This weekend I got to meet Peter Paul Rubens.

It wasn’t a thorough meeting, unfortunately, for I did not even get to know much about his oeuvre. But I did invite myself into his home, saw some of his paintings and sketches, and really amazed myself.

Peter Paul Rubens; a guy I actually only knew by name. I saw some of his paintings before visiting the Rubenshuis. One of them: Avondlandschap is in museum Boijmans van Beuningen; one of my favorite museums. I didn’t pay much attention to the painting though. Although it is painted in a style I really like. I like baroque, as I like to get to know more painters. That’s why I needed to visit the Rubenshuis when I visited Anwerp this weekend. Because, frankly, I expected to have the same experience, entering the Rubenshuis, as I had when visiting the Rembrandtshuis. But the experience was quite different.

Like I said, I never knew Rubens very much. I only knew he was a contemporary to Rembrandt. And while Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam and Leiden, Rubens lived in Antwerp. These cities aren’t far apart, so for all I knew, the guys could have been best of friends. Visiting the Rubenshuis, however, I discovered the differences between them.

When I entered the Rubenshuis, the beautiful courtyard and the porch immediately draw my attention. It was easy to tell Rubens was a wealthy man, who had fallen in love with Italian art. I would have loved to see the courtyard in the summer. I really think it would be gorgeous if it was green and blooming. But the statues and the stunning ornaments and embellishments still were pretty amazing in winter. The courtyard appeared to belong to a very important person, if I knew otherwise, I would not have guessed it was the courtyard of a painter.


The courtyard really was complementary to the house. By reading the guide, we found out that Rubens was not only the most important, but also the most successful painter of his age. Boy, was I ashamed I did not pay some more attention to the Avondlandschap, when I saw it! It was painted by the most important painter of the 17th century! Such an ignorance from my part! But, all was not lost yet. I just set foot in the house of this very important painter, and I was willing to learn everything there was to learn.

But, like I said, the meeting with Rubens wasn’t thoroughly. I hoped I would see his atelier, like I saw Rembrandt’s. I hoped I would be able to imagine him walking through his atelier. I tried to ‘see’ him painting, as I gazed through my eyelashes, in the enormous room which used to be his atelier. But I didn’t. No doubt; the room was beautiful, like the whole house. I would be able to spend all day, just admiring the room. But it was too big and fancy; it didn’t ‘breath’ painting, the room was just too lofty. The only thing I learned, walking through the house, was his life as a very rich, and respected gentleman. And although it is amazing one can become rich and respected by painting, I would really have loved to smell the paint, like I did in the Rembrandtshuis.

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