent of the Jesuit program to propagate the faith through beauty and majesty in art and architecture. But his painting, as his Protestant admirers saw, transcended dogma, as was dazzlingly evident in his sumptuous nudes, the psychological depth of his portraiture and captivating landscapes.

Antwerp was in some respects in economic decline during this period, but Rubens, with his huge studio and phenomenal output, did much to maintain its international profile. Certainly paintings became one of its prime commodities. In Rubens's studio when he was not the sole author of a work the master did designs and personally ''finished'' the pieces that had been executed mostly by his studio assistants. At the same time further copies were sometimes made by his collaborators for a less prosperous and less demanding clientele.

Other workshops in the city specialized in reproducing paintings by various leading artists, the notion of copyright then being in its infancy. Rubens supervised the making of his own prints, and numerous other workshops produced a huge quantity of engraved material, some popular images running into editions of several thousand, examples of both Rubens's own prints and many others reaching the most remote outposts of the colonial world.

As the war in Europe ground on year after year, Rubens continued to elaborate on his parallel universe - as Sir Kenneth Clark has written, he created ''a new, complete race of women'' - where felicity, abundance, peace and harmony held sway. He did not live to see the Peace of Westphalia, which brought the conflict to an end and, among other things, final recognition of the Dutch Republic. A witness to one of Europe's darkest ages, more than any other single artist of the era he succeeded in suffusing it with light.

Baroque Art emerged in Europe around 1600, as an reaction against the intricate and formulaic Mannerist style which dominated the Late Renaissance. Baroque Art is less complex, more realistic and more emotionally affecting than Mannerism.

This movement was encouraged by the Catholic Church, the most important patron of the arts at that time, as a return to tradition and spirituality.

One of the great periods of art history, Baroque Art was developed by Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, and Gianlorenzo Bernini, among others. This was also the age of Rubens, Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Vermeer.

Mannerism, the artistic style which gained popularity in the period following the High Renaissance, takes as its ideals the work of Raphael and Michelangelo Buonarroti. It is considered to be a period of tecnical accomplishment but of formulaic, theatrical and overly stylized work.

Mannerist Art is characterized by a complex composition, with muscular and elongated figures in complex poses. Discussing Michelangelo in his journal, Eugène Delacroix gives as good a description as any of the limitations of Mannerism:

"[A]ll that he has painted is muscles and poses, in which even science, contrary to general opinion, is by no means the dominant factor... He did not know a single one of the feelings of man, not one of his passions. When he was making an arm or a leg, it seems as if he were thinking only of that arm or leg and was not giving the slightest consideration to the way it relates with the action of the figure to which it belongs, much less to the action of the picture as a whole... Therein lies his great merit; he brings a sense of the grand and the terrible into even an isolated limb."

Prominent Members
In addition to Michelangelo, leading Mannerist artists included Rosso Fiorentino, Pontormo, and Parmigianino.

By the late 16th century, there were several anti-Mannerist attempts to reinvigorate art with greater naturalism and emotionalism. These developed into the Baroque style, which dominated the 17th century.


The Flemish baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, b. June 28, 1577, d. May 30, 1640 was the most renowned northern European artist of his day, and is now widely recognized as one of the foremost painters in Western art history.

By completing the fusion of the realistic tradition of Flemish painting with the imaginative freedom and classical themes of Italian Renaissance painting, he fundamentally revitalized and redirected northern European painting.

Rubens's upbringing mirrored the intense religious strife of his age--a fact that was to be of crucial importance in his artistic career. His father, an ardently Calvinist Antwerp lawyer, fled in 1568 to Germany to escape religious persecution, but after his death (1587) the family moved back to Antwerp, where Peter Paul was raised a Roman Catholic and received his early training as an artist and a courtier. By the age of 21 he was a master painter whose aesthetic and religious outlook led him to look to Italy as the place to complete his education. Upon arriving (1600) in Venice, he fell under the spell of the radiant color and majestic forms of Titian, whose work had a formative influence on Rubens's mature style. During Rubens's 8 years (1600-08) as court painter to the duke of Mantua, he assimilated the lessons of the other Italian Renaissance masters and made (1603) a journey to Spain that had a profound impact on the development of Spanish baroque art. He also spent a considerable amount of time in Rome, where he painted altarpieces for the churches of Santa Croce di Gerusalemme (1602; now in Hopital du Petit-Paris, Grasse, France) and the Chiesa Nuova (1607; now in Musee de Peinture et Sculpture, Grenoble, France), his first widely acknowledged masterpieces. His reputation established, Rubens returned (1608) to Antwerp following the death of his mother and quickly became the dominant artistic figure in the Spanish Netherlands.

