Isabella Brant

A portrait of Rubens's first wife, 1625

Isabella Brant, Peter Paul Rubens's first wife. They married on 13 October 1609 in St. Michael's Abbey and had three children: Clara, Albert and Nicolaas.

My handsome husband, Peter Paul Rubens and I

Peter Paul and I met at his brother's wedding in 1609. I was eighteen years old at the time. We got married that same year. Almost head over heels. I was so proud of my handsome, well-educated, gifted fiancé.

 

Our house and our three sweet children

Initially we lived in the house of my parents, in Kloosterstraat. That is where our two eldest children were born, my sweet, lively Clara Serena in 1611 and my dear, smart Albert in 1614. Then we purchased our house in Wapper, where our little imp Nicolaas was born.

Peter Paul wanted our house to remind him of Italy, where he had lived for eight years. He designed a special portico, in the Italian style, in between our courtyard and filled our garden with roses, tulips, grapes and honeysuckle.

He is philosophically inclined, my husband, he had some lovely antique mottos chiselled into the portico. "The gods love humans more than humans love themselves", it says. "I know this to be true because otherwise I would never have survived the illness and death of our daughter Clara Serena, when she was twelve. Something gave me the force to soldier on, to console Peter Paul even. I had to be strong for my husband and our sons."

Life is good, here in our house. Peter Paul has a large studio. He often receives interesting foreign visitors there, art lovers, painters and scientists. Then I order our maid Magdalene to prepare a banquet. We enjoy a pie and sweet wine from the south in our dining room while the candlelight is reflected on the gilt leather.

 

My home

When he moved to Antwerp, my husband soon received important commissions to produce paintings for our churches and for our mayor. I still keep the pair of embroidered gloves in a small box in our bedroom. I received them from the patrons when Peter Paul completed the Descent from the Cross for our Cathedral. You can still see this painting there, I'm sure you must have heard about it?  When I wear these gloves, I feel a sense of kinship with our lovely city, I feel at home here. And that's really precious to me.

 

Twinkling eyes

When Peter Paul paints or draws me, he always adds a twinkle to my eyes and makes me smile - he says he wants to remember how I smile and how I make him laugh with my fast-paced jokes and witty answers. He spoils me! Long after I will have died, people will still be able to see what I looked like. I find that an amazing idea.