CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Tout le Monde pour ma Patrie: Rubens and the World

5 May - 6 May 2025

Tout le Monde pour ma Patrie: Rubens and the World

Research Conference: 5 May - 6 May 2025

Peter Paul Rubens’s visual ideas spread astoundingly far from his home in Antwerp both during and after his lifetime. In the seventeenth century his paintings arrived at destinations throughout Europe, and dealers shipped painted copies and titanic quantities of engravings after his designs even farther afield, reaching Cuzco, Isfahan, Jingdezhen, and many other places. He saw himself as a man of the world, as he wrote in a letter to a friend in 1625: “I regard the whole world as my country, and I believe that I should be very welcome everywhere.” The world also came to Rubens, whether in the form of models of African descent who feature in his head studies and finished compositions; Asian costume and dress that appear in his drawings and paintings; or Indian architecture and sculpture for which he showed a keen interest. An impressive swath of the world also passed through Antwerp, both people and things, and Rubens took note.

His staggering output has elicited a tremendous amount of scholarship, which has often sought to identify original works by Rubens’s hand and/or workshop, working outward from these to trace “copies.” The Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard (CRLB), currently approaching completion, has offered a paradigm for this approach. Recently, Aaron M. Hyman’s Rubens in Repeat: The Logic of the Copy in Colonial Latin America (Getty, 2021) envisioned a new approach that investigates the centrality of Rubens’s imagery in histories in which his artistic persona may remain entirely central for artists working an ocean away or, alternatively, hover entirely at the margins. Indeed, in the field of early modern art more broadly, recent attention has been paid to how the canonical giants of the period, when pushed to the side, may offer useful lenses through which to view understudied historical actors and objects. Such was the case, for example, in Stephanie Archangel and Elmer Kolfin’s Black in Rembrandt’s Time (Museum Het Rembrandthuis/WBooks, 2020). Numerous exhibitions and thematic volumes in the past few decades have focused on intersections between Low Countries art and particular regions.

As the CRLB draws to a close and as Antwerp’s Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA) prepares for a Global Rubens exhibition in 2027, the time is ripe to convene a group of scholars whose subjects intersect with Rubens’s art and/or career and who engage this material in methodologically diverse and innovative ways.

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