Famous Paintings by
Peter Paul Rubens
The Honeysuckle Bower
Dimensions: 178x136.5 cm
Material: Oil on canvas
Current location: Alte Pinakothek, Munich
About the painting: This is a painting of Rubens and his first wife Isabella Brant in 1609, the same year they married. The love and trust conveyed in the picture is truthful; the marriage was happy. Rubens chooses not to portrait himself as a working artist, but instead as an aristocratic with his hand on the sword. Painting was considered to be handicraft and more suitable for assistants than for a gentleman.
Samson and Delilah
About the painting: Rubens made this painting at the age of 31 for a close friend, the distinguished politician Nicolaas Rockox. In the picture Delilah has loured Samson to reveal the secret behind his strength; it's in the locks of his hair. The barber is cutting Samson's hair with great care and the Philistines are waiting outside the door. This is a magnificent example of Rubens' skill as a painter. The muscular figure of Samson has been inspired by Michelangelo, and the contrasts between light and dark is the influence by Caravaggio's chiaroscuro technique.
The Descent from the Cross
About the painting: Rubens' painted this altarpiece for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp after his return from Italy. The painting is the center piece of a triptych. A couple of years earlier he had completed another beautiful altarpiece, The Elevation of the Cross, for the same church. These two altarpieces meant a great deal for his reputation, they established him as Flanders' leading painter. The woman standing with her arms raised is the Virgin Mary.
The Disembarkation at Marseilles
Dimensions: 394x295 cm
Material: Oil on canvas
Current location: The Louvre, Paris
About the painting: In 1600 Marie de' Medici married Henry IV of France, and a year later she gave birth to the future King Louis XIII. Henry was assassinated when Louis was nine years old, and Marie became Regent. Peter Paul Rubens was the Queen's court painter. Marie commissioned Rubens to make a series of allegorical paintings celebrating her and her late husbands life. Rubens contract stated that he personally had to paint all the figures, which made it possible for him to use assistants for part of the work. This is one of 21 paintings that constitute the Marie de' Medici cycle. In the picture Marie arrives at Marseilles after her marriage to Henry IV. In the cycle Rubens used his genius to make ordinary events seem like a triumph for Marie, who never really accomplished much. The second cycle in the commission was never finished; in 1630 Marie was exiled from France by her son Louis XIII. All the paintings in the cycle are hanging at the Louvre in Paris.
The Fall of Man
About the painting: Rubens' copied many of Titian's paintings. Part of Rubens' greatness was due to his eager study of earlier masters and his ability to combine their techniques with his own style. The Fall of Man is an interesting example of a work after Titian, that is very close to the original but in which Rubens has changed some details. The red parrot in the tree is not in Titian's painting. The colors in Rubens' painting are more yellowish and Rubens has actually improved Titian's painting by giving Adam a more natural pose. In fact, Adam looks a lot like Rubens himself. When Rubens made this painting, he had just met his second wife-to-be, Hélène Fourment. She was only 15 years old at the time.
The Festival of Venus
Dimensions: 217x358 cm
Material: Oil on panel
Current location: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
About the painting: Rubens' second wife, the very young Hélène Fourment, ispired many of his later paintings. Hélène often plays the part of Venus. In these paintings, putti are all around and the women are voluptuous.