An artist specialized in making portraits, altarpieces, landscapes, and mythological – allegorical history paintings, Peter Paul Rubens ( June 28, 1577 – May 30, 164) was an educated humanist scholar and a diplomat.
The Horrors of War is considered to be the essential art piece of Rubens as it symbolizes the Thirty Years’ War ( 1618-1648), which took a full swing at that period.
Besides this, other significant artworks include The Descent from the Cross, Honeysuckle Bower, The Massacre of the Innocents, and The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
The Flemish artist has created numerous influential creations which are celebrated worldwide, and they were mostly taken from looking at the Italian contemporaries.
Here is the list of top 10 paintings of Peter Paul Rubens with details.
10. Honeysuckle Bower
|Dimensions||70in X 54in|
|Location||Alte Pinakothek gallery, Munich|
The portrait, Honeysuckle Bower, painted in the year 1609, is a self-portrait of Rubens with his first wife, Isabella Brandt. It is an oil painting, measuring 70in X 54in.
Depicting a newly married couple sitting on an enclosed honeysuckle bower – a traditional symbol of love and lightness of being, and the couple surrounded with it to embrace their feelings, it symbolizes the pure love between the two.
The man is shown to be a gentleman, sitting slightly raised above the woman, showing the protective nature towards the woman.
The woman is shown wearing a Flemish hat-giving a cultural aspect to the viewers, and both their hands held together- emphasizing their unity.
With the expert use of lights and colours, the paintings can be associated with gentility, beauty, and blossoming feelings, and is considered to be very neat and full of hope for the future union.
Today the painting is displayed by the Alte Pinakothek gallery, Munich.
9. The Massacre of the Innocents
|Dimensions||55.9in X 77.1in|
|Location||Art Gallery, Ontario|
The Massacre of the Innocents, painted in the year 1611-12, is an oil painting on panel measuring 55.9in X 77.1in.
The portrait displays the biblical tale in which Roman soldiers are shown executing male newborns in Bethlehem based on the orders given by King Herod. It is one of the first two paintings of Rubens inspired by the Biblical story.
The scene shown in the painting is horrific as groups of women are shown to be attempting to prevent the soldiers from killing their children, muscular men struggling with writhing women, blood spilling around, and some are already dead.
The Massacre of the Innocents considered being the most expensive Old Master paintings as it was purchased by the Canadian businessman and art collector Kenneth Thomas(2012) for $117 million. Today it is hung in the Art Gallery of Ontario.
8. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary
|Dimensions||190in X 128in|
|Location||Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp|
The masterpiece, Assumption of the Virgin Mary, painted in the year 1626, is another famous painting of Rubens which can be admired in the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp. It is a painting with the measurement of 190in X 128in.
The painting has two parts with a theme of the ascendance of the Virgin Mary into Heaven. On the upper part of the painting, you can see the actual assumption and the lower part shows the empty tomb of Mary surrounded by 12 disciples and 3 women representing Virgin’s two sisters along with Mary Magdalene.
Some disciples are shown opening Mary’s tomb and lifting the heavy stone and others staring at Our Lady with profound astonishment and admiration while Mary surrounded by the troops is mounting to heaven.
Due to its happy composition and precise interpretation of life, movement, emotions, and attitudes, this painting of Rubens are considered remarkable and one of his best works.
7. Saturn Devouring His son
|Dimensions||71.8in X 34.2in|
|Location||Museo del Prado in Madrid|
Saturn devouring his son painted in the year 1636 is an oil painting measuring 71.8in X 34.2in. It is the most deep-rooted shock valued paintings of Rubens.
The painting, based on the Grecian mythology of Titan Saturn, depicts Saturn devouring his son to keep himself safe for the throne which could one day be taken away by his son if he is kept alive.
Rubens has even shown three stars in the background of painting out of which the middle star is supposed to be the Saturn, and the ring around the Saturn is displayed with the drawing of two more stars. It is considered to be done so due to a lack of technological knowledge.
The painting today is placed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
6. Prometheus Bound
|Dimensions||96.6in X 82.6in|
|Location||Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania|
The painting, Prometheus Bound was drawn between 1611 and 1618, is an oil painting measuring 96.6in X 82.6in.
Depicting the torture of the Titan Prometheus which is tied to the Caucasus Mountains, it displays the punishment given by an angry Zeus to the Prometheus as he stole the fire.
The penalty was, an eagle would come daily to feed on the liver of Prometheus which would regenerate overnight.
Symbolizing the Baroque art in the purest form, the painting displays a naked man chained to a rock while fighting with an eagle who is trying to peck his liver out and is portrayed in a very dramatic way with the indulgent of appropriate expressions of the struggle between the eagle and Prometheus.
