Edited by Liliana Atz
“I am a simple man standing alone with his old paintbrushes, asking God to give him inspiration.”
“My passion comes from Heaven, not from earthly reflections.”
(Pieter Paul Rubens)
Continuing with EnneaMediCina ‘s study of the lives of distinguished painters, we look at biographies of the life and psychology of Pieter Paul Rubens.
“Rubens was born in Siegen, Westphalia on June 28, 1577 to Jan Rubens, a Flemish Calvinist lawyer, and Maria Pypelynckx.
He spent his childhood in Cologne, where his father took refuge with his family to escape persecution against Protestants. He grew up in a financially struggling family and, perhaps because of this, used to despise the arrogant.
In 1589 he moved with his family to Antwerp, where he received a humanistic education through the study of Latin and classical literature and converted to Catholicism.
In 1600, he went to Venice where he admired Titian and Tintoretto and then to Mantua. In the Lombard city Rubens met Vincenzo Gonzaga, who appointed him court painter and gave him important diplomatic assignments in the artistic field.
He was a man of great culture, who knew almost all European languages, in addition to Latin and Greek. These gifts enabled him to become the official painter of Flanders and the favorite artist of almost all the powerful people of Europe. His great political skills, also won him delicate diplomatic posts in Holland, Spain and England.
In Italy he continued to study the great Italian art of the 16th century and figurative painting, of Raphael, Michelangelo and Caravaggio. In Venice he met artists such as Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto, from whom he assimilated the pictorial floridness that would later be one of the elements of Baroque expression.
Despite all this he led a simple and upright life. Serious and tireless in his work, he was also generous and benevolent to his students.
He had two wives and many children.
“A unique and out-of-the-ordinary character, extremely attractive, he was an artist endowed with a solemn narrative ability,” scholar Anna Lo Bianco has written of him, who “provokes a strong impact in the viewer, animated by a new feeling of engaging participation, able to create compositions where everything is animated by a strong sense of pathos and vital energy.”
In this original and extraordinary pictorial game Rubens showed in the play of parts, the many sides of his complex personality. Religious in private, he sublimated in art his strong sensual and erotic charge, his freedom of thought, and his faith in his origins, evidenced by the small figures hidden among the main figures in some of his paintings with strong symbolic value.
This strength of his on the surface would almost seem to contrast with his temperament, which is described by the sources as that of a mild-mannered, mild-mannered man with an accommodating and friendly manner.
The German artist and art historian Joachim von Sandrart, who got to know Rubens in 1627 during a trip from Utrecht to Amsterdam, described him in his “Teutsche Academie” as “in seinem laboriren expedit und fleißig gegen jederman höflich und freundlich bey allen angenehm,” meaning “quick and industrious in his work, cordial, friendly and pleasant with everyone.”
Raffaele Soprani, in his “Lives of Genoese Artists” (Rubens often sojourned in Genoa, leaving several masterpieces in the city), wrote that “the tasty and lively coloring of this valentuomo, his gentle stroke, the facondia of his speech, and the other noble endowments that graced him, so bound the spirits of the leading knights of this city, that they ill thought their palaces were furnished without some table by him.” And even, the scientist Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, who was in correspondence with the Flemish painter, wrote that “there is no more lovable soul in the world than that of Mr. Rubens.”
Yet, writes Wolfgang Prohaska in the Austrian museum’s catalog of paintings, “beyond the official poses, his features reveal a certain skeptical detachment, combined with a watchful, inquiring gaze.” Rubens thus shows himself to be reflective and, while posed with dignity, he does not flaunt any pride: it seems as if his gaze almost wants to communicate to the observer his indifference to the position that his proximity to the great European courts of the time guaranteed him, as well as his substantial impatience with high society.
Therein lies the vindication of the Flemish “little painter” who, protected by his sophistication, culture and diplomatic skills hid himself in a quiet corner, showing the world, through his exterior, the character of high social standing.”
Rubens’ enneagrammatic analysis leads toEnneatype Nine, referred to as the Mediator.
This psychological type tends to avoid conflict and seek peace and harmony; it instinctively goes out of its way to reconcile tensions and conflicts in both family and social spheres since what it dodges is confrontation, which it deeply fears.
In childhood, this enneatype experienced neglect and little listening to his needs, which led him to feel unimportant, “transparent” in the eyes of others.
The frustration experienced is at the root of his poor self-regard, his failure to perceive his deepest needs, which characterize what is called the passion of Sloth and the fixation of Self-forgetfulness.
In fact, he has a hard time perceiving the emotion of anger, which he tends to sublimate with a good-natured, sympathetic, calm, relaxed, calm, affable, good-natured and simple attitude that knows how to listen and welcome the other without criticism and judgment.
Even in the work environment, he is characterized by a friendly disposition and a discreet and patient appearance.
In life, he tends to favor certain and quiet situations, family customs and routines.
He does not like to draw attention to himself and is cautious and prudent in defending his privacy and his good personal and professional name, which, along with family and religion, he considers among the most important “assets.”
Although it appears modest and graceful, this enneatype at its core is headstrong and autonomous. He knows how to adapt to situations, but he does not bend to abuse or allow himself to be influenced by the outside world.
It also has a strong “survival” attitude and appreciates the freedom given by solitude and silence.
Rubens died in Antwerp on May 30, 1640.