Peter Paul Rubens

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Rubens, 1623: 'Self-portrait', oil on canvas

Peter Paul Rubens (28 June 157730 May 1640) was a Flemish artist. He is considered the most influential artist of Flemish Baroque tradition. Rubens' highly charged compositions reference erudite aspects of classical and Christian history.

Quotes of Peter Paul Rubens[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes of Peter Paul Rubens
Rubens, 1608: 'Madonna Adored by Angels / Madonna della Vallicella', mural-painting in oil on slate; quote of Rubens, 1608: 'The light falls so unfavorably on the altar that one can hardly discern [in the mural] the figures or enjoy the beauty of color and the delicacy of the heads and draperies which I executed with great care from nature and completely successfully according to the judgement of all'
Rubens, 1613-14: 'The Lamentation of Christ', oil on canvas
Rubens, c. 1615: 'The four great rivers of Antiquity', oil on canvas
Rubens, c. 1617-18: 'Head of Medusa', oil-painting; - quote of Constantijn Huygens, c. 1635: 'Of his many paintings, there is one that always sticks in my memory.. .the head of Medusa.. .The countancy of the extremely beautiful woman has its grace still preserved, but at the same time evokes the horror of the fitting beginning of death and of the wreath of hydrous snakes. The combination is so shrewdly executed that the spectator would be shocked..'
Rubens, 1618-19: 'Two Satyrs', oil on panel
Rubens, 1620: 'The martyrdom of Saint Lucia', painting
Rubens, 1620-30: 'Portraits of Archduke Albrecht and Archduchess Isabella', oil on panel; - quote of Archduke Albrecht in a letter to Rubens: 'It is of very little importance to me how you proceed [the portrait of his wife Isabelle], and what account you render of your actions. All I can tell you is that I shall be greatly obliged if you will learn henceforth how persons of your station should write to mine'
Rubens, c. 1629: 'Portrait of Isabella von Bourbon', oil-painting; - quote of Rubens, 1634: '[I] decided to force myself to cut this golden knot of ambition [to portray the nobility any longer] in order to recover my liberty.. .Now by God's grace.. .I am leading a quiet life with my wife and children and have no pretensions in the world than to live in peace'
Rubens, 1629-30: 'Minerva protects Pax from Mars (Peace and War), oil on canvas
Rubens, 1632-35: 'Landscape with Rainbow', oil on canvas
Rubens, 1637-38: 'The Consequences of War, oil on canvas: '..here is also a mother with a child in her arms indicating that fecundity, procreation and charity are thwarted by War, which corrupts and destroys everything'
Rubens, 1635-1640: 'Evening landscape with timber wagon', oil on panel; - quote of Rubens, 1635: 'I am by nature and inclination a peaceful man, the sworn enemy to disputes, lawsuits and quarrels both public and private'

1605 - 1625[edit]

