Self portrait with Elena Fourman and son, Rubens

Self portrait with Elena Fourman and son, Rubens
Self portrait with Elena Fourman and son, Rubens - 1

  • Posted by Peter Paul Rubens
  • Museum: Metropolitan Museum
  • Year: Around 1639

Description of the picture :

Self portrait with Elena Fourman and son – Rubens. Around 1639. Oil on canvas. 203.8×158.1

   Against the background of the success of the Flemish painting of the XVI century. Rubens’ art was like a real explosion of rampant cheerfulness that infected all of Europe. In 1630., at the age of fifty-three, the artist married seventeen-year-old Elena Fourman and moved to live in the village. Since then, his picturesque language has been enriched with a new sensual lyrism, which has been most fully expressed in portraits of his wife and children.

   Here Rubens is depicted next to a young wife whom he looks at with endless tenderness, and with little Peter Powell. The picture is as if “she is telling herself”, revealing with even greater evidence the atmosphere of calm and love emanating from faces and barely intended gestures.

The family is depicted against the backdrop of a lovely garden (the prototype “garden of love”), saturated with symbolic details: a pink bush behind Elena’s back is associated with love feelings, a parrot is a symbol of Maria’s motherhood, while the kariatida on the left and the fountain are direct fertility allegories. Due to the brightness of the color and the laid-back naturalness of the figures, this work is considered one of Rubens’ masterpieces.

   Roses written in soft and light strokes are undoubtedly a symbol of love. Since the era of antiquity, the rose has been a sacred flower of Venus. There was a legend that her petals were white until one day the goddess, chasing her beloved Adonis, wounded her fingers on the thorns of a rose and painted her with her blood.