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Fig. 119. HELENA FOURMENT WITH TWO CHILDREN. In the Louvre.
After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New York. (To page 148.)
picture which Rubens himself designed for the purpose. Beneath an arbour the Virgin sufforts the Infant Christ who is seated in her lap. In the foreground St. Bonaventura kneels in adoration, behind her is seen St. Jerome with an open Bible. On the other side St. George and three Holy Women are
approaching, whilst four angels hover in the air with crowns and palms. The whole is a work, which for the special charm of its colouring may be ranked among the finest of the master's productions. Tradition tells us that Rubens here portrayed his own family:- his father as St. Jerome, himself as St. George and his two wives and the Fräulein Lunden as the three Holy Women. It is not impossible that there may be a certain resemblance to these individuals which however may also be detected again and again in many other pictures of the master. But tradition is certainly
wrong in asserting that in this picture-the date of which cannot definitely be ascertained, Rubens intended to especially portray himself and his family. The epitaph written by his friend Geværts was only engraved on a tablet over the tomb during the last century. Among Rubens' wonderful talents he praises specially his knowledge of Ancient History and his excellence in all the Fine Arts. He is described as the Apelles, not only of his own century, but of all time. The epitaph further points out that he enjoyed the friendship of Kings and Princes, and records the honours and distinctions conferred on him by Philip IV. It also comments on his merits as an Ambassador in procuring the conclusion of Peace.
The most valuable portion of Rubens' estate was his collection of arttreasures forming an entire Museum, of which a Descriptive Catalogue of the various objects was printed both in English and French. Among other objects of art it contained 319 paintings. Of these 9 were by Titian, 5 by Paul Veronese, 6 by Tintoretto and several by Pietro Perugino. Besides these, there were 43 copies of works by Titian and other Masters, painted by himself when in Italy and Spain. In addition there were also some 50 pictures by Early Masters, among which were, one by Durer and several by Jan van Eyck, Lucas van Leyden and Holbein. And lastly a number of
more modern works; 8 of which were by Van Dyck, 17 by Adrian Brouwer, several more, upon which Breughel and Saftleben had worked with Rubens himself, and some sketches from the master's own hand. The sale of this collection realized about 280,000 florins equal to about £ 50,000 of English money. The King of Spain was the principal purchaser and acquired no less than 32 pictures, amongst which were 10 by Rubens himself. These now rank among the greatest of the Art-treasures in the Madrid Museum. The Emperor of Germany, the King of Poland, the Elector Palatine and Cardinal Richelieu were likewise among the buyers.
The drawings of the master were sold subsequently when the youngest of his sons attained his 18th year; since, strange to say, none of them showed any inclination towards painting, nor did any of his daughters marry a painter. Rubens' eldest son Albert, who succeeded his father as Secretary of the Privy-Council, was a distinguished archeologist. Of Nicholas we can only learn that he died at the age of 37. Francis was elected Councillor at the Court of Brabant, and Peter Paul became a priest. Of the daughters, the eldest Clara Joanna married Philip von Parys and it is among her descendants that the line of Rubens can still be traced. Isabella Helena died at the age of 17, and the youngest Constantia Albertina, born after her father's death, took the veil.
Helena Fourment, the young widow, married again in 1645 an Assessor of Antwerp, Johann Baptist van Broeckhoven, who was subsequently created Count of Bergeyk. She lived until 1673.
The house, which Rubens had built with so much artistic taste and in which he had displayed so much splendour, was sold in 1669 by his grandson Philip. But its architectural appearence remained unchanged until 1763, when it was rebuilt according to the style of that period. The greater number of the sculptures by Fayd'herbe, with which the garden was adorned, were also removed at that date. Later on in our own time, the building was still further altered. Not only were two houses contrived out of the original one, but its finest portion, the vaulted dome under which the master's Collections had been housed, was entirely demolished.
Rubens' influence on Flemish art was for centuries a most powerful one. We may even assert with good reason, that never before had a single artist left so powerful and lasting an effect on the Art of his own country as was the case with this great artist. We have seen that the example of other great masters were fatal to their younger contemporaries, because they inspired imitation, and imitation gives the death-blow to true Art. But Rubens was not imitated, since in his case imitation was impossible. It was rather his spirit which acted with such life-giving effect on the artists around him and he was not only the most prolific of artists,- for he painted at least 1300 pictures, of which two-thirds were executed almost entirely by his own hand- but also the most many-sided. For this reason he influenced his followers without, at the same time destroying their individuality. We may see his impulse alike in Van Dyck's portraits, and in
Teniers' subjects:-alike in the landscapes as well as the "studies in stilllife" of the Belgian school. All bear his mark, even the historical compositions executed at that period. Sculptors and architects also learned from him; whilst, as we have seen, the reproduction of his designs perfected the Art of wood-carving in Belgium at a time when no artistic wood-cuts existed anywhere else. The broad lines, which give so picturesque an effect to the Flemish etchings of the 17th century, are principally due to the Art of Rubens, assiduously studied and reproduced by the engravers, since the entire fabric of baroque art in Belgium centred solely in the person of this, its great founder.