QUOTATIONS ABOUT RUBENS
Rubens was par excellence the painter of the group that
included the Heroes of the Dutch Republic: and, like many of
his contemporaries, whilst excelling in his own line, he was, in
other respects also, a great man, in a tune of and among great men.
I cannot sufficiently admire his personal appearance nor praise
his uprightness, his virtue, his erudition and wouderful knowledge
of antiquities, his skill and celerity of pencil, aud the charm of
His eye is the most marvellous prism that has ever been given
us of the light and color of objects, of true and magnificent ideas.
SUBJECTS FOR LANGUAGE WORK
1. A Day in Rubens' Studio.
2. An Evening with Rubens.
3. Rubens at the Monastery.
4. A Day with Rubens in London.
5. Rubens as a Diplomat.
6. Antwerp, the Home City of Rubens.
7. Rubens and His Friends.
8. The Women Rubens Loved.
9. My favorite Picture by Rubens.
10. The Masters of Rubens.
PETER PAUL RUBENS.
PETER PAUL RUBENS
 In our study of Raphael, we had a glimpse of the golden age of art in
Italy. In our work on Murillo, we saw what Spain was able to produce in
pictures when the whole of Europe seemed to be trying its hand at painting.
Moving north, we are to see in this sketch what the little country now known
as Belgium produced in the same lines. For this we need hardly take more than
the one name, Peter Paul Rubens, for he represented very completely the art of
Flanders or Belgium, as we call it to-day.
If we love to read of happy, fortunate people, as I am sure we do, we shall
be more than pleased in learning about Rubens. You know there is an old story,
that by the side of every cradle stand a good and an evil fairy, who by their
gifts make up the life of the little babe within. The good fairy gives him a
wonderful blessing, perhaps it is the power to write
 poems or paint
pictures. Then the bad fairy, ugly little sprite that he is, adds a portion
of evil, perhaps it is envy that eats the soul like a canker. And so they
alternate, the good and evil, until the sum of a human life is made up, and
the child grows up to live out his years, marked by joy and sorrow as every
life must be.
As we look at the men and women about us we feel, often, that one or the
other of these fairies must have slept while distributing their gifts and
so lost a turn or two in casting in the good or ill upon the babe, so happy
are some lives, so sorrowful are others. At Rubensí cradle the evil fairy
must well nigh have forgotten his task, for the babe grew up one of the
most fortunate of men.
In order to understand as we should any great man, we must always study
his country and his time. No man can be great enough not to be like the
nation that produced him, or the time when he came into the world. For
these reasons we love to study a manís time and country, and, indeed,
find it quite necessary if we would understand him aright.
It is impossible to think of Rubens without associating him with
Flanders and with Antwerp, his home city. Here, then, is just a
little about the history of this most interesting country: One of
the richest possessions of Spain in the sixteenth century was known
 as the Netherlands. When the doctrines of Luther began to spread
many of the Netherlanders accepted them. Philip II., the terrible and
gloomy king of Spain, seized this opportunity to persecute them cruelly.
Many of them resisted, and then Philip sent his unscrupulous agent, the
Duke of Alva, to make the people submit. This he partially accomplished
by the greatest cruelty. The northern provinces, which we know as Holland,
declared their independence. The southern, of which Flanders was the most
flourishing province, longed so for peace and the prosperity that accompanies
it, that they submitted to Spain. The people then grew rich as weavers,
merchants and traders. Splendid cities like Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp
became the seats of commerce and their artists and workmen of all sorts
were known throughout Europe for their thrift and the excellence of their
workmanship. We recall how Raphaelís cartoons were sent to Flanders to be
copied in tapestry the finest in the world.
Of all the cities dear to Flemish hearts Antwerp was, perhaps, the most
beautiful and the most prosperous. It was situated on the river Scheldt
about twenty miles from the sea. In the time of its greatness one might
count almost at any time twenty-five hundred ships and boats riding at
anchor in front of the city, and within her walls, two hundred thousand
people lived in plenty.
