Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is a Flemish artist who moved to Italy in his 20s, where he specialized in altarpieces and portraits. His style combines the influences of Italian Renaissance painting with the northern realism of his homeland.
Rubens was born in Siegen, Westphalia, Germany, into a Calvinist family. He received his first artistic training from his father, a court painter for the Duke of Bavaria. Rubens later took lessons from several other artists, including the well-known Italian painter Titian.
In 1600, Rubens moved to Rome, where he quickly established himself as a successful artist. His early works include several altarpieces, such as the “Raising of the Cross” (1610) and the “Descent from the Cross” (1612). Rubens also painted a number of portraits, including one of Pope Paul V (1606).
In 1609, Rubens returned to Antwerp, where he became court painter to the Archduke of Bavaria. He soon married Isabella Brant, the daughter of a leading Antwerp family. The couple had eight children, two of whom died in infancy.
Rubens became one of the most successful artists of his time, enjoying the patronage of royalty and the church. He painted a number of large-scale works for churches and cathedrals, such as the “Assumption of the Virgin” (1625) for the cathedral in his hometown of Antwerp. He also created a number of famous portraits, including one of King Charles I of England (1632).
In 1640, Rubens retired from active painting, although he continued to work as an art dealer and collector. He died in Antwerp in 1640, at the age of 63.