  • The light falls so unfavorably on the altar that one can hardly discern the figures or enjoy the beauty of color and the delicacy of the heads and draperies which I executed with great care from nature and completely successfully according to the judgement of all. Therefore, seeing that all the merit in the work is thrown away and since I cannot obtain the honor due my efforts unless the results can be seen, I do not think I will unveil it.
    • Quote of Rubens, in his letter to Count Annibale Chieppio (minister of the Duke of Mantua), February 2, 1608; as cited in Rembrandts Eyes', by w:Simon Schrama, Alfred A. Knopf, Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 130 (LPPR, 42)
    • Rubens reports in this quote about the overdoses of light, falling upon his recently-made altar-painting 'Virgin and Child Adored by Angels', (Rome, Santa Maria, Vallicella), 1607 which is fading the colors for the viewer.
  • I should not base it [ the mural-painting 'Madonna della Vallicella' Rubens painted c. 1607] on the estimate of Rome but leave it to the discretion of His Highness [the Duke of Mantua].. ..though the figures [but withdraw it for the light in the church was to strong there] are saints, they have no special attributes or insignia that could not be applied to any other saints of similar rank.
    • In his letter to Count Annibale Chieppio (minister of the Duke of Mantua), February 2, 1608; as quoted in Rembrandts Eyes', by w:Simon Schrama, Alfred A. Knopf, Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 131 (LPPR, 42)
    • w:Simon Schrama quotes this remark as a proof of Rubens as a sales-man who want to sell the altar-piece to the Duke of Mantua, who (as he wrote optimistically to Chieppio), had expressed an interest in having one of his paintings in his gallery. That's why Rubens emphasized the 'rich dress' of the figures
  • I have not yet made up my mind whether to remain in my own country Flanders or to return forever to Rome.. ..[I have received] an invitation on the most favorable terms.. ..Here they also do not fail to make every effort to keep me by every sort of compliment. The Archduke and the Most Serene Infanta have had letters written urging me to remain in their service. The offers are very generous but I have little desire to become a courtier again.
    • In his letter to Dr. Johannes Faber, 10 April 1609; in De Zuidnederlandse immigratie, 1572-1630, J. Briels, Haarlem, 1978, p. 43-44.
    • one of Rubens' good former companions during his stay in Rome c. 1604-1607 was Dr. Johannes Faber, the 'Aesculapius', who had cured his pleurisy then
  • [those paintings that are] done entirely by my hand.. ..[those,]done by the hand of a master skillfull in that department.. ..but this one not being finished, would be entirely retouched by my own hand, and by this means would pass as original; done by one of my pupils, but the whole retouched by my hand.
    • In a letter of 28 April, 1618, to the collector Sir Dudley Carleton; transl. from Italian, R. Saunders Magurn, The letters of Peter Paul Rubens, Cambridge Mass., 1955, p.60-61
    • Rubens is indicating in this letter to a good client the level of his personal involvement in several paintings which were offered then for sale. Rubens is specifying his involvement in a variety of degrees, in relation to the attribution by pupils or by other fellow-artists - like his cooperation in many paintings with Breughel, for instance
  • I have heard that you have found the secret of engraving on copper on white ground, as Elsheimer did. To bite the plate with acid, he covered the copper with a white paste. He then drew with the point down to the metal, which is of reddish color, and it looked as if he were drawing with red crayon on white paper. I cannot remember the composition of this write paste, although he communicated it to me.
    • Quote of Rubens in a letter to Pieter van Veen, 19 June 1622 [1]

1625 - 1640[edit]

  • [on the high seas] the English are increasing their insolence and barbarity. [T]hey cut to pieces the captain of a ship coming from Spain and threw all the crew into the sea for having defended themselves valiantly.
    • In a letter to Pierre Dupuy, 7 June 1627; as quoted by Simon Schrama, in Rembrandt's eyes, Alfred A. Knopf - Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 244
  • We are exhausted [in Antwerp] and have endured so much that this war seems without purpose.. ..[and that it seemed] strange that Spain, which provides so little for the needs of this country .. ..has an abundance of means to wage an offensive war elsewhere.
    • In a letter to Pierre Dupuy, Sept. / Oct. 1627; as quoted by Simon Schrama, in Rembrandt's eyes, Alfred A. Knopf - Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 248
  • [I] decided to force myself to cut this golden knot of ambition [to portray the nobility any longer] in order to recover my liberty. Realizing that a retirement of this sort must be made while one is rising and not falling; that one must leave Fortune while she is still favorable.. .I seized the occasion of a short, secret journey to throw myself at Her Highness's feet and beg, as the sole reward for so many efforts, exemption from such [diplomatic] assignments and permission to serve her in my own home. This favor I obtained with more difficulty than any other she ever granted me.. .Now by God's grace.. ..I am leading a quiet life with my wife and children and have no pretensions in the world than to live in peace.
    • Quote in a letter to his friend Peiresc, 18 Dec. 1634; as cited by Simon Schrama, in Rembrandt's eyes, Alfred A. Knopf - Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 402
  • I have neither time to live nor to write. I am therefore cheating my art by stealing a few evening hours to write this most inadequate and negligent reply to the courteous and elegant letters of yours.
    • In a letter to his friend Peiresc, Dec. 1634 - LPPR, 393; as quoted by Simon Schrama, in Rembrandt's eyes, Alfred A. Knopf - Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 403
    • At a speed which was daunting even for someone of his facility, Rubens was asked to supply the designs for four stages and five triumphal arches in the city Antwerp. Though he could rely on his scholarly friends for help with the allegorical program and his workshop for assistance in fabricating them, he still became 'overburdened' with the work
  • I am by nature and inclination a peaceful man, the sworn enemy to disputes, lawsuits and quarrels both public and private.
    • In a letter to his friend Peiresc, May 1635, as quoted in 'La casa di Pietro Paolo Rubens a Roma', L'Opinione 245, 6 September, 1887
  • I was not yet inclined to live the life of a celibate.. ..I have taken a young wife of honest but middle-class family although everyone tried to persuade me to make a court marriage. But I feared pride, that inherent vice of the nobility, particularly in that sex, and that is why I chose one who would not blush to see me take my brushes in hand. And to tell the truth it would have been hard for me to exchange the priceless treasure of liberty for the embraces of an old woman.
    • In a letter to his friend Peiresc, c. 1635; as quoted in Rubens and the Roman Circle, Huemer, p. 44
    • his second wife was Helena Fourment, the daughter of a silk merchant, Daniel Fourment; when Rubens married her in 1630 she was just

sixteen - [2]