 There were marble palaces, beautiful churches,
a magnificent town hall (Hotel de Ville); and the houses of the humble showed
by their cleanlines and comfortable surroundings that enjoyment of life was
restricted to no one class.
This matter of religious faith, however, was bound to come up again and
bring, as it proved, ruin upon the city. A body of people who thought it
wrong to have pictures and statues of saints, and of Mary and her Son,
gathered together and for four days went from one Flemish town to another
and destroyed everything of the sort to be found in the churches. Four
hundred places of worship were desecrated, many of them within the city
of Antwerp. Because of their zeal against the use of so-called images
they were called Iconoclasts.
If formerly they had been punished for thinking things against the
established religion of the State, what now could be expected when
they had done such sacrilegious things?
"Again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with terror smote;
And again the wild alarum sounded from the tocsinís throat."
Our imagination cannot picture things so terrible as were perpetrated
upon the inhabitants of Antwerp for their part in the destruction of the
 terrible event is known in history as The Spanish Fury.
Thousands of her people were killed, most of her palaces were burned, and
the treasure of her wealthy citizens was stolen. Property was confiscated
to the Spanish Government. Death and terror, theft and rapine reigned in
the beautiful city of the Scheldt. When the dead were buried, the charred
ruins of buildings removed, and the Spanish soldiery withdrawn, the
mist-beclouded Netherland sun shone out on a dead city which even to-day
bears marks of the Spaniardís fury. Grass grew in what had been its busiest
streets, trade almost ceased, and thousands of weavers and other artisans
went to England where they could pursue their vocations unmolested.
Philip was apparently satisfied with the chastisement he had inflicted. He
began to restore the confiscated property to its rightful owners, and to
encourage the industry he had so cruelly destroyed. He even made Flanders
an independent province under the Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella.
Although peace had returned and a degree of prosperity again prevailed, yet
many other things were irretrievably gone, and the people lived every day in
the sight of painful reminders of their former greatness.
In art, too, these low country provinces had made much progress. There had
been Hubert and Jan
 Van Eyck who had painted with minute skill devout
pictures. They had, moreover, given to the world the process of painting in
oils. This discovery, worked out with the extreme care natural to the
Netherlanders, changed the whole character of painting, and made it
possible to have such colorists as Titian, Raphael and Rubens. We must
remember that the colors used in fresco painting were mixed with a sort
of "size" and that they had none of the richness of oil colors. There had
been other artists of note besides the Van Eycks. Hans Memling, with the
spirit of a real poet, had painted his sweet visions, and to-day it is not
for the opulent merchants who added fame and wealth to their city in their
time, but for this poet-painter, Memling, that we venerate the ancient and
stately city of Bruges. Quentin Matsys, the brawny blacksmith, who, for love
of an artistís daughter, became a painter, comes to our minds as a name of no
mean fame in the early records of Flemish painting.
The guild system, where every class of artisans was organized for
protection and for the production of good work, touched even the fine
arts. No man could set up for a good painter who had not served his
apprenticeship, and whose work was not satisfactory to experts. When
Rubens was born he came as the heir of all that had been accomplished
before him. He only
 carried on what his predecessors had begun, but
he carried it on in a matchless way so that he was able to leave to
succeeding painters not only all he had inherited, but a goodly legacy
besides—the legacy of a pure life, a glowing, natural, vigorous art. It
seems to me that right here is a lesson for us. May we not add our mite,
tiny though it be, to the ever-growing volume of truth? I like this quotation
in this connection, and I hope you may see its beauty too—"The vases of truth
are passed on from hand to hand, and the golden dust must be gathered into
them, grain by grain, from the infinite shore."
Rubensí birth took place in 1577, the year following the Spanish Fury.
