Peter Paul Rubens
Date of Birth: 28/6/1577
Not only was he an enormously successful painter whose workshop produced a staggering number of works; but he also played an important diplomatic role in 17th-century European politics. Rubens was born in Siegen in Germany, but from the age of 10 he lived and went to school in Antwerp. His first job, at the age of 13, was as court page to a countess. It was a prestigious position for a young man, but Rubens found it stifling and began training as an artist. In 1600, Rubens travelled to Italy and studied classical Greek and Roman art and copied works of the Italian masters. He also travelled to Spain in a visit that marked the first of many during his career that combined art and diplomacy. In 1609 at the age of 33 he was appointed court painter to the rulers of the Netherlands, the Archduke Albert and his wife Isabella. Rubens established a workshop in Antwerp and produced important altarpieces such as "The Raising of the Cross" and "The Descent from the Cross" and used prints to extend his fame throughout Europe. He continued to combine art with his diplomatic work and was commissioned by the Queen Mother of France, Marie de' Medici and Charles I of England. He grew tired of politicking and in later life dedicated himself entirely to painting.