Rubens captured his sons Albert and Nikolaus Rubens in a double portrait in c. 1626/27. Like his daughter Clara Serena, these two children were from his first marriage, to Isabella Brant, and were around thirteen and nine years old respectively at the time. Nikolaus (1618–1655), the younger, still seems quite uninhibited. He ignores the viewer and is preoccupied with his goldfinch which he has tethered to a ribbon, a popular children’s game. In contrast to his younger brother, Albert (1614– 1657) seems serious, almost adult, and a little precocious, not least because of his distinguished clothing and the casual elegance of his pose. His father encouraged him to read and furthered his classical education. The boy published his first poem in Latin at the age of thirteen; the book in his hand definitely refers to his scholarly nature. Albert Rubens ultimately became one of the most highly respected scholars of the Graeco-Roman world of his day. The contrast between the two brothers may be due to their different ages and characters. Possibly yet another level of meaning is concealed in the picture: in his treatise on the most famous Greek painters, Pliny wrote that Parrhasius, the master of eloquent expression, painted two boys embodying the tranquillity of nature (securitas) and also the innocence (simplicitas) of that age. Perhaps Rubens was trying to imply this theme in his portrait of his sons.
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Peter Paul Rubens
Double Portrait of Albert and Nikolaus Rubens, c. 1626/1627
Oil on panel
height 157 cm, width 93 cm
Inv.-No. GE114
Provenance: after 1640 in the possession of Albert Rubens; 1733 identified by seal as entail
Further works on display
Decius Mus relating his dream, 1616/1617
Decius Mus preparing for Death, 1616/1617
The Death of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Dismissal of the Lictors, 1616/1617
The Interpretation of the Victim, 1616/1617
The Trophy, 1616/1617
The Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1637
Venus in Front of the Mirror, 1614/1615
Oil sketch of Mars and Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
Mars und Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
The Discovery of the Infant Erichthonius, c. 1616
Satyr and Maid with Fruit Basket, 1615
The Lamentation, c. 1612
Christ Triumphant over Sin and Death, 1615/1622
Portrait of Jan Vermoelen, 1616
Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens, c. 1616
Henry IV seizes the Opportunity to conclude Piece, 1628
The Victory of Henry IV at Coutras, 1628
The Consecration of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus
Three Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Joachim, 1615/1620
St. Catherine in the Clouds, 1620/1621
Four Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Anne, 1615/1620
Apollo in the Chariot of the Sun, 1621/1625
The Conversion of St. Paul, 1601/1602
Perseus and Andromeda
The Virgin adorned with flowers, 1609/1610
Psyche taken up into Olympus, 1621
Landscape with Milkmaids and Cows, 1616
Allegory of war, 1628
The Hunt of Meleager and Atalanta, 1628 (?)
The Assumption of the Virgin, modello, 1637
Ganymede, 1611/1612
Diana´s Hunt, 1628
St. Francis of Assisi before the Crucified Christ, 1625
Portrait of a Monk (?)
Adoration of the Magi, 1609/1610
The Visitation, 1611/1612
Portrait of Nicolaas Rockox, 1615
Samson and Delilah, c. 1610
Related themes
Rubens in Wien
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