When he was only seven, William the Silent, the saviour and protector of
the northern provinces, was assassinated at the instance of Philip II. When
he was eleven, the Spanish Armada, the proudest fleet that ever sailed the
seas, sent to invade England and punish Queen Elizabeth, was scattered by
wind and wave and dashed to pieces on alien rocks. The Reformation was well
established in England and Holland, while France, led by Henry IV., was yet
uncertain whether or not to accept the new doctrines. Such were some of the
portentous events that marked the advent and early years of the greatest of
 The family of Rubensí father had lived for years in Antwerp, but when
Lutherís doctrines were put forward Jan Rubens, the father of our artist,
believed in them. For this reason he was compelled to flee from the city,
and his property was confiscated. He went to the little village of Siegen,
in western Germany, where his illustrious son was born on June 29th, 1577.
His birth was on the day dedicated to the saints, Peter and Paul, and so
his parents gave the child their names. After the residence of a year in
this little town, the family removed to Cologne, where they lived for ten
years, until the death of the father.
Jan Rubens was a lawyer and a learned man, and he took pains that his sons
should be thoroughly educated. In addition to his heretical views regarding
religion he had grievously offended William the Silent and so was doubly
exiled. His wife remained with him, and by her efforts kept him from prison,
and added cheer to his life of exile. This was the admirable Marie Pypeling,
the mother so revered by Rubens, and so deserving the respect of all who know
of her. A portrait of her by her son is given in this sketch. To her he owed
his handsome face, his strong physique, his shrewdness and his love of
Immediately after the death of her husband, Marie Pypeling and her family,
now consisting of two sons
 and a daughter, returned to Antwerp. Her
property, which had been confiscated in those wild days at Antwerp, was
restored to her in the general restitution with which Philip tried to
compensate the citizens for their losses in the Spanish Fury. From this
time Rubens was an adherent of the Catholic Church.
The education of Peter Paul, which was so carefully begun by his father,
was continued by his mother, in a Jesuit College at Antwerp. He was an
apt student and soon attained the elements from which he became a very
learned man. He knew seven languages, was interested and learned in
science and politics. All through his life he devoted some part of each
day, however busy he was with his painting, to general reading. This,
perhaps more than his early studies, accounts for his elegant scholarship.
His mother was quite determined that this son should be, like his
father, a lawyer. His own tastes, however, and a power to use the
brush early displayed, decided otherwise. It very soon became evident
that he was to be a painter—good or bad—who could tell in those early
In accordance with a custom of the time, he was placed as a page in the
house of a nobleman of Antwerp. To the talented and restless boy this
life was intolerable, and he soon induced his mother to
 allow him
to enter the studio of Van der Haeght, a resident artist of some repute
and a close follower of Italian Art. He was only thirteen at this time.
Here he learned to draw skillfully and, through the influence of his
teacher, he acquired a love of landscape art which never left him.
From Van der Haeght and his mild but correct art, Rubens, feeling his
weakness in figure work, went to the studio of the irascible and forcible
painter Van Noort, about whom critics have delighted to tell stories of
brutality. However true these may be, Rubens stayed with him four years
and never ceased to speak in praise of his masterís work. Here he became
acquainted with Jordaens, who used often to paint the animals in Rubensí
From Van Noortís studio the restless Rubens went to study with Van Veen,
who afterwards became court-painter. When the Archduke Albert and Isabella
entered Antwerp in 1594, it was Van Veen who decorated the triumphal arches
used on the occasion. We may judge that he did the work well, for he was
shortly selected to serve the new rulers as court painter. Rubensí
experience with Van Veen closed a ten yearsí apprenticeship in the
studios of Antwerp, and now he determined to go to Italy, where he
could study the masters at first hand.
 As a sort of parting work and, perhaps, because he wished to
impress more vividly on his mind those dear, strong features of his
mother, he painted that portrait of her which we so much admire both
for its subject and its art. This image of his mother was an effectual
charm to carry with him in his travels—a charm to save him perhaps, from
some of the stumbling places into which a handsome young man away from home
In May of 1600, after making all needful preparation, our artist set out on
his journey. It was natural that he should direct his steps first to Venice.
Titian had but recently completed his productive life of nearly a century.
His misty atmosphere, his intense interest in human life and, above all,
his glowing color touched a kindred cord in Rubensí nature. Then there
were Tintoretto and Veronese, almost as interesting to our painter.
