The artist

Rubens was the most sought out painter of Europe. He painted biblical and mythological scenes, intimate landscapes, hunting scenes and portraits as well as producing designs for statues, title pages and tapestries. Rubens was a jack of all trades in artistic terms.

Rubens was an exceptionally gifted draughtsman and painter. He had a phenomenal ability to observe, understand, adopt and creatively incorporate what he saw. And he did this in a multitude of disciplines. Rubens was so versatile that there was simply nobody like him.

The output of Rubens and his studio assistants was unparalleled. The master worked for patrons from all over Europe, including archdukes and counts, royal families,  less important dynasties, prominent courtiers and completed several commissions for the church.

 

An overview of his greatest commissions

  • 1601
    In Rome Rubens works on his first major commission: three altarpieces for the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
     
  • 1602-1605
    Rubens stays in the Italian cities of Rome, Mantua, Padua and Verona. He produces three large paintings for the Jesuit church in Mantua.
     
  • 1609
    Rubens is appointed court painter of the Archdukes Albert and Isabella but is allowed to live in Antwerp and work on his own account as well. 
     
  • 1610
    Rubens paints "The Raising of the Cross" for St. Walpurga's Church in Antwerp. It is one of his first major commissions after returning to Antwerp. He also designs title pages and creates illustrations for books at the request of his friend, Balthasar Moretus.
     
  • 1611
    In late summer Rubens reaches an agreement with the shooter's guild and Nicolaas Rockox to paint The Descent from the Cross. This triptych is commissioned for the guild altar in the Church of Our Lady, the present-day cathedral.
     
  • 1614
    Demand for Rubens's work increases. He expands his studio and regularly works with other masters, including his friend Jan Brueghel and Frans Snyders. In 1616, seventeen-year old Anthony van Dyck is hired to work in his studio as his assistant.
     
  • 1618
    Rubens is involved in the design and decoration of Antwerp's Jesuit church, the present-day church of St. Charles Borromeo. In 1620, he paints 39 ceiling paintings for this church, together with Anthony van Dyck.
     
  • 1622
    Rubens spends the beginning of this year in Paris, where he concludes a contract with the queen mother, Maria de' Medici, for the decoration of two galleries in the Palais du Luxembourg. It is completed in 1625.
     
  • 1625
    Isabella commissions a series of tapestries from Rubens for a convent in Madrid. He works on an altarpiece, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, for Antwerp's cathedral.
     
  • 1628-1630
    He arrives in London in early June of 1629, where he produces the sketches for the ceiling paintings in Whitehall. 
     
  • 1635
    On 17 April, the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand, the new governor of the Netherlands, makes his Joyous Entry into Antwerp. Rubens designed the elaborate decorations in the city at the request of the town council and supervised the implementation of the works. In 1635, Rubens buys Het Steen estate near Elewijt. Thanks to this country estate, he is now really considered nobility.
     
  • 1636
    Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand appoints Rubens as court painter. He spends the summer at Het Steen with his family and works on his largest commission ever, the decoration of the royal hunting pavilion Torre de la Parada in Madrid. He collaborates with other painters on this project, including Jacob Jordaens.
     
  • 1639
    King Charles I of Britain presents Rubens with a heavy gold chain. Prince Frederick Henry of Orange commissions a work from him to hang over a fireplace. Rubens's health rapidly deteriorates.
     
  • 1640
    Rubens is appointed an honorary member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Due to gout he is now unable to work. On 27 May, he draws up his testament. On 30 May he died in his house in Wapper. Antwerp's most prominent citizen ever is buried on 2 June in St. James's Church.