Interesting facts about Peter Paul Rubens

September 17, 2010 | In: Art facts

Whether you wanted a peace treaty or a painting, Peter Paul Rubens was your man.

At age 23 Rubens traveled from his home in Flanders (now part of Belgium) to Italy to study the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Titian, but the Duke of Mantua was so impressed with his art that he invited him to be his court painter.

And when the duke discovered Rubens’ courtly manners and language skills, he made the painter his ambassador to the King of Spain. Later, Rubens would negotiate a peace treaty between England and Spain and be given titles of nobility from both countries.

When his mother died, he returned home from Italy and settled in a magnificent mansion in Antwerp which he furnished with antiques and statues.

Rubens loved huge, ornate, energetic paintings. In fact, the bigger the better. “My talent is such,” he boasted, “that no undertaking however vast in size… has ever surpassed my courage.”

His giant pictures featured biblical and mythological scenes with beautiful groupings of strong, active figures.

One of his most famous works is “Descent from the Cross” (1611-1614), depicting the removal of the dead Jesus from the cross.

Though his paintings were large, he produced a vast number of them. About 2,000 paintings have been attributed to his studio. One of the reasons he was able to produce so many is that he employed numerous assistants, some talented in painting animals, or background scenery. Often he would give his helpers a sketch and let them paint the picture in its basic form, then would finish it with his special touch.

Though employing assistants was nothing new, the size of Rubens operation caused some critics to accuse him of running a painting factory.

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