Peter Paul Rubens – Virtual Tour
Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist who is considered the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition.
Rubens specialized in making altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His compositions referenced classical and Christian history and emphasized movement, color, and sensuality.
Virtual Tour of Peter Paul Rubens
- The Judgment of Paris
- Adam and Eve
- Samson and Delilah
- Massacre of the Innocents
- The Last Supper
- Miraculous Catch of Fish
- Honeysuckle Bower
- Battle of the Amazons
- The Battle of Anghiari – Copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Lost Painting
- Diana and Callisto
- Prometheus Bound
Highlights Tour of Peter Paul Rubens
“The Judgment of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens shows Rubens’ version of idealized feminine beauty, with the goddesses Venus, Minerva, and Juno on the right side and Paris accompanied by Mercury on the left side.
The Judgement of Paris is a story from Greek mythology. It describes one of the events that led up to the Trojan War.
Later a Roman version of the story uses the story as part of the foundation myth for Rome.
The story of the Judgement of Paris offered artists the opportunity to depict a beauty contest between three beautiful female nudes. Museum: Prado Museum, Museo del Prado
“Adam and Eve” by Peter Paul Rubens depict the first man and woman at the point when Eve is deceived into eating fruit from the forbidden tree, and then she gives some of the fruit to Adam.
The story of Adam and Eve is often depicted in art, and it has had a significant influence on literature and poetry. The story of the fall is commonly understood to be an allegory.
According to the Bible, God created Adam from dust and places him in the Garden of Eden.
Adam is told that he could eat freely of all the trees in the garden, except for a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Subsequently, Eve is created as Adam’s companion, and they are innocent and unembarrassed about their nakedness.
However, after eating fruit from the forbidden tree, God curses and banishes them from the Garden of Eden. Museum: Prado Museum, Museo del Prado
“Samson and Delilah” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts an episode from the Old Testament story of Samson and Delilah.
Samson was a Hebrew hero of the ancient Israelites described in the Book of Judges. Samson was granted immense strength to aid him against his enemies and allow him to perform superhuman feats, including defeating an army of Philistines.
However, if Samson’s long hair were cut, then his vow would be violated, and he would lose his strength. Unfortunately, he fell in love with Delilah, who betrayed him.
Delilah had been bribed by the Philistines to learn Samson’s secret of his great strength. Rubens portrays the moment when, having fallen asleep on Delilah’s lap, Samson’s hair is cut.
Delilah is shown with all of her clothes, but with her breasts exposed. The man cutting Samson’s hair is crossing his hands, which is a sign of betrayal.
Philistine soldiers can be seen waiting in the background waiting for Samson to lose his strength and to capture him. The older woman’s face standing behind Delilah may symbolize Delilah’s future looks; they are shown with similar profiles. Museum: National Gallery, London
“Massacre of the Innocents” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts the episode of the biblical Massacre in Bethlehem, as related in the Gospel of Matthew.
According to the Gospel, Herod the Great, the Roman appointed King of the Jews, ordered the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
He gave this order to protect the loss of his throne from a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi.
In Matthew’s account, the Magi from the east go to Judea in search of the newborn king of the Jews, having “seen his star in the east.”
King Herod directs them to Bethlehem and asks them to let him know who this king is when they find him. They find Jesus and honor him, but an angel tells them not to alert Herod, and they return home by another way. Museum: Art Gallery of Ontario
“The Last Supper” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts Jesus and the Apostles during the Last Supper, with Judas facing towards the viewer and away from the table.
Judas is the most prominent figure amongst the disciples. Judas holds his right hand to his mouth with his eyes avoiding direct contact with the other participants, with a nervous expression.
Jesus is dressed in red and has a yellow halo surrounding his head as he looks upwards. Jesus is located in the center of the painting.
There are six disciples on each side. Jesus holds a loaf of bread with a cup of wine in front of him. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper fresco influenced Rubens as did his humanist ideals from which he extracts biblical themes.
The composition was also inspired by Venetian 16th century painting. Museum: Brera Art Gallery, Pinacoteca di Brera
The “Miraculous Catch of Fish” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts one of the two miracles attributed to Jesus in the gospels.
In both miracles, apostles are fishing unsuccessfully in the Sea of Galilee when Jesus tells them to try one more cast of the net, at which they are rewarded with a significant catch.
In the Gospel of Luke, the first miraculous catch of fish takes place during the early ministry of Jesus and results in Peter, James, and John joining Jesus as disciples.
The second miraculous catch of fish is reported in the last chapter of the Gospel of John and takes place after the Resurrection of Jesus.
In Christian art, the two miracles are distinguished by the fact that in the first miracle, Jesus is shown sitting in the boat with Peter, while in the second miracle, he is standing on the shore.
