Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

The Family of Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1613-15

Oil on panel
Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

The Family of Jan Brueghel the Elder by Peter Paul Rubens
The Family of Jan Brueghel the Elder by Peter Paul Rubens, The Courtauld Gallery, London
This tender portrait celebrates family and friendship. In it Rubens portrays his dear friend Jan Brueghel the Elder, with his wife and children. Rubens and Brueghel jointly produced many paintings. In these Rubens painted the figures, and Brueghel the animals.

Catharina, Jan's second wife, is at the heart of this intimate group. She draws her two children, Pieter and Elisabeth, close to her. One of Catharina's hands encircles Pieter's shoulder, while the other clasps her daughter's tiny fingers. The elegantly dressed Pieter toys with his mother's bracelet, perhaps a betrothal gift. The family are expensively dressed, befitting their status as wealthy citizens of Antwerp. No sign of Jan Brueghel's profession is given.

Jan Brueghel stands protectively behind his family. His kindly features look towards his wife and children and, beyond, to their painter, his friend Rubens. The unusual warmth of this close family grouping is only matched by Rubens' images of his own family.

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