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Fig. 95. ELIZABETH OF France, QUEEN OF Spain. In the Hermitage at St. Petersburg. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York.
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somewhat over-crowded composition representing the Triumph of the Catholic Faith, a work, very celebrated at the time, which has been multiplied not only by engravings, but also by the numerous copies still to be found in many churches in Belgium.
Rubens had entrusted his children at home to the care of certain of his intimate friends. The eldest was taken charge of by Johann Kaspar Gevaerts, town-clerk of Antwerp and Historian to the Emperor Ferdinand III.; a learned man, celebrated for his historical acquirements, whose portrait by the hand of his artist friend has come down to us and is now in the Antwerp Museum. To him the master wrote from Madrid on December 29. 1628: “Pray keep my little Albert where you keep my picture, not in your oratory, nor in the shrine of your household gods, but in your own Temple of Science and Knowledge. I love the boy and I recommend him to you, Prince of Friends and Guide of the Muses, that you may undertake the care of him during my life and also after my death, in conjunetion with my father-in-law and brother-in-law Brant."— This correspondence with his learned friend was carried on in Latin; though on other occasions he generally wrote in French or Italian — especially preferring the latter language, which was in most general use at that date only employing Flemish in letters of a particularly intimate nature.
During his sojourn in Madrid Rubens' political activity was continually to the fore; although he was specially honoured also as a great artist, of whom the King was proud.
In the beginning of 1629 we find him once more in communication with Carlisle and Scaglia, who had come from Brussels to Madrid to talk matters over with him. The assassination of the Duke of Buckingham on August 23. 1628 had put an untimely end to the negotiations between this unfortunate nobleman and the painter. No records have come down to us of the conversations which took place between the hot-tempered Count Olivarez and Rubens whilst the latter was painting the portrait of that mighty minister, whose personal hatred of Buckingham was the chief cause of the failure of the peace negotiations between Spain and England. This much however is certain, that Olivarez in the spring of 1629 at last resolved himself to commence proposals for peace with the English court. To this end Rubens was sent to London with the necessary directions, and on the 28th of April the day before the artist started on his mission Scaglia wrote to Carlisle to that effect. In order to invest him beforehand with greater . dignity the King appointed him Secretary to his Privy Council, and gave him a valuable diamond ring as a mark of his personal good will. He was not to act publicly as Ambassador of Spain, for that appointment had been given to Don Carlos Coloma - but was to bear the title of Ambassador from the Archduchess Isabella. For this reason he travelled via Brussels. On the 12th of May he reached Paris and from that visit dates probably the vigorous drawing - so true to life – of the aged Maria de Medici, still in the Louvre (Fig. 97). This Queen had a fresh commission for him, for,
as a complement to the incidents of her own life, she wished Rubens to depict also in another long series of paintings those of Henry IV. But Rubens could not stay long in Paris, nor could he devote much time to his conferences with the Infanta. After a very short rest in his own house we find him at the end of May, at Dunkirk, where, being afraid of the Dutch, he had to wait several days for an English vessel. On the 5th of June he arrived in London.
Fig. 96. ELIZABETH OF FRANCE. In the Louvre at Paris.
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The friend of both Buckingham and Carlisle, he was a most welcome ambassador at the English court, and one who did not need the warm recommendations with which Coloma and Scaglia had furnished him. Moreover the unfortunate Charles Stuart, no less a lover of art than Philip IV., was overjoyed to receive so famous a painter at his court. During the whole of his stay in London Rubens was the personal guest of His Majesty; and the artist, entrusted to negotiate terms of peace, presented his Royal host with a most appropriate present in the shape of a picture, representing the Benefits of Peace. This painting, sold and taken to Italy after the death of Charles I., returned to London and was acquired by the National Gallery in 1827. The peace negotiations did not, however, make such rapid progress as might have been expected, for it was France, led by Richelieu, that now tried to frustrate the reconciliation between England and Spain; and it was not until November 1630 that the agreement, for which the painter had worked so long and so assiduously, was at length concluded.
Marie di Medici. Drawing in the Louvre.
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Among the attendants that the artist had brought with him from Brussels was a priest, who acted as his private chaplan. This gentleman lost his life soon after his arrival in England. Whilst taking part in a boating excursion to Greenwich arranged by Barozzi, Secretary to the Piemontese Embassy, the boat when passing under London Bridge capsized and he was drowned. It has sometimes been suggested that Rubens himself had on this occasion narrowly escaped drowning; but in the letter of Lord