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  Peter Paul Rubens

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Peter Paul Rubens
 
 
 

The Crucified Christ
1610-11
Oil on canvas, 219 x 122 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp



Prometheus Bound
1610
Oil on canvas, 243 x 210 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia





Adoration of the Shepherds
c. 1608
Oil on canvas
St.-Pauluskerk, Antwerp


Annunciation
1609-10
Oil on canvas, 224 x 200 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna




Equestrian Portrait of Giancarlo Doria
c. 1606
Oil on canvas, 265 x 188 cm
Galleria Nazional della Liguria, Genoa


Portrait of Maria Serra Pallavicino
1606
Oil on canvas, 241 x 140 cm
Private collection


Self-Portrait in a Circle of Friends from Mantua
Oil on canvas, 78 x 101 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne



The Four Philosophers
1611
Oil on canvas, 164 x 139 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence





The Lamentation
c. 1609
Oil on panel, 34 x 27 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

 
 
 
 

The Artist and His First Wife, Isabella Brant, in the Honeysuckle Bower


Following his return from Italy, Peter Paul Rubens married Isabella Brant, the daughter of a respected patrician and secretary of state. To mark the occasion, he painted this double portrait. He had spent the previous eight years working for the Duke of Mantua, in whose service he had been sent on diplomatic missions to Spain, Venice, Rome and Genoa. Rubens, the son of an Antwerp lawyer, had graduated as master of St. Luke's painters guild in Antwerp in 1598. Since then he had come into frequent contact with courtly society, developing manners that would have been becoming in a person of aristocratic birth, while maintaining his bourgeois sense of freedom and independence of mind. Intellectually, he had reason to be grateful to Justus Lipsius, the teacher who had schooled him in Stoic philosophy.
In his portrait Rubens transforms the joining of hands - the "dextrarum junctio", still considered a legally binding, ritual gesture of betrothal in Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini-portrait - to a sign of loving tenderness, playing down the more official aspect of the ceremony without losing respect for the gesture's legal and symbolic significance. Love and affection are shown as the basis of the union, and the free decision of each of the spouses to enter marriage is underlined, irrespective of legal relations governing their property. It is nonetheless apparent that affluence, luxury, rank and reputation ultimately form the material basis of their union. This is especially evident in the couple's clothes. Rubens himself, his left leg crossed casually over his right, is wearing an elegantly fashionable costume with a pressed lace collar, while Isabella Brant wears a long, voluminous, red silk skirt, with a lace ruff encircling her lace bonnet and high yellow hat. Her bejewelled bracelet displays her family wealth. The sword hilt nonchalantly held in Rubens's hand - his hand partly hides it, partly attracts the spectator's attention to it - is a casual reference to the quasi-aristocratic status of the artist. The relationship between the sexes initially seems egalitarian; a hierarchy is suggested, however, by the fact that he is sitting, while she kneels on the grass.
The couple is posed in an arbour under some honeysuckle. Traditionally, in Italian betrothal and marriage portraits of the Renaissance-in Giorgione's Laura, for example - bushes and other such settings or backdrops were included as symbolic attributes or emblematic decorations, while here the honeysuckle appears natural, a bush blossoming in a real garden or landscape. The symbolism seems quite coincidental: "longer-the-better" was a popular name for the shrub. Whereas the couple in van Eyck's Arnolfini-portrait is seen in a parlour, Rubens's double portrait suggests that "his" couple has left the interior for a "love garden", or pleasance, a sphere of human happiness in the natural world. The tradition of the pastoral idyll, with its Utopian allusions to a Golden Age and the Garden of Eden, had been revived in the literature of the period.

 


The Artist and His First Wife, Isabella Brant, in the Honeysuckle Bower
1609-10
Oil on canvas, 178 x 136,5 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich


Rubens married Isabella Brant (1591-1626), the daughter of the Antwerp patrician and humanist Jan Brant,
on 3rd December 1609. The double portrait which he painted to mark the occasion is set against a natural background,
a pastoral idyll emphasising the happiness and loving tenderness of the moment rather than the offical ceremony.


 

Peter Paul Rubens
The Artist and His First Wife, Isabella Brant,
in the Honeysuckle Bower (detail)
1609-10

 

Peter Paul Rubens
Isabella Brant, the Artist's First Wife, c. 1622. Black, red and white chalks, pen and ink on light brown paper, 38.1 x 29.2cm London, British Museum



Peter Paul Rubens
The Artist and His First Wife, Isabella Brant, in the Honeysuckle Bower (detail)
1609-10


In 1622, almost two dacades later, Frans Hals returned to Rubens's subject of the seemingly unconstrained and unconventional couple under the honeysuckle, exploring the theme in a portrait which probably shows Isaak Massa and his wife. The pose of the recently married couple, leaning against the trunk of a tree, emphasises the casual air of the portrait. The ivy twining itself around the tree and curling round at the woman's feet, who, in turn, has her hand negligently resting on the man's shoulder, symbolises the permanence of marriage. The thistle growing next to the man in the bare patch of ground at the bottom left of the picture may be an allusion to God's words to Adam after the Fall: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." (Genesis 3,17f.) Thus, the thistle may symbolise labour, itself a consequence of the Fall. In puritanical Calvinist ethics, which had already gained considerable currency in the Netherlands, work was considered a cardinal virtue, and achievement a central aspect of personal conduct.
While Peter Paul Rubens found it neither desirable nor necessary - at least in his Honeysuckle painting - to add ennobling background scenes, Frans Hals's work for his Dutch bourgeois couple included an Italian landscape background on the right - a sunlit villa, marble statue and spring - whose purpose was to create the impression of elevated rank and dignified elegance. However, the background features are fanciful, bearing no relation whatsoever to the real world of the couple. Rather than the couple's country residence, scrutiny of iconographical details shows the villa to be the temple of Juno, the goddess of marriage, whose attribute was the peacock.



Peter Paul Rubens
Rubens, his wife Helena Fourment, and their son Peter Paul
1639
Oil on wood, 203.8 x 158.1 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 
 
 
 

Raising of the Cross
1610
Oil on panel, 460 x 340 cm (centre panel), 460 x 150 cm (wings)
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp


Raising of the Cross (detail)
1610
Oil on panel, 460 x 340 cm
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp




Raising of the Cross (detail)
1610
Oil on panel
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp


Raising of the Cross: Sts Amand and Walpurgis
1610
Oil on panel, 460 x 150 cm
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp


Raising of the Cross: Sts Eligius and Catherine
1610
Oil on panel, 460 x 150 cm
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp


The Resurrection of Christ
1611-12
Oil on panel, 138 x 98 cm (centre panel), 136 x 40 cm (wings)
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp


The Resurrection of Christ
c. 1612
Oil on panel, 138 x 98 cm
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp


The Resurrection of Christ
1611-12
Oil on panel, 138 x 98 cm (centre panel), 136 x 40 cm (wings)
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp

 
 
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