Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640): The Drawings

January 15–April 3, 2005

Early Antwerp Years, 1609–1615

Soon after returning to Antwerp in 1608 Rubens received a number of important commissions, such as the Raising of the Cross (Cathedral, Antwerp). It was a good time to return: in 1609 the Northern Netherlands signed the Twelve Years' Truce with the Southern Netherlands, which was under Spanish control. With the peace, many churches in the south were refurbished with new altarpieces.

In September 1609 Rubens was appointed court painter to Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella in Brussels, but he was allowed to remain in Antwerp. On October 3, Rubens married Isabella Brant. The artist was thriving and commissions were streaming in. He established a workshop and in 1611 wrote that he had been forced to refuse more than one hundred students, even sons of close friends.

In this room are several drawings after the model. Once Rubens had planned a painting through compositional drawings and had recorded it properly in an oil sketch, he made individual studies in black chalk of the most important figures in the work. In these drawings the artist refined the poses of the figure and studied and improved such details as facial expression, musculature, or the intricate folds of a garment.