  • Nearby.. ..are monsters personifying Pestilence and Famine, those inseparable partners of War. On the ground, turning her back, lies a woman with a broken lute representing Harmony.. .[T]here is also a mother with a child in her arms indicating that fecundity, procreation and charity are thwarted by War, which corrupts and destroys everything. [Rubens is describing his painting 'The Horrors of War' 1637]
    • In a letter to Justus Sustermans, c. 1637 (Rubens' agent at the Medici court in Florence); as quoted in Rembrandts Eyes', by w:Simon Schrama, Alfred A. Knopf, Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 180
    • Simon Schrama describes: The blue skies in the painting are overwhelmed by smoky darkness.. ..despite support from the usual team of putti and her own spectacularly opulent charms, Venus is losing the battle for Mars's attentions to the Fury Alecto
  • [were I] not detained here by age and by the gout which renders me useless, I should go there to enjoy with my own eyes and admire the perfection of such worthy works.. ..[I pray] look upon all the marvels of your hand.. ..before I close my eyes forever.
    • In a letter to Francois Duquesnoy, 1639-1640 ; as quoted in Rembrandts Eyes', by w:Simon Schrama, Alfred A. Knopf, Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 180
    • The sculptor Francois Duquesnoy, then living drawing heightened with in Rome, had sent him models of work done for a tomb monument, Windsor Castle, Rubens praised them with his usual expansive generosity. Rubens had begun to resign himself to his end, but could write still some letters

Quotes about Peter Paul Rubens - chronologically[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes about Peter Paul Rubens

by contemporaries[edit]

  • ..saw with the two admirable painters Peter Paul Rybent [Rubens] and Brügel many splendid paintings and works of art. Rybent mostly paint large pieces and everything naturally great, very artistic and after life. He can make 100 gulden [Flemish money] a week; excellent pieces by him he can sell for 2, 3, 4 or 500 rijksgulden. Brügel paints small panels and landscapes, but all very subtle and artistic, that one regards them with wonder.
    • Quote of Duke Johann Ernst of Saxony, an account of his travels, early 1614; as cited in Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship, ed. Anne T. Woollett, Ariane van Suchtelen, Getty Publications, 2006, p. 2
  • A different painting which is the most beautiful and precious I have made from life. Also Signor Rubens had made a painting of the best kind in the center [of the painting, made by both artists] showing his merit, a lovely Madonna. The birds and animals are made from life from some of those of the most serene Infanta.
    • Quote of Jan Breughel, 5 September 1621, as cited by G. Crivelli in Giovanni Breughel, pittor flamingo, Sue lettre e quadretti, esistenti presso L'Ambrorisana, Milano 1868, p. 272
    • Jan Brueghel the Elder and Rubens had access to the menagerie of the archdukes Albert and Isabella at their court in Brussels. Especially Bruegel was familiar with the colors and attitudes of apes there. He notes in this letter that the birds and the animals were made from life; in a (garland with a) 'Beautiful Madonna' he was making, together with Rubens [3]
  • It is of very little importance to me how you proceed [the portrait of his wife Isabelle], and what account you render of your actions. All I can tell you is that I shall be greatly obliged if you will learn henceforth how persons of your station should write to mine.
    • Philippe-Charles d'Arenberg, in a letter to Rubens, between 1620-1630; as quoted by Simon Schrama, in Rembrandt's eyes, Alfred A. Knopf - Borzoi Books, NEW YORK 1999, p. 402
    • Rubens had to petition for a favor in making the portrait of his wife Isabelle Claire de Berlaymont. When Rubens attempted, as courteously as he could, to pacify the Duke d'Aerschot's irritation concerning his privy access to Isabella, his efforts were brusquely rebuffed
  • My desire to enjoy your wonderful conversation is not a passing thing. I don't know what demons have robbed me of your company.
  • Sir Peter Rubens is gone on Sunday last, the fourteenth of this month, with a trumpeter, toward Bergen op Zoom, with full power to give the fatal blow to Mars and life to this State and the Empire. (by Balthazar Gerbier, December 1631, (Charles I.'s agent in Brussels)
  • Our good friend M. Rubens, as you will have heard, has accomplished nothing, having been sent back by the Prince of Orange almost as soon as he arrived. (in a letter of Hugo Grotius to Rubens's correspondent Pierre Dupuy, Jan. 1632
    • both letters are quoted by Simon Schrama, in Rembrandt's eyes, Alfred A. Knopf - Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 285
    • Rubens was sent to The Netherlands as diplomat, but without results
  • Of his [Rubens] many paintings, there is one that always sticks in my memory, that one that I was able to see once with my friend Nicolas Sohier.. ..There is the compelled painting head of Medusa, wreathed by snakes that spring from her hair. The countancy of the extremely beautiful woman has its grace still preserved, but at the same time evokes the horror of the fitting beginning of death and of the wreath of hydrous snakes. The combination is so shrewdly executed that the spectator would be shocked..
    • Constantijn Huygens, c. 1635; as quoted in Rubens and Breughel, a Working friendship, Anne T. Woollett, Ariane van Suchtelen, Getty Publications, 2006, p. 182-183
  • ..Peter Paul Rubens, Lord of Steen, who among the other gifts by which he marvelously excelled in the knowledge of ancient history merited being called the Apollos not only of our, but of all time, who made himself a pathway to the friendship of kings and princes..
    • inscription by Jan Gevaerts, 1640; as quoted by Jonathan Brown, in Kings and Connoisseurs: Collecting in Seventeenth-Century Europe, Princeton 1995, p. 123
    • In November 1640, the magistrates of the city Antwerp gave the family Rubens their permission - and a chapel, costing five thousand florins, was built behind the choir. Set into the floor is an inscription by Jan Gevaerts praising 'Peter Paul Rubens, Lord of Steen...'

