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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Rubens had perhaps the best business skills amongst all of the famous Baroque artists, protecting his original work with copyright applications and reproducing prints on a mass scale

Peter Paul Rubens was relentless with his methods of maximising income from each and every work that he created, producing reproduction prints from paintings, drawings and tapestries on multiple occasions.

There were clear similarities between the 17th century and the present day, with artists constantly fighting against a flurry of anauthorised reproductions of their work appearing in all manner of shops and markets across Europe.

His powers were limited to the Flemish regions where he was able to establish copyright protection over his work, in 1619. He would then hire skilled printmakers to reproduce engraved prints and woodcuts which would be sold on to collectors and sometimes to retailers.

Whilst being happy to let others create these print reproductions, Rubens would always pay close attention to their work and ensure that standards were high and also faithful to his own original designs (modellos). Anyone looking to go their own way artistically was a risk to his reputation and would be dropped.

This careful management ensured that these print reproductions actually helped to promote his name across the continent and promote the Rubens brand. There are even Rubens quotes available that explain the artistic developments that he made in the engraving process during this period. Rubens knew that the secret to developing his finances was to hold a strong reputation right across Europe, not just in the Flemish regions that he had been brought up in and the various parts of Europe that he had travelled to.

A great effort was made to push these reproductions across to Italy, Spain, Germany and beyond which would then ensure he continued to receive consistent commissions for original paintings, sometimes pushing in front of their own respected local artists.