The art of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is synonymous with the female nude, with the term ‘Rubenesque’ first coined in the 19th century to describe a voluptuous female body. Yet remarkably, there has never been a focused study of Rubens’ depictions of women, making this book, and the exhibition that it will accompany, a first.
Bringing together a diverse range of paintings and drawings from throughout the artist’s career and from a range of international lenders, the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery (27 Sep 2023 – 28 Jan 2024) will challenge the popular assumption that Rubens only painted one type of woman. Instead, it will present a more nuanced view of the varied and essential role that women played in the artist’s life and work, uniting and contributing to recent scholarly developments in subjects such as the identities of Rubens’ sitters, 17th century artistic theory and practice, and Rubens’ treatment of the human body.
Rubens evidently enjoyed painting the female figure, especially in its sensual and unclothed form. But his women are never mere bodies trapped by the male gaze, on the contrary; they are proud and complex heroines, full of character and gravitas. No other male artist has created such potent images of female power, assurance, determination, commitment, and beauty.
Providing a catalogue for the works in the exhibition and featuring three introductory essays that contextualise Rubens’ work, this publication will both contribute to the existing corpus of scholarly literature on Rubens and introduce his masterpieces to new audiences, discussing them in the context of current debates around sexuality, power and feminism.
Dimensions: 28cm x 24cm x 2.2cm, 1030g
Ben van Beneden is the former director of the Rubenshuis (Rubens House), the home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp, Belgium, and an authority on the art of Rubens.
Dr Amy Orrock is an Independent Art Historian, former curator at Compton Verney and a specialist in 16th and 17th century northern European painting.
Jennifer Scott has been Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery since 2017. She was previously Director of the Holbourne Museum, Bath and Curator of Paintings at the Royal Collection Trust.
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