The Duke of Mantua, a most liberal and discerning patron of art, was in
Venice when Rubens reached that city. One of the Dukeís suite happened to
be in the house with Rubens. He took notice of the painterís courtly
bearing, his fine physique, and his ability to paint, and introduced
him to the Duke. Never did our painterís handsome face and fine presence
so quickly win a patron. He was at once attached to the Dukeís
and began copying for him the masterpieces of Italy—the pictures of Titian,
Correggio, Veronese, leading all others. He also studied carefully the work
of Julio Romano, Raphaelís famous pupil. He accompanied the Duke to Milan,
where he copied Leonardoís great picture, "The Last Supper," besides doing
some original work.
The Duke had observed Rubensí courtly manner and his keen mind. He decided
that the painter was just the person to send in charge of some presents to
the King of Spain, whose favor he was anxious to gain. The gifts were made
up of fine horses, beautiful pictures, rare jewels and vases. Early in 1603,
the painter set out with his cavalcade, and after a stormy journey of about
three months they reached the Court of Spain. He was cordially received and
the gifts were delivered, although the pictures had been somewhat damaged by
the rains which marked the last days of their trip. He was asked to paint
several portraits of eminent personages of the court and he complied
He returned to Italy after somewhat more than a yearís absence. For some
time he remained at Mantua to paint an altar-piece for the chapel where the
Dukeís mother was buried.
Later he went to Rome where he studied carefully the works of Michael
Angelo. In turn he visited all
 the great art cities of Italy except
Naples. He stopped for some time at Florence, Bologna, and Genoa. At the
last place he received so many orders for his work that he could not attend
to them all. Everywhere he went the fame of "the Fleming," as he was called
in Italy, had gone before him. In many of the cities he made lengthy sojourns,
copying the masterpieces that pleased him, and painting originals highly prized
to-day in the galleries of Italy.
He had been in Italy eight years, when one day from over the Alps came a
courier in hot haste bearing to Rubens the sad news that his mother lay at
home very ill. Not even waiting for permission from his patron, the Duke,
Rubens started north with a heavy heart, for he felt sure that he should
never see his mother again. Although he rode with all haste, as he neared
his home city of Antwerp, he received the sad tidings he had so much
dreaded. Marie Pypeling had died nine days before he left Italy. As was
the custom in his country, he secluded himself for four months in a convent
attached to the church where his mother was buried.
The profound sorrow for his mother, and the sudden change from the life he
had so recently led made him melancholy. He longed for the skies, the
pictures, and the society of Italy. When he came forth from his retirement,
his countrymen could not bear the thought
 of their now illustrous
artist returning to Italy. They wanted him among them to glorify with his
splendid brush the now reviving city of the Scheldt.
The rulers of the city, Albert and Isabella, made him court painter and
gave him a good salary. He accepted the office on condition that he should
not have to live at the court. It was with some regret that he gave up
returning to Italy, but the natural ties that bound him to Antwerp were
stronger. He hoped that he might yet one day visit Italy. This part of his
life-plan, however, he never carried out.
He was now thirty-two years old, respected of all men not only for his
power as a painter, but for his sterling worth as a man. He had studied
carefully the best art that the world could show, and he had absorbed into
his own characteristic style what was best for him—his style of painting
was now definitely formed. His fame as a painter was established from the
Mediterranean to the Zuyder Zee. He was overwhelmed with orders for his
pictures, so that he had plenty of money at his command. He had the
confidence of princes, and was attached to one of the richest courts of
Europe. A crowd of anxious art students awaited the choice privilege of
entering his studio when he should open one. It would seem that there was
little left for this man to desire in earthly things. The two he lacked he
 speedily procured, a good wife and a happy home, both destined to live
always on the canvasses of this most fortunate of painters.
RUBENS AND HIS FIRST WIFE.
In 1610, he married the lovely and beautiful Isabella Brandt, the daughter
of the Secretary of Antwerp. Happy indeed were the fifteen years of their
life together, and often do we find the wife and their two boys painted by
the gifted husband and father. We reproduce a picture of the two boys.
RUBENS' TWO SONS.
