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Peter Paul Rubens was born in 1577 and passed on in the year 1640. He created a lot of paintings together with his longtime companion Jan Brueghel, who was born in 1568 and passed on in the year 1625. The Flemish baroque painter hailed from Northern Europe. Nowadays he is considered to be the best artist representing the western culture of his days.

Peter created imaginative paintings, which had tones of freedom and depicted Italian nature. When he was growing up, he had many problems with his religious position; this fact had a great influence on his way of painting. After his father died the whole family returned to Antwerp, a place, which inspired Paul to work and learn many things related to art and paintings in particular. He completed his artistic education in Italy; at the age of 21 he had already become a real painter.

Portrait of Susanna Fourment and Helena Fourment

Rubens created this painting in 1632. He married Helena Fourment when she was only 16 years old. Helena was a daughter of a businessman who dealt with silk at that time. Helena was his second wife, and he loved her much more than his first wife, who caused a lot of problems and hatred between them. Helena possessed all the characteristics of a model and played a very important role in creating the other Paul’s paintings during the later years. Helena had a double chin and plump hips, which made her very beautiful, feminine and loved by her husband.

Rubens confessed that all the paintings that he created from his wife came out clear and natural, because she never blushed during the process of painting. Since then Rubens made the particular standards for the future paintings using the standards that Fourment brought in the first instance. She did become the model of the19 pictures that appeared during that time. The portrait depicted different features of the model and clearly showed her character and manners; she looked like she was robbed or insulted. Rubens later painted more pictures of Susanna Fourment who was Helena’s sister.

The portrait of his sister in-law became one of the most successful portraits during that period. The painting of Helena’s sister was later known as Le Chepaeau de Paille/ The Straw Hat. When Rubens passed on his wife was only 26 years old; they stayed in marriage for 10 years. The portraits look very natural and realistic. Looking at the portraits from the distance, one can feel a penetrating glance of the woman from the portrait, like she is somewhere near. The combination of form, content and subject of the portrait give an impression of uniformity.

The portrait brings out the content, which explicitly reveals the subject. The portrait’s details are interconnected in a single whole. The work is very aggressive in its own nature and on the other hand it displays the inside feelings of the painter. It shows a very beautiful woman with bright face. The intentions of the artist are clear; he cited this portrait as an example of standards for further portraits. The painter really loved his second wife and he tried to show this feeling. The portrait measures are 181×221 cm. The artist uses clear colours in his picture to portray Helena and Susanna.

The outer corners are done with a good, clear wood that emphasizes all the beauty of the picture. The portrait is symmetrical, but the upper part of body is more expressive. The portrait is very clear and shows a beautiful wife and her sister smiling. The artist wanted to show how much he loved them; that is why he did both their portraits. The portraits have the display of clear colours that send a message to the viewers; the portraits seem real from a distance by means of combining the various features of painting. Using the form the artist is able to show a happy mood that is created in the portrait to show that both women had a good relationship.

The work is a valuable piece of art as it gives an impression of unity of from, content, and subject. The most appreciated feature in the portrait is its form which enables all other features to be uniform. It is by no means one of the most successful paintings by Rubens, and it makes the viewers go back again and again to look at the beautiful ladies at their prime age. The picture takes the viewer back in time, to the period when it was created and shows the natural and undisguised beauty of the models. This portrait has an unfading beauty that is beyond the control of time.  After presenting all these details even to the blind people, there is a great possibility for them to imagine and feel all charm and freshness of the portrait.

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