Period of varied and intense activity
It is with Peter Paul Rubens the painter that we are most familiar. But Rubens was also a diplomat, designer of tapestries, architect, maker of prints and illustrations for books, collector, etc. These activities reach a peak during the decade beginning in 1620, when Rubens becomes a genuine figure of renown throughout Europe. This decade also involves a number of personal tragedies.
At the start of the year Rubens is living in Paris, where he is commissioned by Queen Mother Maria de’ Medici to decorate two galleries in the Luxembourg Palace. This work is completed in 1625.
Clara Serena, Rubens’ only daughter, dies at the age of twelve. During a sojourn in Paris in May and June, Rubens himself is plagued by intense gout attacks.
Rubens is granted a patent of nobility by King Philip IV of Spain. In the meantime, Rubens is earnestly at work making designs for prints that are converted into engravings by Paulus Pontius. This turns out to be a lucrative endeavour for him.
Rubens takes his place among high society, as evidenced by his presence at the wedding of King Charles I of England to Henrietta Maria, the daughter of Maria de’ Medici, in Paris. In July the Archduchess Isabella visits the house and studio of Rubens, followed by the Duke of Buckingham in November. Isabella commissions Rubens to design a tapestry series for a convent in Madrid. He works on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary altarpiece for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.
Rubens’ wife Isabella Brant dies during an outbreak of the plague. In November, Rubens sells his collection of antique art to the Duke of Buckingham.
Rubens increasingly spends more time abroad on diplomatic missions (Madrid, Paris, London, etc.). He hardly spends any time in his Antwerp studio. In Madrid he meets Diego Velázquez, and makes numerous copies of the works of Titian which are held in that city. In early June of 1629, he arrives in London, where he produces the designs for the ceiling tiles of the Whitehall Palace. He is also here to prepare the peace treaty between England and Spain that is concluded on 15 November.
Rubens is knighted by King Charles I of England. In March, the painter-diplomat returns to Antwerp and marries the 16-year-old Helena Fourment on 6 December.
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