He bought a house on Meir Square, one of the noted locations in Antwerp. He
re-modelled it at great expense in the style of the Italians. In changing the
house he took care that there should be a choice place to keep and display his
already fine collection of pictures, statues, cameos, agates and jewels. For
this purpose he made a circular room, lighted from above, covered by a dome
somewhat similar to that of the Pantheon at Rome. This room connected the two
main parts of the house and was, with its precious contents, a constant joy to
Rubens and his friends. The master of this palace, for such it certainly was,
lived a frugal and abstemious life, a most remarkable thing in an age of great
extravagance in eating and drinking. Here is the record of one of his days in
summer: At four oíclock he arose, and for a short time gave himself up to
religious exercises. After a simple breakfast he began painting.
he painted he had some one read to him from some classical writer, and if
his work was not too laborious, he received visitors and talked to them while
he painted. He stopped work an hour before dinner and devoted himself to
conversation or to examining some newly acquired treasure in his collection.
At dinner he ate sparingly of the simplest things and drank little wine. In
the afternoon he again began his work at his easel, which he continued until
evening. After an hour or so on a spirited Andalusian horse, of which he was
always passionately fond, and of which he always had one or more fine specimens
in his stables, he spent the remainder of the evening conversing with friends.
A varied assembly of visitors loitered in this hospitable home. There were
scholars, politicians, old friends—perhaps former fellow-pupils in Antwerp
studios. Occasionally the princess Isabella came among the others, and Albert
himself felt honored to stand as god-father to Rubensí son. Surely the wicked
fairy did forget some of the evil he was to have mixed with this life!
ELEVATION OF THE CROSS.
It was in connection with the building of this house that the best known
and perhaps the greatest work of Rubens was painted: "The Descent from the
Cross," now in Antwerp Cathedral. It is said that in excavating for the
foundation to some of the new parts of Rubensí house, the workmen
unintentionally trespassed on some
 adjoining ground belonging to
the gunsmithsí guild. In settlement for this Rubens was requested to paint
a picture of St. Christopher, the Christ-Bearer, as they called him. Rubens
complied with the request and painted what to us to-day would seem a very
strange picture—a "triptych," that is a middle panel over which two narrow
side panels, hinged to the middle one, could be closed. He interpreted the
request of the guild rather strangely too—he thought it would please them to
represent in the several spaces of the triptych all who had ever carried
Christ in their arms. In the middle panel we have the men removing the dead
Christ from the cross, with the three Marys below, one of whom, the Magdalen,
is, perhaps, the most beautiful woman Rubens ever painted. The light is
wonderful, coming, as it does, from the great white cloth in which they
would wrap our Lord. The form of the dead Christ in its difficult position
is a piece of masterly drawing. This panel is, of course, the principal
part of the altar-piece. On one side of this was painted the Virgin visiting
St. Anne, and on the other we have the aged St. Simeon presenting the
Christ-Child in the temple. If we close these side panels over the middle
one we find a space as large as the center panel. On this Rubens painted
St. Christopher with the child and accompanied by a hermit carrying his
 it was a good-natured artist and a glowing and generous
soul who painted so much in response to a request for a St. Christopher!
DESCENT FROM THE CROSS.
There were, however, trials for this fortunate man. There were those who
were jealous of his fame and who said unkind things of him. In answer to
their jealousies he only said, "Do well and you will make others envious;
do better and you will master them."
He was called away from the home he loved so well. In 1619, when the truce,
under which Antwerp had regained somewhat of her former greatness, was about
to expire, Rubens was sent to Spain to renew it. He had hardly returned to
Antwerp before Marie de Medicis, the wife of Henry IV. of France—the Henry
of Navarre, of historic fame—sent for the artist to adorn her palace of the
Luxemburg in Paris. He was to paint twenty-one pictures for this purpose.
They were to describe the life of the queen. We give one of the series. He
accomplished this entire work in glowing allegorical fashion in which
mythological and historical personages are sadly confused at times. If
there was occasionally this confusion, there were also present the artistís
strongest characteristics as a painter—rich color and vigorous human
MARIE DE MEDICIS.
