Room 29

Rubens, Rembrandt, and 17th-century French Painting

During the 17th century, painting in Flanders was dominated by Peter Paul Rubens who, having spent eight years in Italy, returned to Antwerp in the winter of 1608. There, he demonstrated a mastery of both the styles learned in Italy and local Flemish painting traditions. His consequent success won him the position of court painter to the rulers of the Spanish Netherlands, and he became an international celebrity.

Rembrandt van Rijn was the most inventive and influential artist of the Dutch Golden Age. Born in Leiden, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam as a young man and quickly gained a reputation for his vivid and insightful portraits. The self-portraits he painted during his later years are some of the most soulful, honest, and deeply moving works in the tradition of Western European painting.

Most of the French paintings in this room were made in Paris around the middle of the 17th century. The political ambition to turn Paris into a 'new Rome' resulted in more French-born painters making their careers in the French capital. This trend was encouraged by the founding in 1648 of a royal academy of the arts, and by many wealthy individuals refurbishing their homes. However, Nicolas Poussin – the most important French painter of the 17th century – spent the majority of his career in Rome, where he was greatly influenced by both antique and Renaissance art.