In the mature phase of his career, Rubens either executed personally or supervised the execution of an enormous body of works that spanned all areas of painting and drawing. A devout Roman Catholic, he imbued his many religious paintings with the emotional tenor of the Counter-Reformation. This aggressively religious stance, along with his deep involvement in public affairs, lent Rubens's work a conservative and public cast that contrasts sharply with the more private and secular paintings of his great Dutch contemporary, Rembrandt. But if his roots lay in Italian classical art and in Roman Catholic dogma, Rubens avoided sterile repetition of academic forms by injecting into his works a lusty exuberance and almost frenetic energy. Glowing color and light that flickers across limbs and draperies infuse spiraling compositions such as The Descent from the Cross (1611; Antwerp Cathedral) with a characteristically baroque sense of movement and tactile strength.

A love of monumental forms and dynamic effects is most readily apparent in the vast decorative schemes he executed in the 1620s, including the famous 21-painting cycle (1622-25; Louvre, Paris), chronicling the life of Marie de Medicis, originally painted for the Luxembourg Palace. In order to complete these huge commissions, Rubens set up a studio along the lines of Italian painters' workshops, in which fully qualified artists executed paintings from the master's sketches. Rubens's personal contribution to the over 2,000 works produced by this studio varied considerably from work to work. Among his most famous assistants were Anthony van Dyck and Frans SNYDERS.

Rubens's phenomenal productivity was interrupted from time to time by diplomatic duties given him by his royal patrons, Archduke Ferdinand and Archduchess Isabella, for whom he conducted (1625) negotiations aimed at ending the war between the Spanish Netherlands and the Dutch Republic and helped conclude (1629-30) a peace treaty between England and Spain. Charles I of England was so impressed with Rubens's efforts that he knighted the Flemish painter and commissioned his only surviving ceiling painting, The Allegory of War and Peace (1629; Banqueting House, Whitehall Palace, London).

During the final decade of his life, Rubens turned more and more to portraits, genre scenes, and landscapes. These later works, such as Landscape with the Chateau of Steen (1636; National Gallery, London), lack the turbulent drama of his earlier paintings but reflect a masterful command of detail and an unflagging technical skill. Despite recurring attacks of arthritis, he remained an unusually prolific artist throughout his last years, which were spent largely at his estate, Chateau de Steen.

Self-Portrait (?)

Flemish painter, born in Siegen, Westphalia, the son of the Antwerp lawyer Jan Rubens. Rubens received a classical education; his artistic training was entrusted to Tobias Verhaecht, Adam van Noort and Otto van Veen; he became a master of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1598. Between 1600 and 1608 he stayed in Italy, travelling in the service of Vincenzo Gonzaga in Mantuaon on a diplomatic mission to Spain in 1603/04. He became aquainted with the works of Classical antiquity, compositions of the great Renaissance masters and with those of his contemporaries. In 1608 he returned to Antwerp and in 1609 married Isabella Brant. In the same year he was appointed court painter to the governor (Stadholder), Archduke Albrecht, and his wife, the Infanta Isabella. In 1610 he purchased a piece of land on which he built a large house with studios. In the following decade he received a number of major commissions, including the cycle of paintings for the gallery of the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris (1622-25), commissioned by the widowed queen mother of France. In 1626 Isabella Brant died. In 1628 Rubens again visited Spain on a diplomatic mission to the court of Philip IV. In 1629-30 he was at the court of Charles I in England. Rubens married the 16-year-old Hélène Fourment in 1630. Amongst the major works he executed in the course of the following years were cartoons for several series of tapestries, the ceiling frescoes in the Banqueting House, Whitehall, London (1630-34), for Charles I, and his collaboration (1634-35) on the festive decorations for the entry of the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand into Antwerp (1634-35). In 1635 Rubens acquired ¿Het Steen¿ in Elewijt, Vilvoorde, a country seat that appears in several of his magnificent later landscapes. His last important commission consisted of the designs for paintings for Philip IV's hunting lodge "Torre de la Parada" near Madrid. Rubens died in Antwerp 1640

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