Rubenshuis museum in Antwerpen – the home of one great painter

Antwerp can be called a city of painters. The Golden Age of Flemish painting is marked by the exceptional creativity of one of its brightest representatives Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)! Antwerp is the city strongly associated with the life of Rubens. Here in the center of Antwerpen is the home in which for nearly 25 years has lived the great painter apart from brief periods of traveling. The home of Rubens on the former Vaartstraat, now street Wapper 9-11 in Antwerp, is filled with many symbolism and history. It consists of residential part, directly related to the famous Grand Atelier (Grand Studio) of Rubens, a library, a monumental portico, inner courtyard and a lovely internal Baroque garden at the rear of the house. To the house, Rubens design and a round edifice with a dome similar to the Roman pantheon specifically intended for his personal collection of artwork.

Peter Paul Rubens is not only a great artist in the genre, portrait, landscape and thematic paintings on scriptural themes. For its time Rubens manages one of the largest art studios in Europe which is a sui generis creative art school with many orders for paintings from European royal families, from wealthy noble personas and collectors of art from all over Europe. He was a highly regarded master of painting and one of the highest paid artists in his lifetime, an well-educated humanist and art collector. Crucial in his life are his ability for languages, good manners in society, erudition and contactability. Because of all these qualities Rubens was entrusted with diplomatic missions by a royal personages that have a great importance in the historical and diplomatic processes in Europe at this time. For his successful career as a diplomat and as an eminent artist, later he received twice knighthood - from the Spanish King Philip IV in 1624, also from the English King Charles I, in 1630. Philip IV of Spain was a great admirer of the creativity of Rubens and in the years of his greatest fame as a painter, the Spanish King makes ordering for more than 80 paintings!

Peter Paul Rubens, undeniably, was known and wealthy artist. He has been able to afford the freedom and the manner to live according to his worldview and perceptions. Rubens leads a very active life, filled with numerous contacts and travels almost throughout Europe. Born in Siegen, the county in Germany, Pieter Paul Rubens was 10 years old when for the first time in 1587, after the death of his father, arrives in Antwerp with his mother. In 1600, barely 23 years old, Rubens take a trip and went to Italy to study painting mastery of the major representatives of Italian art school and one of its greatest names such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese. The period of time spent in Italy, has a significant influence in his development as an artist. He spends in Italy for eight years. In Italy he became court painter to the Duke of Mantua (Mantova) Vincenzo Gonzaga. In 1601 Rubens travels to Florence and Rome. In 1603, the Duke of Mantua sends Peter Paul Rubens in his first diplomatic mission to the court of the King of Spain, in this time Philip III. A year later, in 1604, Rubens returned to Italy and spent the next several years in Mantua, Genoa (Genova) and Rome. Then began a period of hard work on the many orders of portraits of noble Italian personalities. In Genoa, Rubens works on a book with illustrations of palaces in the city (The palaces of Genoa). The work on the illustrations allows him to study the details and peculiarities of Italian Renaissance architecture that completely fascinated him. Namely, the stay of Rubens in Genoa and his life in Italy, where he establishes his name to the exclusive master of painting, has its strong influence on the style and architecture of his house in Antwerp, realized years later on his own drawings and design. In 1608, Rubens returns urgently in Antwerp, where his mother was died after a severe illness. At that time, Antwerp became a thriving town with a port, develops bustling commercial activity, especially after the signing of the 'Antwerp contract " with which begins the twelve-years truce in the Netherlands. In 1609 Rubens receives an invitation and was appointed as a court painter of Archdukes Albert and Isabella in Brussels. Well-known are the words of Rubens's nephew Philip that Archduke Albert "keep him in the yard with gold chains." With special diploma from Albert on September 23, 1609, Rubens receive an annual pension of 500 livres, and additional "rights, honors, liberties, relief and franchises, as well as the services of our courtiers". In the diploma explicitly was emphasized and his "sense and vast experience in art, as in other arts", his skills as a designer of tapestries, in the decoration of gold and silver dishes, and illustration books. Because of this high protection and recognition Rubens received special permission to deploy his studio in Antwerp instead in the court in Brussels, and to be allowed him "to train in art whom he pleases without being subject to the restrictions of the guild of artists in Antwerp", on which at that time he was already a regular member. He gets the right to accept orders and from other customers. All works that was ordering from Albert and Isabella are paid extra. Simultaneously as a court painter and post mortem of Archduke Albert, Rubens became a diplomat and ambassador of Archduchess Isabella until her death in 1633.

