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Family of Jan Brueghel the Elder

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Rubens and Brueghel: Friends and Collaborators

Rubens probably painted the portrait as a gift for Brueghel and his family. The two artists were close friends. But they were more than that: they were also collaborators. They executed some thirty works together, beginning in 1598-1600 - the outset of Rubens' career - and continuing right up to Brueghel's death in 1625 (Rubens then went on to collaborate with Brueghel's son, Jan II Brueghel, until Rubens' own death in 1644). When the two most outstanding artists in Antwerp, both renowned for their unrivalled artistic quality, put their talents together to jointly execute a painting, the result was incredible.

At present, very little is known about the individual stages of execution - for example, whether one artist painted his parts of the composition and then passed it to the other for him to execute his bits, or whether they passed a given picture back and forth between them several times during the painting process - but no doubt it was a painstaking, time-consuming process. As a general rule, Rubens would paint the figures in these joint paintings, and Brueghel would execute the elaborate scenery, any animals, still-life elements and other meticulously painted details.

It was probably the strong mutual admiration that each artist had for the other's work - as well as their close personal friendship - that stimulated them to collaborate. The number of these collaborative works that they painted for themselves and kept for their own private collections bears witness to how much Rubens and Brueghel themselves cherished these works.

Collaboration: Earthly Paradise with the Fall of Man
Collaboration: Virgin and Child in a Flower Garland with Angels
Collaboration: Portraits of the Archduke Albert and Isabella

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