Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a dynamic seventeenth-century Flemish and European artist. He was THE illustrator of the Catholic faith and divine right of kings. He was also a classical scholar, art-collector and diplomat. As a painter, Rubens is renowned for his Counter-Reformation altarpieces, ceiling-paintings, portraits, landscapes, and especially his history painting with its mythological and allegorical messages. His masterpieces include: Venus at the Mirror, Samson and Delilah, The Massacre Of The Innocents, and The Judgement Of Paris. Other interesting works include: Four Studies of the Head of a Negro.
Rubens often used pupils and assistants to complete a painting. An erudite and cosmopolitan artist, Rubens was born in Germany, settled in Antwerp (now Belgium), had a Spanish wife and became Court Painter to the Spanish Govenors of the Netherlands. He was knighted by both Philip IV, king of Spain, and Charles I, king of England.
Rubens' artworks are commonly divided into three groups: those painted by Rubens himself, those which he helped to paint (typically painting hands and faces), and those he merely supervised. He was assisted by a number of students and apprentices, while he often assigned certain elements of his larger paintings (e.g. animals or still-life groupings) to specialists such as Snyders or Jordaens.
Paintings of Venus admiring herself were not uncommon during the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Rubens' Venus before the Mirror - an improvement on Titian's painting Venus with a Mirror - reinterprets the theme according to the spirit of the Northern Baroque. Rubens' Venus is more human than Titian's. Her figure is fuller, more curvaceous. Her golden hair cascades down her back, and instead of gazing at her own beauty she catches the eye of the viewer.