after 1700[edit]

  • In fact, Huygens was in direct contact with Rubens during the years he was trying to extract the Passion paintings from Rembrandt. Eager to win the approval of the Flemish artist, who was himself famous for building the perfect house of a humanist gentleman scholar and was the published authority on palazzi from Genoa, Huygens sent Rubens illustrations of his own brand-new urban villa, built in the center of The Hague to the most fashionably Italianate specifications. At the end of the letter, almost casually, Huygens added a commission from Frederik Hendrik for a painting to be placed above the hearth in his palace, the subject to be of Rubens's choosing, but: with three, 'at most four' figures, 'the beauty of whom should be elaborated con amore, studio e diligenza.'
    • Van Gelder, in Rubens in Holland in de zeventiende eeuw, publ. Nederl Kunsthist Jaarb, 5 (1949/51): art. cit. 142-43; as quoted by Simon Schrama, in Rembrandt's eyes, Alfred A. Knopf - Borzoi Books, New York 1999, p. 437
  • Rubens avoided painting in such a way that the color sank in. The luminous clarity of his work was proof of the excellence of his technique.. ..his colors had so much brilliance and binding medium within themselves, that, like van Eyck's pictures, they had a gloss without needing to be varnished.
    • Max Doerner, in The Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting, 1962, p. 186
  • Rubens, for example, told de Mayerne that pigments should be ground quickly working with turpentine, which was better and less fierce than oil of spike lavender (this would be the preliminary grinding, before grinding with the oil medium. Rubens also recommended dipping the brush in turpentine occasionally before blending the colours on the pallet so that the paint was more easily worked and the colours did not 'die' or 'sink'.
    • J. Kirkeby, in 'The Painter's trade in the Seventeenth Century: Theory and Practice', in 'National Gallery Technical Bulletin', London 20, 1999, pp. 5-49
  • A similar clear division of labor [in one painting - between Rubens and Bruegel the Elder] can be observed in the portraits of Albert and Isabella of c. 1618-1620.. ..where Ruben's portraits are separated from the surrounding landscape by Bruegel (or Bruegel 's studio). This may perhaps be attributed to the fact that the execution of a portrait commission allowed for a very clear division of labor.
    • In: Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship, ed. Anne T. Woollett, Ariane van Suchtelen, Getty Publications, 2006, p. 101
    • The views in this painting of castle of Tervuren behind archduke Albert and the Mariemont castle behind archduchess Isabella were meticulously executed by Bruegel the Elder; the images of the two portraits were devices by Rubens and largely executed in his studio. Paintings in that time frequently traveled between different studio's, even between Flander and Italy. [4]

External links[edit]

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  • http://remdoc.huygens.knaw.nl/#/document/remdoc/e12885
  • from Rembrandts Eyes', Simon Schrama p. 182
  • [[1]] p. 200, note 24
  • [ https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=nl&id=2R82AgAAQBAJ&dq=Rubens+%26+Brueghel%3A+A+Working+Friendship&q=letter#v=onepage&q=Albert%20and%20Isabella&f=false]