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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist who is considered the most influential artists 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.

A Tour of Peter Paul Rubens’s Art

  • The Judgment of Paris
    • “The Judgment of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens show Rubens’ version of idealized feminine beauty, with the goddesses Venus, Minerva and Juno on right side and Paris accompanied by Mercury on the left side. The Judgement of Paris is a story from Greek mythology, which was one of the events that led up to the Trojan War and in a later Roman version of the story to the foundation of 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
    • “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 can 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
    • “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 old 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
    • “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, to protect the loss of his throne to 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
    • “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 with six disciples on each side, as he 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
  • Miraculous Catch of Fish
    • 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

Peter Paul Rubens

A Tour of Artists and their Art

Reflections

  • “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

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“I’m just a simple man standing alone with my old brushes, asking God for inspiration.”
– Peter Paul Rubens

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Photo Credit: 1) Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain]

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