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Fig. 2. THE APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York. (To page 15.)
I suffer with the same pain that you are suffering. I believe that if these noble gentlemen could only see my tears they would have pity upon me, even had they hearts of stone. If there be no other resource, I shall implore them to have pity upon me, although you have forbidden me to do so. We ask not for justice, but only for mercy. If we cannot obtain
Fig. 3. PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN. In the Pinakothek at Munich. After a photograph from the original by Franz Hanfstäng), Munich.
that, what is there to be done? Oh! heavenly and merciful father! thou wilt help us then! Thou will'st not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live. Pour into the hearts of these noble gentlemen, whom we have so deeply offended, the spirit of thy mercy, that we may soon be delivered from all these tribulations and fears they have already endured so long! . . The end of the letter runs thus: "Now I recommend you to the Lord, for I can write no more, and I beg of you, not to anticipate the worst: for that will anyhow come soon enough. To be always thinking of death and dreading death is worse than
death itself. Therefore banish these thoughts from your heart. I hope and trust in God, that he may punish us more leniently, and that he may still give us both joy after all this grief. For this I beseech him from the bottom of my heart, recommending you to the Almighty, that he may strengthen and comfort you with his Holy Spirit. I shall continually pray for you; and so also do our little children, who send their love and who God knows - long so much to see you. Written on the 1st of April at night between 12 and I o'clock. No longer sign yourself 'unworthy husband' since I have forgiven you all.
The noble sentiments of the mother are reflected in the superior bearing and noble mind, which later on distinguished the famous son.
After the generous woman had vainly tried for two years by personal and epistolary entreaties to secure her husband's liberty from Count Johann,
1) It was thus that the family of Rubens spelt their surname during their stay in Germany, in order to bring it into accord with the native pronunciation.
she at last succeeded in freeing him from the prison at Dillenburg by paying a sum of 6000 Thalers (about £ 900) as bail for him. He was allowed to reside at Siegen, though under certain restrictions. It was here that, in the spring of the year 1573, husband and wife met again for the first time after their heavy trials. During their stay in Siegen Frau Maria gave birth to two sons. The eldest Philip,- her fifth child, - born in 1574, later on became one of the civic authorities at Antwerp, where he made a name for himself; whilst the other, who first saw the light on the 29th of June 1577, on account of the date of his birth, received at the font the names of the two great Apostles: Peter and Paul. This infant was destined to immortalize the name of Rubens.
Towards the end of the year 1577, Princess Anna, who had been meanwhile divorced from her husband died. Johann Rubens therefore thought the time propitious to attain a free pardon from the Prince of Orange, who moreover was happily married once more. He supported in 1578 this petition by renouncing a part of the sum which, as we have seen above, had been paid as his security, and on the proceeds of which his family had hitherto been quietly living. He also asked to be allowed to live in a town nearer his own country, so that he might be enabled to make a respectable living for his wife and children. His request was granted on condition; that he should present himself before the municipality of Nassau whenever required to do so: and that he should never again enter the separate dominions of William of Oranje, nor dare to come into his presence. Johann Rubens
was thus at last allowed to return to Cologne with his family, where he took up his abode in his former residence in the Sternengasse. Their circumstances soon began to improve, when suddenly, in the autumn of the year 1582, he received a peremptory order to return to Siegen and go back to prison. Again it was his devoted wife who interceded for him, and again she had to support her entreaties with a sacrifice of money. For the Count of Nassau needed a large sum of money to help his brother in the war against the Spanish Supremacy. It was therefore only
by sacrificing all but £120 of the security that he at last recovered his entire freedom. He never left Cologne again, but died on the 1st of March 1587, and was buried there in the church of St. Peter. When we think of these sad family-events we cannot read without emotion the eulogistic epitaph which his disconsolate widow inscribed upon his tombstone, still to be seen behind the altar in that church. She makes no allusion to their sojourn at Siegen, and it can easily be understood why the family avoided speaking of it; for there is no doubt that the loving mother tried to hide from her children those sad circumstances, which had caused her such unhappiness. And it was probably for this reason that Peter Paul Rubens thought himself justified in stating: that he had passed the first 10 years of his life in Cologne. It is therefore not to be wondered at, that for centuries Cologne was supposed to have been his birthplace.
We hear from Rubens that he acquired the rudiments of his education with great facility, and that he soon surpassed other boys of his own age. The most important foundation however of his future greatness was undoubtedly the noble character inherited from his mother, who had acted so heroically in the domestic tragedies of her own life.
After the death of Johann Rubens his widow in June 1587 at length obtained permission to return to Antwerp with her childern, which she did
Fig. 5. DEMOSTHENES, from a series of antique portrait-busts designed by Rubens. Engraving by H. Witdoek.
during the following year. It
was there that her son Peter Paul received his scientific education in the so-called "Pfaffenschule". He acquired a wide general knowledge and spoke fluently no less than seven languages: Flemish, German, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, and English. We know from Balthasar Moretus, a celebrated printer of the time, that Rubens was esteemed in his school as much for his intellectual qualities as for the amiability of his character. For a time he was attached as page to the suite of Marguerite de Ligne, widow of Count Philip of Lalaing, since his mother wished him to acquire the courtly manners then prevailing in good society, but his marked artistic inclinations
Fig. 6. TIBERIUS AND AGRIPPINA. In the Liechtenstein Gallery at Vienna.
soon showed themselves. At Antwerp the Art of painting was flourishing in spite of the fact that this town had become poor and desolate owing to its siege by the Prince of Parma. Indeed it seemed as if that unhappy city had sought solace for the loss of her liberty in the dreamland of art. So complete was her collapse under the Spanish dominion that her population had sunk from 85 000 to 55 000 and grass grew in the streets in which carriages or horsemen were never seen.
Peter Paul Rubens' first master was the landscape-painter Tobias Verhaeght, under whom however he studied but a short time. Then for four years he worked in the atelier of Adam van Noort, an artist much praised by his contemporaries for his dexterity in painting, but of whose talent we can now form no judgement whatever, since no picture now extant can with any certainty be attributed to him. For another four years Rubens studied with van Veen, at that time regarded as "the Prince of Flemish nting". This very learned and distinguished man, whose family had inherited the titles of Herrn van Hogeveen, Desplasse, Vuerse, Draakensteyn &c. was descended from the Duke Johann III. of Brabant and Isabella van Veen.