Rubens painted The Garden of Love, one of his most admired and copied works, about 1632. A celebration of marriage, it was in all likelihood a tribute to Helena Fourment, his young, beautiful second wife, whom he married in 1630. In Rubens's time the painting was known as a conversatie à la mode. Couples play games in a lavish garden in front of a large stone building while others stroll or listen to a singer accompanied by a lute player.
Three of Rubens's preliminary chalk studies for major figures in The Garden of Love are gathered in the exhibition. Their exuberance and freedom of handling make them among his finest and most magnificent sheets.