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Rubens During 1608-1614: Events

Updated on February 24, 2020
Mark O Richardson profile image

Mark has always loved art. First it was drawing, then art history. His minor was in Art History

Four Philosophers



This is a look at the major events of Ruben's life, as well as the works that he created from 1608 to 1614..

In October 1608, Rubens received word that his mother, Maria, was gravely ill. Upon hearing this, he rushed home to Antwerp in a timely manner, but was too late. He never returned to Italy. However, within five years, he became known as the greatest painter of his county. (1)

Many events involved his older brother, Philip. He illustrated Philip’s book on classical philology, the Electorum Libri Duo (1608), which is his first known series of book engravings. (7) In 1608, Philip was appointed secretary of Antwerp. (3) In 1609, Philip got married. This was good for Rubens because he married the niece of his sister-in-law. So, if Philip would not have been with his wife, Rubens may not have found his future wife.

In 1611, at age 37, Philip died. (9) This must have been very difficult for Rubens because he was family. In the Age of Rubens, Christopher White states that Rubens once wanted to amuse Philip with some of his work. (9) So if Rubens did not like his brother, he would not have wanted to amuse him. Rubens even did a work that included Philip, which will be discussed later. After Philip’s death, Rubens became guardian of his two children. (6) This is evidence that Rubens cared for Philip and his family.

Negotiations for the twelve-year truce between the Dutch and Spain began during this time. The truce was proclaimed on April 9, 1609. (3) These events brought him hope because he was greatly involved in politics.

Upon returning to Antwerp, he was employed by the burgomaster. He later became court painter to the Austrian archduke Albert and his wife, the Spanish infanta Isabella. (2) The offer, which was too good for him to refuse, exempted him from all taxes, guild restrictions, and official duties in Brussels. (3) He received 500 gold coins for his salary each year. With this commission form the Archdukes, he was able to keep his scholarly contacts. He didn’t want to be a court painter at this time, but it brought him prosperity.

In 1609, he married the 19-year-old Isabella Brant and again prospered. (1) This helped him a great deal and he loved her. The evidence of this is his portraits of her. They showed importance because it takes time to paint. They had their first child, Clara Serena in 1611. (6)

In 1610-1611, he bought a townhouse which was also a studio. (3) This residence was made possible by his prosperity and there he housed his extensive collection of art and antiquities.

In his studio, he had many apprentices, including Anthony Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens. (1) He had so many pictures requested at this time, that he would do the initial sketches and final touches, while his apprentices completed the intermediary steps. (2) In later years, Rubens primarily did their own works. But I am sure that with the number of commissions that were requested, he needed a lot of help.

In 1611, he wrote that he had to turn away “over one hundred prospective students and assistants- even some of my own relatives or my wife’s and not without causing great displeasure among many of my best friends.” (6)

Adoration of the Magi


How These Events Affected Him & His Work

A link can be established between the peace negotiations in the Netherlands at the time of Rubens and the subjects of the Adoration of the Magi. It expresses the agelong desire of the provinces for lasting peace. Like the wisemen who traveled to adore the Son of God, the representatives of several rulers from the various countries to Antwerp for peace. (6) To Rubens, peace being established in his country was a joyous occasion, as it would be to anyone who has ever lived in a war-torn land.

With the truce between the Dutch and Spain in effect, there was refurbishing of Antwerp, including many churches.

This brought commissions for Rubens, including the Raising of the Cross, (6) This relates to how he had become the greatest painter of his country. Instead of only events affecting his work, his works shaped the events in his life, and made him a highly successful painter in his country, at his time. To me, that is amazing, because with some other painters, they did not really become famous until after their deaths (example: Vincent Van Gogh). The altarpieces that he completed between 1608 and 1614 were some of his greatest works, and thus brought him success.

Rubens immortalized his brother with the Four Philosophers (1611-1612, Florence), which included a self-portrait. (6) He must have missed his brother greatly. He wanted to remember Philip, as well as give others the chance to see him in a painting as well. This is logical, due to how much of an effect Philip had on him and how much Rubens talked about him.

As mentioned earlier, Rubens painted his wife Isabella Brant. He was clearly happy being married to her due to his several works with her in them, some included him as a self-portrait, others did not, for example: Self Portrait with Isabella Brant (also known as Double Portrait in a Honeysuckle Bower). He did works of her mainly for a private audience, such as family.


Rubens was a talented artist and his work is well known all over the world. Although deaths in any family are very difficult for those who are left behind to handle, Rubens somehow found the strength and determination to carry on and produce some of his greatest works between 1608 and 1614. I am sure that the works gave him hope.

Most of the works of Rubens were religious. He must have been religious and devoted to his church because most of the works were commissions of the Roman Catholic Church. These high quality works supported him financially. In my opinion, he may not have done so well if he didn’t believe in what he was doing.

He must have had great confidence in his work. I believe this is so because there would be a lot of pressure to honor those special events with an inspiring depiction. I would worry that I may not be doing it justice. So possibly, a higher power may have guided him in his work.

Perhaps many of his works included death because he had witnessed a lot of it with losing family or with the wars going on in Europe at this time.

Peter Paul Rubens completed excellent works of art and his experiences guided him in what he did. He overcame obstacles and became one of the greatest artists in the world.


  1. Columbia Encyclopedia. Peter Paul Rubens. Academic Search Elite Database.
  2. Loescher, R. Peter Paul Rubens. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encycopedia.
  3. Martin, J. Rubens: The Antwerp Altarpieces. New York: W&W. Norton & Co, Inc.
  4. Martin, J. Rubens Before 1620. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University press.
  5. Scribner, C. Peter Paul Rubens. Britannica Biography Collection.
  6. Scribner, C. Rubens. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers.
  7. Scribner, C. The Triumph of the Eucharist- Tapestries Designed by Rubens. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press.
  8. Stechow, W. Rubens and the Classical Tradition. London: Oxford University Press. P. 58-59.
  9. Sutton, P. The Age of Rubens. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
  10. Vlieghe, Hans. 1998. Flemish Art and Architecture 1585-1700. New Haven: Yale University Press. P. 28, 29, 36.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Mark Richardson


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