While in Paris he became intimately acquainted with the Duke of Buckingham,
the favorite of Charles I. of
 England. This nobleman visited Rubens at
his home in Antwerp and he was so pleased with the artistís collection that
he offered him ten thousand pounds sterling for it complete. Rubens hesitated,
for in the collection there were nineteen pictures by Titian, thirteen by
Veronese, three by Leonardo, and three by Raphael, besides many of his own
best works. The artist, however, was always thrifty, and he felt sure he
could soon gather another collection, so he accepted the offer.
INFANT CHRIST, ST. JOHN AND ANGELS.
In 1626, his lovely wife died. He mourned her deeply, saying "she had none
of the faults of her sex." To beguile his time he accepted another diplomatic
mission to Spain. This time he was to secure a strong ally for Spain against
the powerful Richelieu who then held France in his hand as it were.
Incidentally he painted much while at Madrid. Among other work he copied
the Titians which were likely to be taken out of the country at the marriage
of the Infanta. At this time, too, he undoubtedly met Velazquez, the able and
high-souled court painter of Philip IV. This was certainly one of the most
notable meetings in the history of artists.
It was while at the court of Madrid at this time that Jean of Braganza,
afterward King of Portugal, invited the artist to visit him at his
hunting-lodge, and Rubens set out with several of his followers, as was
 travellers of note in those days. Before he reached the
lodge Jean, hearing of so many attendants, and dismayed at the expense of
entertaining them, departed suddenly for Lisbon. He wrote Rubens a courteous
letter telling him that state business detained him and begged him to accept
some money to defray the expenses so far incurred on the journey. Rubens
replied in like courteous manner and returned the money, saying that they
had brought twenty times the amount with which to pay their expenses.
PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN.
An interesting story is related of their return. Overtaken by dark night in
the open country they took shelter in a monastery. The next morning Rubens,
with an eye always quick to see rare and interesting things, scanned the place
carefully looking for something which might interest him. He was about to give
up the search as hopeless, when he discovered in a dark corner a grand picture.
It represented in more than mortal fashion the beautiful things that a dead
young man, painted in the foreground, had renounced. Rubens called the prior
to him and begged to know the name of the artist of so masterly a work. The
prior, an old, bowed man, refused saying, "He died to the world long ago. I
cannot disclose his name." Then the artist said, "It is Peter Paul Rubens who
begs to know." The prior started, for even in the
remote-  ness of the
isolated monastery the fame of that name had gone, and fell in a dead faint
at the artistís feet. The attendants lifted the prior gently but he had ceased
to live. Through the ashy pallor they saw the features of the young man in the
picture yonder. They instinctively turned to look that they might more carefully
compare the faces, and lo! like some cloud-vision, the picture had disappeared.
Then they knew that the dead monk there had painted the canvas from the depth
of his own experience.
From Madrid, Rubens was sent to England in the interest of Spain. Here he was
most kindly received by Charles I., who made him a knight and presented him
with his own jeweled sword and a diamond ring. He also gave him a hat-band
set with precious stones which was valued at two thousand pounds sterling.
From London he went to Cambridge where the ancient university conferred on
him its highest degree. In London he painted almost constantly. Among other
commissions he was given that of decorating the dining room in Whitehall
palace with nine pictures representing the life of James I. To make the
person or events of this kingís life attractive must have been an immense
task even for so supreme a genius as Rubens.
As he sat painting one day a courtier entered and exclaimed, "Ah, his
Majestyís Ambassador occasionally
 amuses himself with painting." "On
the contrary," responded Rubens who was always proud of his art, "the
painter occasionally amuses himself by trying to be a courtier."
The influence of Rubensí visit to London must be counted rather as artistic
than political. It really was the beginning of that desire for collecting
pictures and other things of the sort which has ever since distinguished
the English nobility. On the Continent the price of pictures rose on account
of Englandís demand. For Charles I., Rubens bought the entire collection of
the Duke of Mantua which he knew so well.
MADONNA AMD CHILD WITH ST. FRANCIS.
