On the Death of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp in 1640

30 May 1640, Peter Paul Rubens, the master of Flemish Baroque art, died at the age of 62 in Antwerp.

“Elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus; extraordinary animals! Rubens rendered them marvellously. I had a feeling of happiness as soon as I entered the place and the further I went the stronger it grew. I felt my whole being rise above commonplaces and trivialities and the petty worries of my daily life." (Eugène Delacroix)

Peter Paul Rubens: “Fall of the Damned”, around 1620

Producing 1,500 paintings in a period of roughly 40 years gives the impression of assembly line work. And in a way it was. At the height of his fame, Rubens maintained a downright workshop with his students and apprentices completing the drafts of the master and other artists contributing to the painting with their specialty, such as painting landscapes or flowers, while Rubens usually did the finishing touches on the masterpiece. Not an uncommon practice in his day and age, but few did it to an extent as he did. But then, Peter Paul Rubens was a busy man, not only a masterclass painter, but a diplomat as well, travelling to various courts all over Europe while taking the likenesses of the Great and Good of his time, knighted by Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England, married twice two far younger women, his models, too, siring eight children, the last one, Peter Paul, being born eight months after his death and whatnot.

Peter Paul Rubens: "Tiger Hunt" (1620)

Few painters were completely beyond the influence of Rubens well into the late 19th century, if they wanted or not. He himself, influenced during his eight years spent in Italy by classical antiquity, the Renaissance and Leonardo da Vinci, the chiaroscuro, the strong contrasts of light and dark, of early Baroque painters, namely Caravaggio, lead not only Flemish but European art into the direction it took, influencing European visual culture quite prominently for centuries. His ability to capture a story in his monumental oil paintings, often abundant with imagery and symbols like a wimmelbook, ranging from religious to classical mythological and historical motives, is unrivalled and his works, overflowing with an opulence of movement, light and squirming life still retain their ability to enthral and make an audience stare open mouthed at them in fascination even after more than 350 years.

Peter Paul Rubens: "The Birth of the Milky Way" (1637)

And more on: