Art e Dossier

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Art History

Pieter Paul Rubens: biography

After his humanistic studies he turned to painting and frequented the Antwerp ateliers of Flemish artists who had been influenced by Florentine and Roman art. He registered in the Antwerp guild in 1598 and two years later made a journey to Italy, a common practice for painters from northern Europe. He went to Venice where he studied the works of Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto; he acquired a taste for vigorous brushstrokes and warm colors. He entered the service of Vincenzo Gonzaga as court painter. Over the following years he did many paintings, portraits and copied the greatest Italian artists for the duke of Mantua. The year 1601 found him in Rome where he obtained his first public commission: the three altarpieces for the chapel of St. Helena in Santa Croce in Jerusalem. In 1603 the Gonzagas sent him on a diplomatic mission to the court of Philip II in Spain, and he took advantage of the trip to study and copy Titian’s paintings. Upon his return to Mantua he painted The Gonzaga Family in Adoration of the Trinity for the duke; in 1605 he stopped in Genoa on his way to Rome where he painted the Crucifixion and the altarpiece for Santa Maria in Vallicella. He returned to Flanders in 1608 and was appointed court painter to the regents of the Netherlands. Thanks to his stirring interpretations of religious subjects there was a great demand for his paintings even from religious clients: between 1609 and 1612 he painted altars for the cathedral in Antwerp, the city where he had a flourishing atelier. In the early ‘twenties he began doing landscapes; his portraits and paintings of mythological subjects also met with great success. He was sent on diplomatic missions to the major European courts and between 1622 and 1630 he completed two cycles of paintings for the French monarchs known as the Marie de’ Medici Series. By reinterpreting and modifying different artistic languages, from the Venetians to Michelangelo to the ancients, Rubens succeeded in creating a mode of painting that was filled with great emotional tension.

The works