On October 3, 1609 Peter Paul Rubens married Isabella Brant, who is the daughter of the prominent Antwerp humanist Jan Brant. One year later, in 1610, Rubens began to realize his idea of their own home in the style of the Italian Renaissance palace architecture, studied so much in details in his work on "Palazzi di Genova". The main features of this style can be seen almost everywhere on the facade of the house of Rubens (Rubenshuis) in Antwerp through all the sculptures and elements in the decoration of the Baroque house, through exclusive portico separating the inner courtyard from the garden, through the pavilion in the garden, completed also by several large statuary. Especially typical of this style is the exterior decoration of one part of the house where was the famous Grand Atelier (Grand Studio) of Rubens and the facade facing the inner courtyard. In this Grand Atelier Rubens worked on many orders that he managed to perform with a great number of students and assistants. Many museums, cathedrals in Europe and private collections in the world, they have masterpieces by Rubens, many of them was implemented in this Grand Studio. Although there are works made by his students, Rubens has added some corrections and "last brush", these works have a special status by connoisseurs and are considered Rubens's works, bearing the guarantee of high art by the "hand of Rubens". One of his most famous pupils and also as a chief assistant has been the young at the time Anthony Van Dyck, born in Antwerpen, who spends at the art Atelier of Rubens two years, from 1618 to 1620. A portrait of Anthony Van Dyck, small format, is part of the collection of Rubenshuis, painted by Rubens himself. Many years later Anthony Van Dyck became one of the most eminent masters of portraiture in the yard of the English monarchs in London and was knighted by King Charles І, in 1632. The Grand Studio of Rubens was a center of lively contacts and discussions on the art themes with other major artists, patrons and collectors as Jacob Jordaens, the heirs of the printing house for books and engravings of Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus, Nikolaas Rockox, who was a patron and friend of Rubens, and many others. Apart from the Grand Studio, Rubens has his personal studio, where the artist has privacy and create their paintings, portraits and small format masterpieces. Rubens was also a great collector of precious stones, antique sculptures, coins, jewelry household objects, Egyptian artifacts and others. A part of this collection can be seen at the Rubenshuis in Antwerp.

In 1626, the wife of the artist, who is the mother of three of his children, Isabella Brant died. Four years later, in 1630 Rubens married the sixteen years younger than him Helena Furman, and she bore him five of his eight children. In the house they live ten years, but on May 30, 1640 Peter Paul Rubens died at his home in Antwerp from heart failure due to chronic gout. Here, in Sint-Jacobskerk in Antwerpen, not far from his home, is his tomb, where five years after his death his fellow citizens have determined him a place of eternal rest.

After the death of Rubens, his wife Helena Fourment sold the house to William Cavendish and his wife Margaret. In 1660, the Cavendishes leave this house. Later, the house of the artist becomes property of the Duke of Newcastle. Suspected that the house of Rubens has been preserved nearly a hundred years after his death in the form in which it built and left Rubens, until the 1750s. Then, the house undergoes significant changes with the destruction of much of the facades and building back into a more modern version. Even during the French invasion, in 1798 the French army confiscates the building and used it as a prison for members of the clergy, who were sentenced to exile. After the defeat of Napoleon's army, the house became again privately owned. The city of Antwerpen bought the house in 1937, and after extensive restoration Rubenshuis is open to the public visits in 1946. The house and garden, in their current form, were reconstructed based on engravings made between 1684 and 1692, showing the house in the design by Rubens, in its original splendor and glory. From the time when Rubens lived here only two elements were largely preserved - the portico and pavilion at the bottom of the garden. They have survived for more than 400 years! Many paintings and works of art by Rubens and his contemporaries were installed in the premises, as well as antique furniture, among which is a special old chair with leather upholstery, called "the chair of Rubens." This is a chair with rectangular shape, upholstered seat, walnut and natural leather, called "Spanish chair". Rubens had this chair in 1633 when he became honorary dean of the Antwerp painters' guild, the Guild of St Luke. On the back is pressed in gold imprint his name PET.PAVL RVBENS. Like many other chairs from this period behind are topped with two carved lions, a traditional symbol of authority. In the permanent collection of the todays museum Rubenshuis is a self-portrait and portrait of Nicolaas Rockox by Rubens, as well as famous large-scale canvas "Adam and Eve".

The house, which today visit the inquisitive tourists and admirers to the creative genius of one of the greatest painters in the history of European and world culture, is preserved the spirit and atmosphere of the time when Rubens lived here, although undergone several reconstructions. Entering in the rooms, stepping over the doorstep of Grand Studio, the courtyard and garden of the house, you can not forget that there, in that house, in these spaces has walked world famous Rubens and his students, friends, collaborators! Only before any 400 years! Amazingly! Incredible wealth of the human civilization, preserved for us in our modern times!

Address: Wapper 9-11, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium

Source of information: Rubenshuis museum, Antwerpen, Belgium
                                    Internet, Wikipedia


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Related links

http://www.rubenshuis.be/en/page/artists-residence-museum

http://www.aviewoncities.com/antwerp/rubenshouse.htm