• Flanders, c. 1630–2
  • Oil on panel
  • Inv. 959

Portrait of Helena Fourment

Peter Paul Rubens

In 1630, Peter Paul Rubens married Helena Fourment, the daughter of a rich silk-and-rug merchant from the city of Antwerp. It was around this time that the painter’s second wife, who was 36 years his junior, began to appear frequently in the artist’s work in both compositions of a mythological nature and individual and family portraits. In The Garden of Love (National Trust, Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire), which dates from c. 1630–2, the upper part of a figure identical in every respect to this one can partially be seen.

The painting bears witness to Rubens’ technical skill in the rendering of the textures and hues of the black satin dress, the balanced harmony of the striking volumes, the elegance of the smooth flesh tones, and the audacious and triumphant plasticity of the forms. The low line of the horizon accentuates the monumental verticality of the figure, who wears a black satin dress and a broad-brimmed hat bearing an ostrich feather, in accordance with the fashion that prevailed among the wealthy bourgeoisie of the time.

The striking visual impact of the final result is evident in all of Rubens’ work, reflecting a great creative talent which marked the development of the best Baroque style in Flanders. This painting previously belonged to the collection of Catherine II of Russia.

Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Count of Orford, Houghton Hall, Norfolk, 1743–5, Sale 1779; Catherine II of Russia, 1779–96; Russian Imperial Family, 1796–1917; Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, 1917–30. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Antikvariat, Moscow, March 1930.

H. 186 cm; W. 85 cm

Washington D. C. 1950

European Paintings from the Gulbenkian Collection, exhibition catalogue. Washington D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 1950, pp. 92–3, no. 40.

Vlieghe 1987

Hans Vlieghe, Rubens Portraits of Identified Sitters Painted in Antwerp. London/New York: Oxford University Press/Harvey Miller, 1987, vol. II, pp. 102–9.

New York 1999

Katharine Baetjer and James David Draper (eds.), 'Only the Best'. Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, exhibition catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, p. 88–9, cat. 42.

Dukelskaya and Moore 2002

Larissa Dukelksaya and Andrew Moore (eds.), A Capital Collection. Houghton Hall and the Hermitage. Published for the State Hermitage Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002, p. 216–17, no. 117.

Sampaio 2009

Luísa Sampaio, Painting in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon/Milan: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Skira, 2009, pp. 50–1, cat. 16.

Lisbon 2011

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2011, p. 118, cat. 92.

Updated on 15 june 2022

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