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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: Pre-18th century: Portrait of Rubens' Wife
Portrait of Rubens' Wife

Portrait of Rubens' Wife
17th century
Unidentified artist
oil on canvas
27 1/8 x 21 1/4 in. (69.0 x 54.0 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Mabel Johnson Langhorne

Peter Paul Rubens talks about his new bride, Helena 3.7MB
Hear more about Portrait of Rubens' Wife 1.3MB

The subject of this portrait, Helena Fourment, was the second wife of the great Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). They married in 1630, when he was fifty-three and she was sixteen. During his lifetime, Rubens’s works were much admired and copied by other artists, as in this portrait done by an unidentified artist. Paintings by Rubens, and copies of them, were also popular among nineteenth-century American collectors. Harper’s Weekly and other magazines fed public interest in Rubens, printing stories about his family and his beautiful wife Helena. In 1877, Harper’s described her as a “proud, stately lady in rich costume, her countenance expressive of languid complacency,” attributes nicely captured in this seventeenth-century portrait.

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