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Portret van Rubens met zijn zoon Albert

Rubens's personal life

An overview

Rubens definitely is not one of the many overlooked artists who died destitute. He was a superstar during his lifetime. And after his death, he continued to be in the limelight.

  • 1577
    Rubens was born in Siegen (Germany) as the sixth of seven children. His father Jan Rubens (1531-1587) and mother Maria Pypelinckx (1538-1608) already had three sons (Jan Baptist, Hendrik and Filips) and two daughters (Blandina and Clara). Jan and Maria came from Antwerp. They fled the city because of the religious wars.
  • 1587
    Jan died.
  • 1589
    Rubens's mother Maria returned to Antwerp with her children.
  • 1590
    Rubens resided in Oudenaarde for a time with Marguerite de Ligne, the widow of Count Philippe de Lalaing. He became a page and learnt the ways of noble society.
  • 1594
    Rubens chose to become a painter and already laid the foundation of his subsequent professional career. He became an apprentice of Otto van Veen.
  • 1600-1608
    Rubens worked in Italy. He lived in Rome with his brother Filips (1574-1611), who worked there as a scholar. The two had a very personal and friendly relationship.
  • 1608
    Hhis mother Maria was dying. Rubens left Italy, dropping everything, but she died before he arrived in Antwerp. Rubens was unable to say farewell to her.
  • 1609
    On 3 October Rubens married Isabella Brant (1591-1626), the daughter of his parents' neighbour, Jan Brant, a city official.
  • 1611
    Isabella Brant and Peter Paul Rubens welcomed their first child: Clara Serena (1611-1623). Rubens's last living sibling Filips dies unexpectedly.
  • 1614
    Birth of Rubens’s first son, Albert (1614-1657).
  • 1618
    Birth of Rubens’s second son, Nicolaas (1618-1655).
  • 1623
    During a stay in Paris in May and June of that year, Rubens suffered bouts of gout. On 25 October Clara Serena, Rubens's only daughter, died at the age of twelve.
  • 1626
    Rubens's wife, Isabella Brant, died, probably during an epidemic of bubonic plague. Rubens was depressed after his wife's death and wrote the following in a letter dated 15 July 1626:

    "I really lost an excellent companion, who one rightfully could, should love."

  • 1628-1630
    Rubens was almost never home. He travelled around Europe, working as a diplomat. He entrusted his friend, Gaspar Gevartius, with the education of his two sons, Albert and Nicolaas.
  • 1629
    In a letter dated 8 August 1629, he wrote to one of his learned friends in London that he really wanted to take a break in his own house “which really requires my presence”.
  • 1630
    On 6 December he wed 16-year old Helena Fourment (1614-1673). Rubens wrote the following about this in a letter dated 18 December 1634:

    "I decided to marry because I concluded that I was not yet suited for celibacy. I chose a young woman from a good, but bourgeois family although everyone recommended that I marry a noblewoman. But I feared the arrogance, which is a widespread condition among the noble classes, especially in woman. So I chose a girl who would not blush when she saw me pick up my brushes. To be fair, it seemed difficult to me to relinquish my precious freedom in exchange for the embraces of an old woman".

  • 1632
    In January Clara Johanna (1632-1689), the eldest daughter of Rubens and Helena Fourment, was born.
  • 1633
    Birth of Rubens’s son Frans (1633-1678).
  • 1635
    Birth of Rubens's daughter Isabella Helena (1635-1652). He purchased a country estate in Elewijt, called Het Steen, where he spent a lot of time. Rubens wound down his activities and enjoyed the figs and pears in his garden, the landscape in the surrounding region and painted several portraits of his family members and of the landscape.
  • 1637
    Birth of Rubens's son Peter Paul (1637-1684).
  • 1638
    Bouts of gout prevented Rubens from working. He spent the summer months in Elewijt. At the end of the year, he received the last rites.
  • 1639
    Rubens's health rapidly deteriorated.
  • 1640
    Rubens died on 30 May. He was buried on 2 June in Antwerp's St. James's Church. His youngest daughter, Constantia Albertina (1641-1709/12) was born in 1641, eight months after he died.
  • A few years later
    Helena married Master Jan Baptist van Broechoven van Bergeyck (1619-1683), with whom she had six children. The eldest child was probably born out of wedlock.  Helena died on 15 July 1673 in Brussels, at the age of 59. Her remains were buried on 4 August 1673 in the Rubens Chapel in St. James' Church in Antwerp.