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as a time of apprenticeship, it was on returning to his own country that he really discovered his talent and entered upon that period of his life during which he achieved his immortal fame.
An armistice of twelve years, concluded in 1609, gave peace at length to the sorely tried Netherlands. The true cultivation of Art now commenced and no longer met with opposition; wherefore the industrious artist found much employment for his talents. It was not only the Archduke and Archduchess, who prevented Rubens return to Italy, but there was another tie also. Philip Rubens, the only one of his four brothers who had survived, held the office of Secretary of State at Antwerp. Two portrais of him by Peter - Paul exist, one of which is in the Pinakothek at Munich; whilst the other representing both brothers with the celebrated Justus Lipsius
and Hugo Grotius, is in the Pitti Palace at Florence. Philip Rubens was allied by marriage with Johann Brant, Town-Clerk of Antwerp. On the 13th of October 1607, his daughter Isabella, a delicate young beauty, whom her gallant uncle likened to the wife of Menelaus, was married to Peter Paul Rubens in the church of St. Michael. In a charming picture, now at the Pinakothek in Munich, the painter represents himself seated beside his young wife — a picture of conjugal bliss — under a bower of honey-suckle (Fig. 14): whilst another charming portrait of Isabella Brant, whose features henceforth can often be traced in various pictures by the artist, is to be found in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence.
Fig. 20. The Descent From The Cross. In the Hermitage at St. Petersburg. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clement & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York.
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Rubens received his first important commission from the town of Antwerp: and painted for the Guildhall of that city the Adoration of the Magi, a large painting, brilliant in colour, which, however, did not long remain in the position intended for it; for in 1612 it was presented by the municipality to Count Oliva, in order to obtain his favour, who took it with him to Spain. When some time afterwards he ended his life on the scaffold, it passed into the possession of King Philip IV., and is now in the Museum
at Madrid. Commissioned about the same time by the reigning Prince of the Netherlands, Rubens executed another altar-piece, in which he displays himself at the height of his artistic developement. Archduke Albrecht had founded at Brussels in honour of St. Ildefonso an aristocratic Brotherhood, to whom he had given an altar in his own church dedicated to "St. James on the Kaltenberg". The painter received a commission to adorn this altar and, although but a commoner by birth, he was elected a member by this Brotherhood, all of whom were of noble lineage. To show his gratitude for so much honour, he painted this altar-piece without demanding any remuneration. He gave to it the shape ot an Ancona: the centre-panel of which represented a Miracle of St. Ildefonso, illustrating the following tradition. St. Ildefonso, Archbishop of Toledo in the seventh century, defended with the utmost zeal the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.