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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rubens, Peter Paul


The Judgment of Paris
c.1606
oil on panel
size unknown
Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

The Judgement of Paris is a story from Greek mythology, which was one of the events that led up to the Trojan War and to the foundation of Rome. The story begins at the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis to which all of the gods were invited, all except Eris, the goddess of discord. When she appeared at the festivities, she was turned away, and in her anger cast a golden apple amongst the assembled goddesses addressed "To the Fairest." Three goddesses laid claim to the apple-Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. Zeus was asked to mediate and he commanded Hermes to lead the three goddesses to Paris of Troy to decide the issue. The three goddesses appearing before the shepherd prince, each offering him gifts for favour. He chose Aphrodite, swayed by her promise to bestow upon him Helene, the most beautiful woman, for wife. The subsequent abduction of Helene led directly to the Trojan War and the fall of the city.

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.