Rubens, Peter Paul, the most celebrated of the Flemish painters, was born
at Siegen (not, as often stated, at Cologne) in 1577.
Rubens, Peter Paul, the most
celebrated of the Flemish painters, was born at Siegen (not, as often stated, at
Cologne) in 1577. His birth is variously dated in May and on the 29th of June.
He was the son of John Rubens, a lawyer, and Mary Pypeling, both natives of
Antwerp, to which, after the death of John Rubens, his widow returned with her
children in 1587. His early masters in art were A. van Noort and Otto van Veen,
(or Otto Venius.)
In 1600 he went to Italy, where he
passed about eight years at Venice, Mantua, Rome, Florence, and Genoa, and
painted numerous works. He returned to Antwerp in 1608, was appointed court
painter to the archduke Albert, and married Isabelle Brant or Brandt in 1609.
Soon after this date he produced his "Descent from the Cross," which is
considered by many his master-piece and is now in the cathedral of Antwerp. He
rose rapidly to fame and affluence, and was employed in diplomatic missions by
the Flemish court. In 1629 he was sent as ambassador to England, where he
painted for Charles I. the allegorical picture of "War and Peace." He succeeded
in his mission, the object of which was to restore peace between England and
Spain. Having lost his first wife, he married Helena Forman or Fourment, (1630,)
who was only sixteen years of age. He received the honour of knighthood in 1630
from Charles I. of England, and also from Philip IV. of Spain. He was simple and
temperate in his habits. Rising early, he went in the morning to church to hear
mass. In the evening he often took a ride on horseback.
Rubens painted history, portraits, landscapes, and animals with equal success.
He was a magnificent colorist, was unsurpassed in technical skill and facility
of execution, but was deficient in a taste for form. Among his famous
productions are "The Last Judgment," at Munich, "The Battle of the Amazons,"
"The Rape of the Sabines,"and "The Judgment of Paris," in London. It is stated
that the gallery of Munich contains no less than ninety-five of his works. He
died at Antwerp in May, 1640. His principal pupils were Van Dyck, Jordaens, Van
Thulden, Diepenbeck, and Quellyn. "Rubens," says Ruskin, "was an honourable and
entirely wellintentioned man. He is a healthy, worthy, kind-hearted,
courtly-phrased—Animal,—without any clearly perceptible traces of a soul, except
when he paints children. . . . We saw how Veronese painted himself and his
family as worshipping the Madonna. Rubens also painted himself and his family in
an equally elaborate piece. But they are not warshipping the Madonna: they are
performing the Madonna and her saintly entourage."
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