Rubens in Flanders

RUBENS, Venus Frigida
Peter Paul Rubens and Antwerp go together. Both as an artist and diplomat, he worked to make the city the metropolis it is now. Its grandeur continues. Take a journey through Antwerp, surrounded by Rubens’s genius.

KMSKA, Antwerp

24 September 2022 was a special day in Flemish art history. That was when the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) finally reopened its doors after nearly 12 years of renovations. This icon of the arts is home to a staggering collection of over 13,000 pieces. Among them are works by many of the great names of European art history.

Peter Paul Rubens cannot fail to be included, of course. KMSKA’s breathtaking Rubens Hall contains many of the best-known masterpieces by the Antwerp artist, including such masterpieces as his Adoration of the Magi and Venus Frigida. This means you can admire Rubens’s masterpieces a hop and a skip from his former home and studio. A unique opportunity.

Cathedral Of Our Lady Antwerp

Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp

Antwerp has birthed many icons. Rubens is one of them, and the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady is also on the list. This Gothic cathedral with Baroque interior contains multiple artistic treasures, including four of Rubens’s masterpieces. These are the triptychs Elevation of the Cross, Descent from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ and the altarpiece Assumption of the Virgin Mary. You will also see a magnificent painting by contemporary master Sam Dillemans, titled Hommage aan Rubens: de kruisafneming (Homage to Rubens: Descent from the Cross).It is an impressive artistic dialogue between two Antwerp masters across the centuries.

Snijders&Rockox House, Antwerp

The Snijders&Rockox House is a historic museum in Antwerp’s city centre and an ode to two key figures from Antwerp history. The museum is made up of two buildings. One is the former residence of Nicolaas Rockox, who was a mayor of Antwerp and friend of Rubens. The second house belonged to Rockox’s neighbour, the painter Frans Snijders. You will also encounter examples of Rubens’s work in this stately museum. A magnificent oil sketch of Christ on the Cross and Mary in Adoration Before the Sleeping Child Jesus are two of the highlights, in addition to pieces by other great artists such as Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens and Frans Snijders himself.

Snijders&Rockox House
Museum Plant-Moretus ©Antwerpen Toerisme en Congres

Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp

The historic Plantin-Moretus Museum is dedicated to the lives and work of the influential Plantin-Moretus family of printers, with whom Rubens was closely befriended. In addition to some authentic printing presses and an impressive collection of historic books and printed works, the museum possesses several lively portraits by Rubens, of Christoffel Plantijn, Jan Moretus and Seneca, the Roman orator.

Rubenshuis ©Beeldarchief collectie Antwerpen

Rubenshuis, Antwerp

Antwerp was Peter Paul Rubens’s home. After training in Italy, he returned to his birthplace. He then bought a house and proceeded to transform it into a city palace of his own, complete with studio, garden pavilion and sculpture museum. He was to live there for half his life. The stately palazzo still honours his memory. It has been turned into a museum. It is now known as the Rubens House, and several of his masterpieces can be admired here. Where else can you get this close to Rubens’ life and work? Please note that you will need to plan your visit. The Rubens House will close its doors for a thorough renovation in early 2023.It will not reopen until 2027, 450 years after Rubens’s birth.

Churches, Antwerp and Aalst

Antwerp’s cathedral is not the only holy place to have masterpieces by Rubens on proud display. Several parish churches share this honour. The St. Charles Borromeo Church is the most striking. It is sometimes considered the essential Rubens church. The master provided both paintings and sculptural works. An architect, painter and decorator, he contributed to the church’s tower, the facade, high altar, ceiling decorations and two chapels. His altarpiece The Return of the Holy Family was painted specifically for this location, wandered for a time, but has now come back home. Although Rubens’ 39 ceiling paintings were lost in a fire, this gem remains the Low Countries’ quintessential Baroque and Rubens church.

The Gothic St. James’ Church is another good example. Rubens and his family were interred in a special burial chapel in this church. Above the altar is Rubens’ masterpiece, Madonna Surrounded by Saints. The Church of Saint Paul contains another Rubens masterpiece, Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, in addition to works by artists such as Jacob Jordaens and Anthony van Dyck. Rubens can be admired outside Antwerp as well, as Saint Martin’s Church in Aalst proves. He created this church’s altarpiece, Saint Roch Interceding for the Plague-Stricken.

Sint Carolus Borromeuskerk © Dave Van Laere

KMSKB, Brussels

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels are a collection of museums with different specialties. Areas of emphasis include modern art and the surrealism of René Magritte. The Old Masters Museum houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings from between the 15th and 18th centuries, including some fifty items by Rubens. Some are his own work, while others were created with the help of assistants or in collaboration with famous colleagues such as Jan Brueghel. You will also find masterpieces by Flemish Primitives such as Rogier van der Weyden, Dirk Bouts and Hans Memling here.


The bustling city of Antwerp still bears traces of its grand master everywhere. Wander through the city and reflect on his genius. Antwerp is Rubens, Rubens is Antwerp.

Peter Paul Rubens in Situ

Kruisafneming - Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerpen, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-kathedraal  (publiek domain)

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