In this 1610, oil on oak, study of the miracle, by Rubens, it is not clear which of the wonders is depicted.
Rubens is one of the best-known painters of the seventeenth century, and he has created a heroic work of art that echos the figures of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling. Museum: Wallraf–Richartz Museum
“Battle of the Amazons” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts a battle of the warlike women called Amazons from Ancient Greek mythology.
In this depiction, the Amazons are losing the fight with the Greek horsemen charging headlong into combat and the Amazons falling in defeat. Rubens has created a whirlwind composition that is a dazzling Baroque masterpiece.
Rubens’s artistic narrative is anchored around the arch of the bridge, which forms a center that encircles the flow of movement of the combatants.
The surging movement throws the opposing forces together with the Amazons being hurled from their horses down into the river. Museum: Alte Pinakothek
“The Battle of Anghiari” by Peter Paul Rubens, is a copy of a lost Leonardo da Vinci fresco, it depicts four Knights engaged in a battle for possession of a standard, at the Battle of Anghiari in 1440.
Rubens successfully portrayed the fury, the intense emotions, and the sense of power that were present in Da Vinci’s original painting.
Leonardo da Vinci made many preparatory studies that still exist. Da Vinci’s composition of the central section is known through this drawing copy by Peter Paul Rubens.
Rubens’s copy, dating from 1603, was based on an engraving of 1553 by Lorenzo Zacchia, which was taken from the painting itself. Museum: Louvre Museum
“Diana and Callisto” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts the dramatic moment when Diana and her nymphs prepare to take a bath, and Callisto’s pregnancy is revealed.
Callisto is ashamed and tries to cover herself with her clothes. Diana is shown on the left, with the moon icon in her hair.
Diana, as the goddess of the moon, the hunt, and chastity, had to punished Callisto, who had taken a vow of chastity.
The Roman poet Ovid, in his book Metamorphosis, popularised the ancient Greek myth of Diana and the nymph Callisto.
Zeus was attracted to the nymph and took the form of Diana to seduce and rape her. Museum: Museo del Prado
“The Holy Women at the Sepulchre” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts the third day after the Crucifixion when the women who were visiting Christ’s tomb were greeted by two angels.
The angels who were surrounded by a shining light deliver the astonishing news of the Resurrection. Each of the women reacts differently to this miraculous announcement, contemplating the significance of what they have heard.
Rubens, who had been significantly influenced by the Roman sculptural art that he experienced during his time in Rome, creates a highly sculptural effect for this dramatic composition.
Rubens used highly rounded forms, with precise contours and vibrant colors, to create creat energy and movement in the picture. Museum: Norton Simon Museum
“Prometheus Bound” by Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders depicts the punishment of Prometheus. The immortal Prometheus was bound to a rock.
Peter Paul Rubens completed this painting in his studio with collaboration from Frans Snyders, who rendered the eagle.
Each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, which would then grow back overnight to be eaten the next day again.
In ancient Greece, the liver was thought to be the seat of human emotions.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan who defies the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilization.
As a consequence, Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the Titan to eternal torment for his transgression. Prometheus was eventually freed by the hero Heracles (Hercules). Museum: Philadelphia Museum of Art
Peter Paul Rubens
- Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
- Born: 1577 – Siegen, Nassau-Dillenburg, Holy Roman Empire
- Died: 1640 (aged 62) – Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands
- Nationality: Flemish
- Movement: Flemish Baroque, Baroque
- Major Works:
A Tour of Artists and their Art
- Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510)
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
- Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528)
- Michelangelo (1475 – 1564)
- Raphael (1483 – 1520)
- Titian (1488 – 1576)
- Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569)
- El Greco (1541 – 1614)
- Caravaggio (1571 – 1610)
- Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640)
- Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675)
- Canaletto (1697 – 1768)
- Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828)
- J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851)
- Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867)
- John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896)
- Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)
- Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906)
- Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)
- Henri Rousseau (1844 – 1910)
- Mary Cassatt (1844 – 1926)
- John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917)
- Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
- John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925)
- Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918)
- Rupert Bunny (1864 – 1947)
- Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)
- Goyō Hashiguchi (1880 – 1921)
- Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920)
- Artists and their Art
Peter Paul Rubens Quotes
“My passion comes from the heavens, not from earthly musings.” – Peter Paul Rubens
“I’m just a simple man standing alone with my old brushes, asking God for inspiration.” – Peter Paul Rubens
“White is poison to a picture: use it only in highlights.” – Peter Paul Rubens
On the Genius of Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens: A collection of 832 Paintings
Gallery of the masters – Peter Paul Rubens
“I’m just a simple man standing alone with my old brushes, asking God for inspiration.”
– Peter Paul Rubens
Photo Credit: 1) Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain]