Maggior dignità e rilievo: Rubens and Architecture

Ben Van Beneden, 25 September 2011

Rubens was not only the most important painter of his day, but he was also a connoisseur and devotee of antique and contemporary Italian architecture. He expounded his views on architecture in the introduction to his book Palazzi di Genova and in his correspondence with the erudite connoisseur of architecture Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687). Aside from depicting structures on canvas and on paper, Rubens was also involved in a number of actual architectural projects. In 1610 he purchased a house in Antwerp that he had enlarged after his own design by adding a semicircular domed gallery of sculptures, an entrance resembling a triumphal arch, a studio, and a garden pavilion with a serliana shape. For his design he drew inspiration from contemporary Italian masters who were well versed both in the art of painting and in the rules of classical, Vitruvian architecture – with Raphael, Giulio Romano, and Michelangelo as the main examples – and from printed examples from the architecture books of Sebastiano Serlio and Vignola.

In this lecture, Ben Van Beneden illuminated Peter Paul Rubens’s views on architecture and looked at the examples that inspired the master when designing his own house.