In 1628 the Infanta Isabella sent him on a second mission to Spain, and while there he painted many grand and important pictures, which are fine examples of his gorgeous coloring. He proved himself so good a diplomatist that he was sent to England to try to make peace between that country and Flanders, in which he was successful. He was knighted by King Charles in 1630, and received the same honor from the king of Spain.

In 1630 he married Helena Forment, a niece of his first wife, who was but sixteen years old. She became the mother of five children; he had two sons by his first marriage, to whom Gevartius was tutor. Rubens made so many portraits of both his wives and so often used them as models in painting his large pictures, that their faces are familiar to all the world (Fig. 55).

Rubens made a valuable collection of all sorts of beautiful objects, and lived luxuriously. After his death a portion of his collection was sold at private sale for more than seventy-five thousand dollars. His death occurred in 1640, and he was buried in a private chapel in the Church of St. James in Antwerp; he had decorated this chapel with some works of his own. His family erected a monument to him, upon which an epitaph written by Gevartius was inscribed.

In painting Rubens was almost a universal genius, for he left a great variety of works as well as a great number. About one thousand eight hundred are ascribed to him: doubtless his pupils did much work on these; but there is something of himself in all. They include historical, scriptural, and mythological subjects, portraits, animals, genre pictures, and landscapes. His style is a strange mingling of northern and southern elements. His handling and his arrangement of his subjects was like that of the Italians; but his figures, even when he represented Christ and the holiest men, were like Spanish kings or German peasants, or somebody whom he had seen.

We have not space to speak in detail of the works of Rubens. Some critics insist that one class of his pictures is best, and some another. Of course this depends largely upon the taste of those who make the judgment. It is certain that he was a wonderful painter, and many of his pictures give great pleasure to those who visit the galleries where they are seen.

His pictures of children were so painted that they seem to have been done from pure love of the work. His portraits are splendid, his genre scenes delightful, and his landscapes fine; in short, the amount and variety of his work is a proof of his great genius and industry, such as can scarcely be equalled in the history of painting. Yet it cannot be denied that there is much incorrect drawing, unnatural coloring, and coarse, bad taste in some of his works. On the other hand, the fertility of his imagination, his bold design and effective execution, as well as his brilliant color, are all to be admired, and the name of Rubens stands high on the list of Flemish artists who are famous the world over.

Fig 56 Fig. 56.—The Return from Egypt.
By Rubens.

Frans Snyders (1579-1657) was born at Antwerp and lived in the time of Rubens. He was a famous painter of animals, and it sometimes happened that they worked together, Rubens painting the landscapes and figures and Snyders the animals in the same pictures. Snyders, like Rubens, excelled in representing animals in the most exciting moment of the combat or the chase, and his pictures are full of life. They are seen in all large European galleries, and are much prized.

Jan Fyt (1609-1661), also born at Antwerp, is the greatest Flemish animal painter after Snyders. His greyhounds cannot be equalled, while his live dogs are wonderful; but his best pictures represent dead game. The fur and feathers in his paintings are marvellously done, and his pictures are among the best in the world in which such subjects are treated.

Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), another native of Antwerp, studied under Adam van Noort at the same time with Rubens, but later in life he became a follower and a sort of assistant of his former fellow-pupil. He married a daughter of their old master and never visited Italy. His color was fine; in truth, he sometimes excelled Rubens himself in the “golden glow” which is much admired in his works. Many sacred pictures by Jordaens are seen in the churches of Flanders. A fine historical work of his represents scenes from the life of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange, and is in the House of the Wood, near the Hague; but the larger part of his pictures represent the manners and customs of the common people, and are seen in public galleries.

The greatest artist among the pupils of Rubens, as well as one of the greatest of Flanders, was Anthony Vandyck (1599-1641). He was born in Antwerp, and was the son of a silk merchant, this having been the occupation of the Vandycks for several generations. The mother of the painter was extremely skilled in various kinds of embroidery, and had such artistic tastes as enabled her to make many original designs, which she worked out with her needle in delicate and elaborate tapestry work.