One book, two aims…
On the one hand, to set the stage around which the characters of Rubens' Europe moved: the Italian, Spanish and English royalty for whom he worked, Jesuit missionaries to China, a young German sculptor, the mendicant orders, Marie de' Medici – the Italian princess who sought to have the ideas of the House of Austria adopted in France. In this respect, the exhibition is a remarkable gallery of the time, between the Renaissance and the early 17th century – Henri IV, several popes, two Kings of Spain, Charles I of England, Louis XIII, the archdukes of Brussels... On the other hand, to recall the religious beliefs (the all-powerful nature of the Church of Rome) and the artistic quests of Rubens (the conception of the body, Flemish beauty, examination of the past). From the seductiveness of classical sculptures (the Borghese Centaur, the Great Cameo of France) to the singularity of Bernini, from Michelangelo and Adriaen de Vries to the works of Van Dyck, Rubens' brilliant pupil, the exhibition brings together not only paintings, engravings and drawings, but also tapestry and precious decorative objects.
The career of Antwerp's greatest painter of the 17th century, usually associated with the baroque, a genuine firework of colour in the history of painting, is thrown into sharper relief if we reject the image that Rubens wished to leave of himself. A universal artist, diplomat, pacifist at the time of the Thirty Years War, leader of the Flemish school... This giant was in reality a partisan and a skilful operator just as much as he was a creative figure.
Rubens' conquering faith, his zeal in serving Spain, were in many ways attempts to check the decline of a certain kind of Europe: Catholic and monarchic. It was a unique situation and one to which Rubens was equal: his travels, his position among royalty, his knowledge of European culture (classical, modern, urban) made him the archetypal European.
Scientific direction: Blaise Ducos, exhibition organiser, curator of the Department of Paintings at the Louvre Museum, specialist in Flemish and Dutch paintings.
Authors: Prof. Dr. Arnout Balis, Frije Universiteit Brussel, Director, Rubenianum, Antwerps - Dr. Blaise Ducos, curator, Department of Paintings, Louvre Museum, Paris - Prof. Dr. Jeroen Duindam, Leiden University - Prof. Dr. Marc Fumaroli, of the Académie Française - Dr. Paul Huvenne, General Administrator, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, Antwerp - David Jaffé, London - Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset, Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
A co-edition with Editions Hazan - €39 - 360 pages, 23 x 29 cm - 200 colour illustrations