The greatness of Peter Paul Rubens ht is one of life's mysteries. As famous artists go, this relentlessly grandiose painter doesn’t fit any of our notions of the romantic genius. Rubens, born in 1577 into an exiled Antwerp family, was trained as a courtier-artist in Italy, and went on to become the most prestigious painter at all the courts of Europe. He worked for the monarchies of France, Spain and England; promoted orthodox faith and the absolute right of kings and queens to rule; and nowhere are his affiliations clearer than in his paintings set into the ceiling of the Banqueting House on London's Whitehall.
Rubens was a great exponent of the Baroque style, and a pre-eminent artist of the 17th century. He became the leading painter of altarpieces, history painting, large-scale decorations and landscapes. Scholar, collector and diplomat, he was knighted by Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England.
His parents were Flemish, but he was born in Germany, moving to Antwerp about 1588, where he trained with Otto van Veen. Rubens went to Italy (1600-8), where he was influenced by ancient and Italian Renaissance art. He worked for the Gonzaga in Mantua, and spent time in Rome and Genoa. He also visited Spain. On his return to Antwerp he painted the 'Raising and Descent from the Cross' triptychs.
In 1609 Rubens became court painter to Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella, Governors of the Netherlands for Spain. In 1628-30 Rubens returned to Spain, where he met Velázquez, then came to England to negotiate an alliance. Rubens 'Peace and War' to Charles I, who commissioned him to paint the ceiling of the Banqueting House in Whitehall .
In 1635 he bought the manor house of Het Steen, where he spent the rest of his life in semi-retirement, mainly painting landscapes.