Peter Paul Rubens Biography

(One of the Most Influential Artists of the Flemish Baroque Tradition)

Birthday: June 28, 1577 (Cancer)

Born In: Siegen, Germany

Peter Paul Rubens was a Dutch artist, who rose to become one of the most influential Baroque painters of his generation and also served as a diplomat for royal families in Europe. Rubens was born in an influential family and his father worked as a lawyer for the house of William I of Orange while his mother was an author. Following the untimely death of his father, Rubens moved to Antwerp with his mother and here he was educated in humanism before becoming an apprentice under some of the noted Mannerist painters of the time. Before long, Rubens became a well-known painter and moved around Europe as his work was more in demand amongst the royal families in the continent. On the other hand, he was also employed as a diplomat and he was honoured by the Spanish and English royal families for his contributions. Last but certainly not the least, Rubens also ran a studio in Antwerp in which he employed assistants and also taught budding painters. Plenty of notable paintings were produced by the students in that studio as his name as a noted painted spread further.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Sir Peter Paul Rubens

Died At Age: 62


Spouse/Ex-: Helene Fourment, Isabella Brant

Born Country: Germany

Baroque Painters Belgian Men

Died on: May 30, 1640

place of death: Antwerp, Belgium

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

Childhood & Early Life
Peter Paul Rubens was born in Siegen in present day Germany on 28 June, 1577. His father Jan Rubens was a well known lawyer while his mother Maria Pypelincks was an author. He had six siblings.
His family relocated to Cologne a year after his birth. However, according to historians, Rubens grew up as a Catholic and religion had a strong influence on his life as an artist.
His father died in 1587 and two years after that, the family moved to Antwerp. It was in the new city that he was imparted with a humanist education and also learnt the languages and the classics.
When Rubens was only 14 years old, he started his apprenticeship in art under the guidance of Tobias Verhaeght. Later on, he was an apprentice under Adam von Noort and Otto van Veen, two notable artists among Mannerist painters. Eventually, he became a master at the Guild of St. Luke in 1598.
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He went to Italy in 1600 and lived mainly in Venice and Rome as he studied the works Tintoretto and Titian among others. The Duke paid for his journey to Florence so that he could study traditional Roman art as well. Around this time, he painted the altar piece, titled ‘St. Helena with the True Cross’ at the Roman Church of Santa Croce, located in Jerusalem.
After spending a year in Spain owing to a diplomatic visit, Peter Paul Ruben went back to Italy in 1604 and during his four year stay in the country he lived in Genoa, Mantua and Rome. During his stay in Italy he produced works like ‘Marchesa Brigida Spinola-Doria’ and portrait of Maria di Antonio Serra Pallavicini among others. Rubens was also commissioned to work on the high altar of Santa Maria church in Vallicella and that constituted one of the most important works in his career.
He moved to Antwerp due to his mother’s ill health in 1609. The same year, the Archduke of Austria, Albert VII and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain made Rubens their court painters. He established his studio in Antwerp, where he taught students and also employed a number of assistants. Some of the notable works of the period include ‘The Raising of the Cross’, ‘The Descent from the Cross’ and also produced prints of his works in collaboration with a noted publisher that further enhanced his reputation.
From 1621 onwards, he was entrusted with diplomatic duties by the Halsburg rulers from Spain after he had been summoned to Paris by Marie de Medici, the Queen Mother of France to create paintings related to her life. Rubens painted the Marie de Medici Cycle and was also involved in gathering intelligence in his role as a diplomat. He also went to England in his role as a diplomat.
Philip IV of Spain entrusted him with even more diplomatic duties after raising Rubens to the rank of nobility and during his stay in Madrid in 1628, he created a copy of Titian’s ‘Fall of Man’. Subsequently he travelled to London, England and created one of his most notable works in the form of ‘Allegory of Peace and War’. He had become an influential artist and a painter of rare quality by then.
Around 1630, Peter Paul Ruben went back to Antwerp and spent most of his time in completing commissions like the paintings on the ceiling of Banqueting House in Whitehall. During this decade, Rubens produced works like ‘The Feast of Venus’, ‘The Three Graces’ and ‘The Judgement of Paris’ that was commissioned by the Spanish royal family.
He was knighted in 1630 by Charles I for his achievements.
Major Works
Peter Paul Rubens produced a large body of work throughout his career as a painter. However, it was a lost painting that has proven to be particularly famous. The painting in question is ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ and in an auction in 2002, it was sold for a staggering $76.2 million.
Personal Life & Legacy
Rubens got married to Isabella Brant on 3 October, 1609. His wife belonged to an influential family in Antwerp and the couple had three children. Isabella died 17 years after their marriage.
In 1630, Rubens got married to Helene Fourment, who happened to be the niece of his first wife Isabella Brant. The couple had five children.
Peter Paul Rubens had suffered from gout for a long time and that is what led to the fatal heart attack that brought about his demise on 30 May, 1640.

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