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Frightening mercy, drunk babies and flabby gods: Provocative antique stories on the canvases of the great Rubens

Rubens is a court painter and, at the same time, a rebel. He chooses the most provocative antique stories. In his house he organizes a real art manufactory. A talented entrepreneur, businessman and genius, fascinated by ancient literature. 5 stunning paintings that can change your mind.

Artist and diplomat Peter Paul Rubens left an immense legacy. Hundreds of works. Flemish masters were interested in various topics. In the paintings, religious subjects embodied in the colors of Greek myths, portraits of the crowned persons, landscapes, sketches, huge decorative paintings and even architectural projects.

The first association that occurs when mentioning the name Rubens is lush, white-skinned, lazy beauties. They lie and stand in languid poses, without hesitation, demonstrating their charms. Nudity certainly attracted the artist. Rubens liked to carefully write out each fold of a body full of health. But his nude, more than just contemplation of the beautiful. The artist turns to ancient plots: bold, sexy, sometimes shocking to an unprepared viewer. Canvas Rubens forced to think about themselves. A spellbound audience spends hours in the Dresden art gallery.

Vladimir Pozner writes in his book: “He looked at me with bovine eyes that did not see anything, and I stood silently, afraid to breathe, realizing that if he notices me, I will not be bored. That’s how I discovered Rubens, ”the original picture of“ Drunken Hercules ”made such an impression on the journalist.

Paul Rubens decides to write Heracles. The glorified hero, the son of Zeus, a mighty and noble warrior. Mankind will not forget his exploits. Hercules remains the symbol of “good with fists.” But the artist, do not rush to sing the hero an ode. The mighty Hercules portrays drunk. His dull, half-naked, heated under the arms lead Bacchantes and satires. A heavy load fell on their shoulders. A guilty smile walks on the man’s face; he does not hold well on his feet. His body is full of heat, in his hands an empty goblet. Here Hercules is an earthly, good-natured character. Great heroes also need a “human” rest.

Another painting by Rubens, which is not possible to pass by. “Leda and the Swan” is a mythological non-trivial plot. Naked beauty hugs a snow-white bird. The bodies are bent in a fit of passion. Yes, yes, the picture shows the process of copulation of the Girl and the swan. Rubens was not the first artist to be interested in this myth. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Antonio de Correggio, Francois Boucher. Catholic priests in the 17th century persecuted these canvases and destroyed for excessive voluptuousness.

Leda – according to one version, the daughter of the Etolian king Festius, captivated the beauty of Zeus. The supreme god came down to her in the form of a snow-white swan. On the banks of the river they conceived children. Later, Leda will give birth to an egg, the beautiful Elena will become a daughter. The culprit of the Trojan War. They say that looking at the canvas of Rubens, you can smell the feminine smell and hear the moans of pleasure.

“Roman mercy” or “patronage of the Roman woman.” A young woman breastfeeds an elderly man – another controversial storyline. Such a story will not leave anyone indifferent. And Rubens is aware of this. He will write two works on this subject. You can trace how the artist’s attitude to this topic is changing.

The paintings in both cases depict a beautiful young girl. She came to visit the imprisoned father. She is a mother and her magnificent breasts are full of milk. The old man was sentenced to death. He languishes in the dungeon. Suffers from hunger and thirst. Child debt compels the Roman to feed her father. On the canvas of 1612, the girl looks with sympathy at the prisoner. She bent over him in a burst of mercy and motherly hugs him. The picture is permeated with love for man and depicts a noble and bold act.

But not everyone sees in the ancient plot only the beauty of mercy. For many, this image causes resentment and disgust. Paul Rubens, will feel this and after 18 years will rethink the ancient history. The picture “Kimon and Feather” still has the same camera, but on the woman’s face is disgust and horror. And her father was not detached, but eagerly fell to her chest. Interestingly, curious guards peek into the camera through small windows. The original “Cimon and Feather” can be seen in the State Museum of Amsterdam, and the “Patronymic of the Roman” is kept in the Hermitage collection.

Another no less emotional canvas by Rubens can be seen in the State Hermitage Museum. This time, Rubens exposes his hero not in order to show the beauty of the body. On the contrary, a flabby and bored young man sits on a barrel of wine.

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