Peter Paul Rubens

Date/place of birth

June 28, 1577, Siegen

Day/place of death

May 30, 1640, Antwerp, Belgium

Peter Paul Rubens - Saint Theresa of Avila
Peter Paul Rubens - Saint Theresa of Avila

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Peter Paul Rubens biography

Peter Paul Rubens is an artist whom even those unfamiliar with art think they know and who is almost reflexively associated with voluptuous female figures. The Dutch Master really was larger than the picture that posterity paints of him, for during his lifetime he was already considered one of the most important painters of art history, on which he had a lasting influence. 

Peter Paul Rubens – Member of the Antwerp Painters’ Guild; first successes in Italy

Peter Paul Rubens was most likely born in Siegen on 28 June 1577, the sixth of seven children of the lawyer Jan Rubens and his wife Maria Pypelincks. When he lost his father at the age of ten, his mother moved with her children to Antwerp where Rubens attended a school for the sons of the upper classes. Following this, he served for several months as page boy at the court of Marguerite de Ligne before dedicating himself completely to art from the year 1592. His was taught by the Masters Adam van Noort, Otto van Veen and Tobias Verhaecht and in 1598, Peter Paul Rubens was accepted into the Antwerp Painters’ Guild. He undertook a trip to Italy in the spring of 1600 to study the works of Titian, Veronese and other Italian masters, during which he attracted the attention of the Duke of Mantua who shortly employed him as court painter and issued Rubens with his first great commissions. The stay in Italy was stimulating for the artist and also offered him the possibility of further work in Rome and Genoa.

Return to Antwerp; rapid rise to ‘painter prince’

When his mother became seriously ill, Peter Paul Rubens returned to Antwerp in the autumn of 1608, but he arrived too late. The Archduke Albrecht and his wife Isabella persuaded him to stay and the Mayor of Antwerp, Nicolaas Rockox – for whom Rubens’ brother Philipp worked as secretary – provided him with lucrative and prestigious commissions. Peter Paul Rubens completed them with distinction and exceeded all expectations, subsequently attaining considerable wealth and gathering a steadily growing flock of students around him. His first marriage to Isabella Brant was extremely happy, but ended tragically early with the death of his young wife from the plague. He worked for Maria de Medici in Paris, was active in Spain and England as a diplomat, and was instrumental in the peace treaty negotiations of 1630. In recognition of these services, he was knighted by King Charles I. 

New muse; flood of commissions; late turn to landscape painting

In the autumn of his life, the 56-year-old artist found a fountain of youth and a muse in the 16-year-old merchant’s daughter Hélène Fourment, and often made her the focus of his paintings. Rubens rarely painted himself: only four pictures have survived which all show the artist as a good-looking, successful and expensively clothed businessman, including a jutting hat with which Rubens tried to conceal his thinning hair. The commissions increased in such number that he could hardly manage alone and so Rubens more often limited himself to producing the sketches whilst his most talented pupils completed the paintings. He turned further towards landscape painting in his late work, inspired by the beautiful environment of is newly acquired estate, Stehen. Peter Paul Rubens died in Antwerp on 30 May 1640 – quite befitting his status, in his own castle. The official cause of death was a heart attack, and eight months later, his last child was born. Rubens’ expansive, dramatic baroque compositions of religious and mythological themes brought the artist incredible world fame and paintings by Peter Paul Rubens still reach dizzying heights today.

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

Peter Paul Rubens Prices

Peter Paul RubensSaint Theresa of Avila€322.400
Peter Paul Rubens and workshopMary as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven€212.500
Peter Paul Rubens, studio ofAngelica and the Hermit€186.000
Peter Paul Rubens, studio ofTHE RETURN OF THE HOLY FAMILY FROM EGYPT€181.500
Peter Paul Rubens, studio ofThe Finding of Moses€148.800
Peter Paul Rubens, studio of Jan Brueghel the YoungerDiana and her Retinue after the Hunt€117.800

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