Rubens was tired of the almost fruitless mission at various courts and was
glad to give up the business of an ambassador and return to Antwerp and to
the life of a private gentleman. We must not forget that all these years
Rubens was painting a great number of pictures in his ripest style. There
was hardly a class of subjects or size of canvas which he could not
skillfully use, although he always maintained that he could do his best
work on large surfaces. There were religious pictures of Madonnas and
saints all crowded with numerous figures and filled with vigorous human
action. There were portraits such as those of his wives, of Elizabeth of
France, or "The Girl with a Straw Hat," which rank among the best of the
world. There were
 wonderful animal pictures—hunting scenes, the excitement
of which even to-day makes the cheek glow. There were historical scenes mingled
with allegory. There were most beautiful children whose fat and agile bodies
and whose laughing faces make us want to hug them. There were enchanting
angels, and there were huge fauns and satyrs. There were placid landscapes
where, it may be, the artistís soul, teeming with the life of all time, took
its rest and recreation sporting with the nymphs of the woodland streams or
with the frisky dryads of the trees.
In 1630, at the age of fifty-three, he married his second wife, Helen
Fourmont, only sixteen years old. Like his first wife she was very beautiful,
as his numerous portraits indicate. Five children came to them and the felicity
of his early years with Isabella Brandt continued with his second wife.
HELEN FOURMONT, RUBENS' SECOND WIFE, AND YOUNGEST SON.
The health of our painter gradually gave way. For many years he had suffered
intensely from repeated attacks of gout. As he aged, these became more and more
frequent and severe. Often the disease, working in his fingers, kept him from
painting. "The Death of St. Peter" was painted for Cologne Cathedral in 1635.
It seems as if in his last years his heart turned affectionately to the city of
his boyhood home and he would thus commemorate it. Another picture belongs to
these last years. It was a family picture which he
 called "St. George." It
represented four generations of the painterís family and included both his first
and his second wife. He himself figured as the Saint, clad in shining armor and
triumphant over his late enemy, the deadly dragon. Rubens was too great to be
conceited, but he stood at the end of a most successful life. If ever a man
had conquered the dragon of disappointment, that lies crouching at the door
of every life, Rubens had. He did well to represent himself as St. George. In
both of these last pictures the painter shows at his very strongest.
He died May 30th, 1640, and was buried in the church beside his mother and his
first wife. All the city attended his funeral, for in three capacities they
mourned their illustrious citizen—as an artist, as a diplomat and scholar,
and as a man of noble character. Two years after his death the picture "St.
George" was hung above his tomb where it is found to-day.
He left great wealth which was largely represented by his collection of
pictures and jewels. There were three hundred and nineteen paintings, all
masterpieces. The collection sold for what would be in our money about half
a million dollars. This is a large sum at any time but in Rubensí day it was
well nigh fabulous.
Rubens has left us more than fifteen hundred pictures bearing his name. That
any man could leave so many
 can be accounted for only by reckoning many
of them as largely executed by his pupils. He used to make small sketches in
color and hand them over to his pupils for enlargement. He was always at hand
to make corrections and, at the end, to give the finishing touches. He used to
charge for his pictures according to the time he used in painting them, and he
valued his time at fifty dollars a day.
He shows none of the mystical visionary feeling of the Spaniards even in his
religious pictures. He was too much in love with life for that, and so,
sometimes, we are offended by stout Flemish Saints and Madonnas too healthy
to accord with our notions of their abstemious lives. In his pictures there
is spirited action, almost excess of life, and rich unfading color in which
the reds largely prevail. His lights are fine but the deep, expressive shadows
that made Rembrandt famous are entirely lacking. The softly flowing way in
which the color leaves his brush is, perhaps, the most inimitable part of his
art. On this account someone has said, who evidently has great reverence for
both Velazquez and Rubens, that we will see another Velazquez before another
Considering the qualities of his art, the number of his pictures, his
scholarship, his eminence as a diplomat and his pure and honorable life,
we must place Rubens among the very greatest men who ever wielded a brush.