« PreviousContinue »
The fact is unquestionable, that this volume on "Rubens" which in spite of its brevity, has gone through seven editions in Germany, in less than ten years still holds its own, beside more elaborate and ambitious works, published since on this great Flemish master. Its convenient form, combined with its numerous and attractive illustrations, have proved it to be well adapted as a guide to his work: and especially to assist students who, desirous of understanding him thoroughly, direct their steps to those places, wherein he has principally left his mark.
Fully recognizing the importance of a perfect rendering of this work, and in order also to do justice to the author himself, I have been glad to obtain the assistance of so distinguished a writer as Mr. Hobart Cust in the revision of the English phraseology, so that, while retaining the meaning of the German original in its integrity, the differences in the two languages might be adequately overcome.
LOUISE M. RICHTER.
PETER PAUL RUBENS.
On a fine old mansion in the Sternengasse at Cologne, a marble slab informs the stranger that here Peter Paul Rubens was born. But neither Cologne nor her rival, Antwerp, can support their claim to the honour of having given birth to the Flemish artist-prince. Incontestible facts now prove that this event occurred in the little town of Siegen in Westphalia. The ancestors of Rubens had for centuries been settled in Antwerp as respectable burghers. His grand-father was a dispensing chemist, who also owned a grocer's shop; but his father was educated to a learned profession. Johann Rubens was born in 1530, studied law at Louvain and Padua, and took the degree of Doctor of Civil and Ecclesiastical Law with honours in Rome. Returning to his native country, on the 29th November 1561 he married a merchant's daughter named Maria Pypelincks. In 1562 he was appointed an Assessor, an office which he held for five years, during the period of Revolution against the Spanish rule. Under the subsequent Governorship of the tyrannical Duke of Alba, when Counts Egmont and Horn suffered on the scaffold for their patriotism, Johann Rubens, suspected of leanings towards the Protestant Heresy, thought it wise to leave his home. Towards the end of the year 1568, armed with credentials from the municipality of Antwerp, he fled to Cologne. In that city was residing, at that time, Anna of Saxony, wife of William of Orange, the great leader of the Dutch Rebellion. Rubens, introduced to this rather capricious and morbidly excitable princess by her legal adviser, John Betz of Malines, himself a fugitive, became first her intimate friend and then her lover. This illicit relationship could not long remain a secret, and Count Johann of Nassau, brother of William of Orange, arrested Rubens in March 1571 on his way to Siegen, a small town in the territory of Nassau, whither Princess Anna had already retired to await her confinement, and imprisoned him at Dillenburg. According to the law of the country since he had confessed his guilt Rubens' life was forfeit: and, since his arrest had taken place in the territory of Nassau the count had the right to avenge his brother's honour by passing upon him sentence of death. Both these princes, however, took into consideration the fact, that such a proceeding would only make matters worse by publishing the family scandal. Moreover the offender found a most eloquent intercessor in a quarter whence he certainly least deserved to expect it. Maria Pypelincks, his injured wife, did her utmost to procure his pardon. Two letters of sympathy and consolation have come down to us, addressed by her to her imprisoned husband , bearing witness to her high-minded generosity: "I am more than glad," she writes to him, "that, touched by my forgiveness, you (Euer Liebden) feel now somewhat comforted. I did not imagine that you could ever think, that I should make great difficulty in this matter, as indeed
I have not done. How could I ever be so cruel as to add to your great distress and tribulation. On the contrary I feel as if I could even give my own hearts-blood to help you. Should I be like that most wicked servant in the Gospels, who, though all his own debt had been forgiven him, yet compelled his fellow-servant to pay him to the uttermost farthing? Let your mind be at rest as to my forgiveness; would to God that your freedom were dependent on it, so that we might soon be happy again. ... I pray that God will hear my petition; so that they will spare and have mercy upon us; for it is certain that, should I hear the news of your death, I should die myself of a broken heart. The words though of her Grace" (probably the mother of the Orange princes) "which I have conveyed to you in another letter, still give me hope. ... I cannot believe that we shall be so completely and so miserably separated. . . . O God! may that never be! My soul is so much in sympathy with yours and in union with you, that