Peter Paul Rubens (28 June 1577 — 30 May 1640) was a prominent Flemish painter and a proponent of the exuberant Baroque style of art that emphasized sensuality, movement, and color. He’s known for his counter-reformation altarpieces, landscapes, portraits, and historical paintings of allegorical and mythological subjects. Besides running a large studio in Antwerp which produced artwork popular among the nobles and art collectors of Europe, Rubens was also a humanist scholar and diplomat knighted by both Charles I, the king of England, and Philip IV, the king of Spain.
Following are the 13 most famous Peter Paul Rubens paintings:
1. Samson and Delilah
Image Credit: peterpaulrubens
One of the best known of all Rubens’ paintings, this 185cm x 205cm masterpiece was painted sometime in 1609-10 for influential Antwerp lawyer and art connoisseur Nicolaas Rockox. The painting depicts Delilah’s servant cutting the hair of Samson when he’s sleeping on his lover’s lap. There are Philistine soldiers waiting outside and also a mysterious woman on the left which perhaps symbolizes the future. The painting is available for public viewing at the London National Gallery which bought it for more than $5 million in 1980.
2. Honeysuckle Bower
Image Credit: Museum Syndicate
This is a self-portrait of Rubens and his first wife. The oil on canvas, measuring 178cm x 136.5cm, was painted immediately after the couple got married in 1609. Rubens and his wife are shown sitting in a honeysuckle bower. The painting is symbolic and speaks of love. The honeysuckle is a traditional love symbol, just as the garden in the picture. The couple is seen leaning against each other which show their mutual love and devotion. The Honeysuckle Bower is a major Peter Paul Rubens art and is displayed in Munich’s Alte Pinakothek gallery.
3. Descent from the Cross
Image Credit: Draw Paint Print
This painting is the middle piece of The Elevation of the Cross, which is a triptych painted by Rubens for the Arquebusiers Confraternity, for their Cathedral of Our Lady altar in Antwerp. It has been kept there ever since, except for a brief period in late 18th and early 19th century. The Descent from the Cross was completed in 1614. It depicts the lowering of Jesus Christ’s body after crucifixion.
4. Assumption of Virgin Mary
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This is another masterpiece from Peter Paul Rubens and can be found at Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady. The main theme of the painting is the ascension of Virgin Mary to heaven. The upper portion of the painting depicts the actual assumption. The lower part shows the empty tomb of Mary, surrounded by a dozen disciples and three women. They represent Mary Magdalene and the two sisters of Virgin Mary. The painting measures 490cm x 325 cm. It was completed sometime in 1626 and is kept at the altar of the Cathedral.
5. Origin of Milky Way
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Philip IV is said to have commissioned this painting, finished around 1637, to decorate the Torre de la Parada, a royal hunting retreat near Madrid. The painting, measuring 181cm x 244 cm, is inspired by the Milky Way’s formation as told in Greco-Roman mythology. It shows Hera, also known as Juno according to Roman mythology, spilling out her breast milk while pulling away from baby Hercules. Zeus (Jupiter) observes the scene from the background. Madrid’s Prado Museum now displays this brilliant piece of Peter Paul Rubens art.