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Helena Fourment in a Fur Robe

Peter Paul Rubens1636/1638

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

“[…] I decided to get married because I was not yet ready to live in the renunciationthat is celibacy. […] I took a wife from a good but bourgeois family, although the whole world tried to convince me to marry a lady of the court. But I feared the pride, the plague of nobility […], and thus I liked the idea of taking a wife who does not blush when she sees me pick up a brush.” (Rubens in a letter to his friend Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc.) In December 1630, the 53-year-old Rubens married the 16-year-old daughter of the Antwerp silkmerchant Daniel Fourment. Even Rubens’s closest friends did not refrain from alluding to the great age difference between the bride and groom. His first wife, Isabella Brandt, had died of the plague in 1626. The traditional title of the painting, “her pelzken” (“The Little Fur”), comes from Rubens himself, who bequeathed the work to his young wife as a private gift. She never sold the painting; it was inherited by her children and is not documented in the inventory of the Picture Gallery before 1730. Helena’s sensual body is covered only partially by a dark fur robe, which is depicted in all its beauty. She seems to be stepping slightly to the left, while her torso remains at rest. The posture of her arms is no coincidence: it resembles the classical type of the Venus Pudica – bashful concealment or coquettish suggestion – the effect remains open. The red of the fabric on which she is standing corresponds gently with her slightly pink skin to intensify again in her reddened cheeks and sensual lips. Thus Rubens goes beyond the pure portrait genre: the image of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, resonates in the painting. In addition he is quoting from the work of a great colleague: shortly before the creation of the present painting, Rubens had the opportunity to see Titian’s Girl in a Fur (KHM, GG 89) in the collection of the English king and copy it. There, the charming contrast between the fair, soft skin and the dark, velvety fur had been celebrated once before. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

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Details

  • Title: Helena Fourment in a Fur Robe
  • Creator: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Date Created: 1636/1638
  • Location Created: Antwerp, Belgium
  • Style: Flemish Baroque
  • Provenance: 1640 mentionend in the testament of Rubens; 1658 mentionend in the testament of Helene Fourment; documented in the gallery since 1730
  • Place Part Of: Belgium
  • Physical Dimensions: w830 x h1760 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 688
  • Artist Biography: International diplomat, savvy businessman, devout Catholic, fluent in six languages, an intellectual who counted Europe's finest scholars among his friends, Peter Paul Rubens was always first a painter. Few artists have been capable of transforming such a vast variety of influences into a style utterly new and original. After study with local Antwerp painters, Rubens began finding his style in Italy, copying works from antiquity, Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo and Titian, and contemporaries like Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio. He worked principally in Rome and Genoa, where Giulio Romano's frescoes influenced him greatly. Returning to Antwerp, Rubens became court painter to the Spanish Viceroys, eventually receiving commissions from across Europe and England. Rubens's energetic Baroque style blends his northern European sense of realism with the grandeur and monumentality he saw in Italian art. His characteristic free, expressive technique also captured joie de vivre. From his workshop, with its many assistants, came quantities of book llustrations, tapestry designs, festival decorations, and paintings on every subject, which his engravers reproduced. He maintained control of the quality, while charging patrons according to the extent of his involvement on a picture. Frans Snyders, Jacob Jordaens, and Anthony van Dyck each assisted him. Rubens's impact was immediate, international, and long lasting. © J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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