Art History Everyone Should Know: Rubens and Velasquez

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Rubens and Rembrandt
Peter Paul Rubens Peter Paul Rubens' work is original and powerful synthesis. He was always in search of new ideas. In 1598 he became a master. He was wealthy and spoke three to five different languages. He had two studios. He would first sketch a painting and then corrected it. He is known to be top in industry.
Elevation of the Cross, 1610 oil on canvas, 15' 2" x 11' 2", Cathedral, Antwerp. This is a Triptych painting that shows foreshortened anatomy. The Christ cuts diagonally across the picture creating space and prospective. This is portrait of giants trying to lift Christ. It shows a man dressed in a medieval armor suite. Christ's complexion is pinkish European and also portrays light and shadow.
  • Shows foreshortened anatomy and the contortions of violent action
  • triptych - 3 pictures
  • Christ's complexion - Dutch or French (red hair, pink flesh)
  • blending of genre painting and classicism - a lot of emotion in painting, soldier wearing medieval suit of armor, men have perfect Greek God bodies
  • Follower of Caravaggio
Rubens The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus 1617 7'x10' Alte, Pinakothek, Munich.  It portrays the demi-gods Castor and Pollux taking the two mortal women. This is a sensual theme to escape reality. The women show little resistance to the man. This is an erotic scene to be view by male gaze. Sfumato is showed in the background. Cupid is showed to be holding to a horse.
  • Castor and Pollux abducting women
  • Constructed for male gaze
  • Covering the eroticism with a mythological story
  • It is really an erotic picture, male sexual fantasy
  • Girls are the ideal northern beauties (Phoebe and Hillarea)
  • Castor and Pollux were brothers

Around 1625 Rubens did a series of paintings to commemorate the marriage and political alliance of Henry IV, king of France with Marie d' Medici a princess from Italy.  The union was to cement relations between the Catholic Church in Italy with the government of France. The paintings are an odd blending of classicism, genre, and religious imagery.

Rubens Arrival of Marie de' Medici at Marseilles 1622-26
The Destiny of Marie d' Medici
Oil on canvas 155 x 115 1/4 in (394 x 293 cm)  Musee du Louvre, Paris 

Rubens Arrival of Marie de' Medici at Marseilles 1622-26
(oil study)

Rubens Arrival of Marie de' Medici at Marseilles 1622-26
Oil on canvas 155 x 115 1/4 in
The Destiny of Marie d' Medici

Juno Presents the Portrait of Marie d' Medici to Henry IV
The Destiny of Marie d' Medici

Marriage By Proxy
The Destiny of Marie d' Medici


Diego Velasquez Los Borrachos 1628 Oil on canvas 5'6''x7'6'' Located in Museo del Prado, Madrid
Diego Velasquez
Diego Velasquez is a realist painter from Spain. He is known for his great skill in merging color, light, space, rhythm of line and mass in equal value. He has influenced the likes of Francisco de Goya, Camille Corot and Edouard Manet.
Los Borrachos "The Drinkers" dated c 1628. Oil on canvas, approx 5'6" x 7' 6". Museo del Prado, Madrid. The painting illustrates low life liberal men drinking wine . Dionysus, god of wine is crowning some one. The figure in the foreground whose back is to the viewer is similar to the same type of figure in Giotto's Lamentation . This painting is refered to Velasquez's education in terms of classicism and mythology. It is a mythological scene painted in the genre style.
Diego Velasquez Los Borrachos 1628 Oil on canvas 5'6''x7'6'' Located in Museo del Prado, Madrid

  • Also contains tenebrism


  • Takes up mythological theme
  • Dionysus - God of wine
  • Uses genre, typical street people
  • Velasquez was King Philip's close personal friend and advisor
  • He was the King's court painter and understood the rules, makes reference to his education and that he can paint whatever he wants to

  • 1) How is Velasquez a Caravaggisti?
    What specific formal elements does he share and how are they expressed?

    2) Describe the iconography used through out this painting.

    3) How does Velasquez play with perspectives and points of view?

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