The dramatic Baroque art is placed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania.
5. The Adoration of the Magi
|Dimensions||69in X 85in|
|Location||Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp|
The Adoration of the Magi painted in the year 1624 is a Biblical story centred upon the Adoration of the Magi – one of the favourite themes of Rubens.
There are a total of 12 paintings based on this theme, out of which this one is the most astonishing artwork with masterful technique.
The painting depicts the arrival of three Magi and their entourages along with the Holy Family who is residing there temporarily.
All of the figures are displayed in magnificent turbans, robes, and ornaments with the use of light and dark technique highlighting the embroidered jewels, blond curls, and ermine cape.
With the use of the Baroque technique and soft brushwork, the art piece holds the flow of energy stable with the figures, including soldiers, servants, camels, horses honouring Jesus.
The facial expression is highlighted using the bright reds and glowing lights.
The famous Masterful technique painting, today is placed in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
4. The Fall of Man
|Dimensions||85.8in X 114.1in|
|Location||Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York|
The Fall of Man, also known as Eve and Adam, painted in the year 1628-29 is an oil painting measuring 85.8in X 114.1in.
This painting is considered to be copied work from the Titan’s work which was based on the same subject. Rubens has made numerous changes on the paintings concerning the original.
A parrot is displayed – which was not present in the original piece, as a symbol of Good, creating the idea of Redemption which contrasts with the fox that alludes to Lust and Evil.
It is also depicting the light on the impactful influence of Jan Brueghel, the Elder on Peter Paul Rubens.
Along with the display of a scene where Eve is accepting a forbidden fruit from a devil’s hand – with the body of half child and half serpent, the art piece also shows the tree of Good and Bad and Adam sitting on its roots, trying to stop Eve from accepting the fruit.
The Fall of the Man ( Eve and Adam ) is placed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
3. The Descent from the Cross
|Dimensions||55in X 43in|
|Location||Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp|
The Descent from the Cross completed in the year 1614, was first commissioned and served to the Cathedral of Our Lady as an altarpiece, in the year 1611.
The famous painting of Rubens portrays a group of people trying to take down the lifeless body of Christ from the Cross. It is the central panel of the Elevation of the Cross – a triptych painting.
Out of three panels of the triptych, the central panel – the Descent from the Cross, depicts figures of eight workers along with the figure of Jesus.
The workmen are on two ladders trying to get Jesus down from the Cross, Mary Magdalene’s shoulder is positioned to place the foot of Jesus, and arms of his mother are extended towards to show the grief.
The most priceless masterpiece of Rubens is placed in the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp today.
2. The Judgement of Paris
|Dimensions||78in X 149in|
|Location||Museo del Prado, Madrid|
The Judgement of Paris is a mythological work of Rubens painted in the year 1636, which shows the exuberant style showing his love towards an idealised woman form.
Along with the flow of eroticism and vivacity, the painting also depicts the three goddesses: Juno, Venus, and Minerva.
According to the myth, out of three, the fairest goddesses was to receive a golden apple, but it was almost impossible for anyone to decide amongst them.
The person to decide the fairest goddesses, Paris, can be seen in the painting. He was assigned to do so by Jupiter(Zeus).
With the offering of gifts by the three goddesses, Paris decides on awarding Venus the fairest as she had promised to gift him with the love of the prettiest woman on earth- Helen.
The newer version of the painting is hung in the Museo del Prado, Madrid.
1. The Horrors of War
|Dimensions||78in X 149in|
|Location||Museo del Prado, Madrid|
The significant portrait, the Horrors of War, completed in the year 1639, depicts the outlook of Rubens towards the Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648, which damaged the whole of Europe.
The painting depicts the war and destruction created by it, the Roman God of War – Mars is placed in the middle of the picture and Roman Goddess of Love – Venus is shown to be trying to prevent Mars from pursuing war.
The expression displayed in the portrait is rigorous, which reveals the prevention from Venus is in vain.
Along with the portraits of Mars and Venus, an architect- lying on the ground with compass on his hand, a mother and a child, despaired woman- dressed in black with her arms up, an angel- holding a globe with a cross, and a temple of Janus- in Roman Forum, can be seen in the painting.
The famous painting also referred to as the Consequences of War, is hung in the Palazzo Pitti’s Art Gallery, Florence.
With the masterpieces like the ones mentioned above, Peter Paul Rubens was able to reach his artworks all around the world and that with astonishment. His artworks exceeded 1403 pieces.
Other significant art pieces of Rubens include Samson and Delilah, The Origin of the Milky Way, A view of Het Steen in the early morning, and The disembarkation at Marseilles.