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|A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank
account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may
be different, because I was important in the life of a boy.
~ Dr. Forest Witcraft
Copyright © 2007 Zona Pellucida. All rights reserved.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a
great Flemish master who with
his first wife, Isabella, had three children, Clara Serena, Albert
and Nicolaas. Tragically, Clara Serena died in 1623 and Isabella, her
mother, died three years later. He said of his wife after her death,
"Truly I have lost an excellent companion, whom one could love-indeed
had to love..." He remarried in 1630 to Helena Fourment and with her
had five children. One child was born eight months after his death.
His first child with Helena was born in 1632 and named Clara Johanna
in memory of Clara Serena. Another daughter was named Isabella Helena
in honor of his two wives. She was born in 1635.
In this portrait both boys are dressed as adults.
believe that at the time of the painting children were not thought
of as different from adults or as human beings at another "stage"
that required special attention, special clothes or social settings.
Children were small adults who ate, dressed, and socialized with adults.
Albert and Nicolaas
Rubens was a devoted father and lived happily with Isabella for
16 years. In a letter to a fellow scholar written several years
after the completion of this portrait of his two sons Rubens wrote
to a friend and scholar, "I beg you to take my little Albert, my
other self, not into your sanctuary, but into your study. I love this
boy, and it is you, the best of my friends and the high priest of the
Muses, that I commend him." Albert grew up and fulfilled his father's
wishes and becoming a distinguished historian and archeologist and in
the portrait you can see he is holding a book. His brother, who holds
a perch for his pet goldfinch appear to be looking at the bird which
may connote our brief flight through youth. Nicolaas grew up and
went on to become a successful businessman, like his father.
Detail of a portrait with his wife Isabella
painted just after their marriage in 1609