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For this late self-portrait, which Rubens is believed to have completed in the last year of his life, he chose to portray himself not in the half-length style usual in private portraits but in an imposing view from the knees up. The massive column in the shadows (also a reference to the artist’s Stoic ideals, which have often been documented), the leather gloves and the left hand resting on a sword: these are all attributes of a courtly portrait. The composition is dominated by dark tones; the only bright accents are the slightly reddish face, the pleated collar and the left hand. A powerful curve leads from Rubens’s right hand across his body and left shoulder to the large dark collar, which extends almost threateningly far beyond the line of his back. Rubens concentrates most of the light in the dark-grey background. His wide-brimmed hat finally provides a compositional counterweight and closes off the painting at the top. Although Rubens had been raised to the nobility by the Spanish monarch and knighted by the king of England, his decision to depict himself as a member of the aristocracy is nonetheless surprising: he had repeatedly distanced himself from life at court. In the final years of his life, he had largely freed himself from the responsibilities of a man of the court and diplomat, dividing his time between his city residence in Antwerp and his country castle near Elewijt. Due to serious attacks of gout, he was sometimes unable to perform even the simplest tasks. His sensitive face reflects something of his bodily ills but also the serenity of the 62-year-old artist. The fact that he painted one of the most sensual portraits of his young wife, Helena Fourment (KHM, GG 688), at about the same time adds a not unimportant aspect to our understanding of the artist’s personal situation at the time. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

Details

  • Title: Selfportrait
  • Creator: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Date Created: 1633/1640
  • Style: Flemish Baroque
  • Provenance: since 1720 in the Gallery
  • Physical Dimensions: w85.5 x h110.0 x d24 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 527
  • 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 illustrations, 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. The works of Thomas Gainsborough and Eugène Delacroix, among others, testify to his posthumous influence. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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