The studio

Rubens had a well-organised studio with several assistants. They worked in Rubens's style allowing him to complete the many commissions he received on time thanks to them.

Rubens had his own studio in the Rubens House. It was the largest in Europe. It had to be because the demand for his work was particularly high.

Rubens's studio is one of the highlights of your visit of the Rubens House. The dimensions of the space are impressive. Most of Rubens's works were created in this studio. Here he demonstrated his talent as a painter and organiser. His students, assistants and colleagues helped him produce his work.

 

So how would a large studio like Rubens's set about producing a painting?

Rubens would paint the concept of the painting on a small panel in oils. He often left the task of transferring the panel to a larger format to his assistants. Colleagues with a particular specialisation - flowers, animals, landscapes - would then fill in sections of a painting. Rubens's input was "limited" to the figures in a painting and the final finishing touch of the master. Naturally he also supervised the studio. Everything that left the studio, regardless of who had worked on it, had the "Rubens" quality label. If you wanted a 100% Rubens painting, you would pay several times more.

A large and profitable part of the studio's output consisted of copies after originals by Rubens.

 

Who were Rubens's assistants?

Not much is known about Rubens's assistants. We only have a few names including that of Justus van Egmont (1602-1674). He was able to replicate Rubens's style so well that his later work was often mistaken for a real Rubens!  

Rubens's best-known assistant was Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1640): a child prodigy with exceptional qualities. He debuted in Rubens's studio in 1617 at the age of seventeen. He mastered Rubens's style so well that he often served as a stand-in for the master. In 1620, for example, Van Dyck was put in charge of the ceiling paintings for St. Charles Borremeo Church in Antwerp. Rubens, who often remained silent on the subject of his talented rivals, always referred to Van Dyck as his best student (il meglior mio discepulo).