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Rubens Paintings

Flemish Baroque Master, Peter Paul Rubens was one of the most renowned painters of his era. Although his family was originally from Antwerp, Rubens spent time in Italy and Spain studying the works other masters, including Raphael, Titan and Michelangelo, who each had an impact on Rubens’ style.

In 1609 Rubens had returned to Antwerp where he was a member of the Antwerp painter’s guild and was appointed the court painter for Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella of the Netherlands. Not long after, he married Isabella Brandt and bought a house in which he designed his own studio. This house known as the Rubens House can still be seen today.

In his studio Rubens and his apprentices turned his drawings into masterful paintings combining his realistic Flemish style with influences from Italian Renaissance painting creating a new style and shaping the landscape of European art at the time.1 Because Rubens had many skilled artists working in his studio to assist him with the work he was commissioned to do, he has a vast body of work including portraits, landscapes and many religious works. Many of these paintings, including several altar pieces in cathedrals, are monumental in scale as well.

Rubens paintings are considered dynamic and often tell the story of a scene from religion or mythology. Rubens and his artists used oils to create his paintings primarily on board, canvas, panels and slate. Some of his most famous works include St. George and the Dragon, Massacre of the Innocents, The Raising of the Cross, The Garden of Love, Venus with Mirror and Daniel in the Lion’s Den.

Continue Reading about Rubens’ Paintings:
St. George and the Dragon
Rubens’ Top 20 Paintings

Peter Paul Rubens’ The Raising of the Cross

The Raising of the Cross is one of the altarpieces that played an important role in establishing Peter Paul Rubens as a leading painter in Flanders. The triptych, or three-paneled altarpiece, was painted for the high alter of St. Walpurgis, one of the Antwerp churches. In 1794 the painting was seized by the French and taken to Paris. In 1815, following the defeat of Napoleon, the painting was returned to Antwerp and put on display in the church of Our Lady where it can still be viewed. In the 1980s the painting underwent a renovation which removed a gray film that had covered the painting. The renovation revived the brilliant colors and contrasts of Rubens’ work.

Rubens painted the triptych, The Raising of the Cross, also referred to as The Elevation of the Cross, after returning to Flanders from his time in Italy. During his artistic training in Italy, Rubens spent time studying the work of Michelangelo, Tintoretto, and Caravaggio. The influence of the Italian styles of Baroque and Renaissance are evident in this piece.

Unlike many triptychs The Raising of the Cross tells just one story throughout the three panels. In the center panel the nine muscular executioners seem to strain in an attempt to raise the cross on which Christ’s pale body is hung. The muscular bodies show evidence of Michelangelo and Tinoretto’s influence on Rubens’ painting. On the left panel the apostle John and Jesus’ mother, Mary, surrounded by weeping women and children, look on as witnesses. On the right panel Roman officers watch the drama on horseback while in the background Roman soldiers are crucifying the two thieves.

Peter Paul Rubens’ St. George and the Dragon

The Legend of Saint George and the Dragon has many variations though most agree that there was a town being terrorized by a dragon living in a pond and a young princess was offered to the dragon. When George heard about this he rode into the village determined to save the princess. George rescued the princess, subdued the dragon and tied the princess’ belt around the dragon’s neck. She led the dragon back to the town where the hero, George, slayed it. The legend was popular in the Middle East and was brought to the rest of the world by the Crusaders. Since that time Saint George has been associated with Knights and chivalry and his slaying of the dragon is seen as a symbol of the victory of good over evil.

The Italian influence on Rubens’ painting is clearly seen in the drama-filled scene of Saint George and the Dragon. The princess on the left, said to represent the church, is classically painted resembling much of the Italian art Rubens encountered. The brave Saint George dressed in shiny armor and helmet with crest and plume show the attention to detail as seen in the artwork of Northern Europe.

Peter Paul Rubens known for his historical paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects painted his masterpiece Saint George and the Dragon while in the city of Genoa. Rubens went to Italy in order to further his artistic training. While in Italy Rubens saw paintings by Titan, Veronese, Tinitoretto, Michelangelo, Raphael, da Vinci and Caravaggio which had a direct effect on his painting. He studied and copied classical Greek and Roman works. While in the town of Genoa where Saint George is the patron saint he completed this painting.