RUBENS Pieter Paul
(Siegen 1577 – Antwerp 1640)
Son of Jan Rubens, a lawyer of Flemish origin and Maria Pypelynckx, Pieter Paul was born in June 1577 in Siegen in Westphalia and he spent his childhood in Cologne where his father had fled with his family to escape the Spanish persecution against Protestants.
At his father’s death, still boy, he moved to Antwerp where he received humanistic education and converted to Catholicism.
At the age of fourteen, he had a period of apprenticeship at first with the painter and draftsman Tobias Verhaecht and later with the painter of Romanesque tradition Otto van Veen, the only one who had a certain degree of importance in the artistic training of young Rubens.
In 1598 he was registered as a master in the Antwerp Painters’ Guild.
From 1600 to 1608 he stayed in Italy where, through various movements, he knew and studied the most prestigious Italian artists of the time.
His paintings of this period show the overcoming of the drawings of the 16th century in favor of a style tense to a soft and sinuous magnificence, which was the first decisive step towards baroque art.
Back to Antwerp, he married Isabella Brant in October 1609 and started a very intense pictorial activity by opening a school-shop attended by valuable artists including Van Dyck, and produced a great amount of top-level works.
Remained widow, he resumed in 1630 with Hèléne Fourment, inspirer of numerous portraits with warm colors and brightness. He personally engraved very few works (almost always attributed to him with discordant opinions), but in his school he was surrounded by artists who had the task of translating his pictorial works into engraving: from Lucas Vosterman to Paulus Pontius, from Bolswert brothers to Christoffel Jegher.
Through more than eight hundred copperplates from his shop, Rubens’s fame has spread throughout Europe. In 1640, after his death and without his precise reference model, the graphic tradition of Antwerp started a progressive and rapid qualitative decay.
His tomb was placed in a chapel of St. James Church in Antwerp.