Monday, December 12, 2011

Rubens, Peter Paul

The Artist and His First Wife, Isabella Brant, in the Honeysuckle Bower
Oil on canvas
178 cm × 136.5 cm (70 in × 53.7 in)
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The Honeysuckle Bower is a self-portrait of Rubens and his first wife Isabella Brant. They wed on October 3, 1609 in Antwerp. The painting is a full-length double portrait of the couple seated in a bower of honeysuckle. They are surrounded by love and marriage symbolism: the honeysuckle and garden are both traditional symbols of love, and the holding of right hands represents union through marriage. Additionally, Rubens depicts himself as an aristocratic gentleman with his left hand on the hilt of his sword.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640), Flemish Baroque painter, was a classically educated humanist scholar, art collector, and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV, King of Spain, and Charles I, King of England, who was the greatest exponent of Baroque painting's dynamism, vitality, and sensuous exuberance. He was well-known for his altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His work is a fusion of the traditions of Flemish realism with the classical tendencies of the Italian Renaissance and is one of the most methodically assimilative and most prodigiously productive of Western artists.

Rubens's influence in 17th-century Flanders was overwhelming, and it was spread elsewhere in Europe by his journeys abroad and by pictures exported from his workshop. He is a central figure in the history of Western art and artists at almost every period have responded to the force of his genius. Perhaps most noticeably in France, where Watteau, Delacroix, and Renoir were among his greatest admirers.

He died from gout on May 30, 1640 and was interred in Saint Jacob's church, Antwerp. He had eight children, three with Isabella and five with Helene (in 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, the 53-year-old painter married 16-year-old Helene Fourment); his youngest child was born eight months after his death. His fondness of painting full-figured women gave rise to the terms 'Rubensian' or 'Rubenesque' for plus-sized women.