A prominent figure of the age, protected by the Archduke and Duchess, and a friend of Rubens, Michael Ophovius was born at Bois-le‑Duc in 1571 and died in 1637 at Lier. He entered the Dominican Order in Antwerp in 1585, and subsequently taught in Louvain and Bologna. He published two treatises on the Oaths and St. Catherine of Siena in 1603, and Isabel Clara Eugenia employed him for Dutch affairs. He also negotiated the handing over of the town of Neusden in 1623, with the possible complicity of Rubens. He was Bishop of Bois‑le-Duc in 1626, and promoted the Counter-Reformation in Sweden and Denmark in 1634.

His great friendship with Rubens explains the known number of portraits and drawings by the painter and his workshop. It was a true friendship, as shown by the letters between them and their common friends.

The Bank’s portrait has two additions at the sides, possibly in order to enlarge the space from where the semicircular arch springs over the Bishop’s head. This takes its inspiration from the sculptures in niches in the painter’s possession, such as that of Seneca, which is known from an engraving. It is repeated in the first edition at The Hague, although the likeness is significantly more expressive. Here the look is concentrated on the viewer, and the penetration achieved in the face of the sitter is an accomplishment. In the same way as in the Hague copy, the spirit is bared: "He is a fighter shaped by combat, a missionary, a bishop like they used to be, more disposed towards the offensive than the defensive”.


  • Title: Michel Ophovius
  • Date Created: 1635
  • Physical Location: Madrid, Spain
  • Place Part Of: Spain
  • Physical Dimensions: w360 x h440 mm (Complete)
  • Painter: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Fundación Banco Santander, www.fundacionbancosantander.com
  • External Link: Fundación Banco Santander
  • Medium: Oil on panel

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