Three Graces Peter Paul Rubens Buy Art Prints Now
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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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The Three Graces is a Baroque style mythological painting by famous Flemish/Netherlandish painter and draughtsman, Peter Paul Rubens. The painting, done on oil and wood, was created back in 1639.

This isn’t a one-of-a-kind painting in the sense that Rubens created several other variations on the theme of Three Graces. Through The Three Graces and other similar variations, Rubens was able to successful transform the Baroque style of painting into an international or global art form! He was known for combining Italian Baroque aesthetics with old style of Italian Renaissance and this made quite a heavenly combination!

In Greek mythology there are three main goddesses, namely the Goddess of pleasant charm, the Goddess of charitable deeds and the Goddess of gratitude. These Goddesses gave people uprightness of character, sweetness/kindness and friendliness; without these three there would be nothing pleasing or graceful in the world. These three figures forms a circle in the painting, therefore one of the Goddesses has her back to the viewer whereas the faces of the other two Goddesses are visible. Rubens presents The Three Graces as beautiful, voluptuous virgins who are completely naked except for the fine, transparent fabric adorning their legs partially. The backdrop comprises of the sky, trees, flowers and the landscape of a typical garden.

This painting of three nude female figures, created a year before the artist’s death, is a splendid illustration of Ruben’s extraordinary and highly impressive handling of human flesh tones or incarnate. In the painting Rubens builds up the color scheme with the use of only three primary colors, i.e. blue, red and yellow. According to some art connoisseurs, there is an unusually high proportion of blue in the painting. In fact, the same primary colors used for the background are used for the human figures.

Peter Paul Rubens is one of the greatest Flemish artists from the 17th century. Because of his paintings like Adam and Eve (1597), The Circumcision of Christ (1605), The Baptism of Christ (1605), Descent from the Cross (1618), The Fall of Man (1628/9) and other Christian-themed religious paintings, he became an important figure in the royal courts and the Catholic church of the Low County. The religious paintings/artworks of Rubens were mainly commissioned by the church as well as his wealthy patrons who like to openly showcase their devotion.

Rubens was trained in Antwerp but he received his Italian influences when he travelled to Italy during the year 1600 and absorbed the works of iconic Italian artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Correggio, etc. As far as his painting style is concerned, he was fond of painting scenes which had numerous individuals. Thus, his works always have that ‘overflowing’ effect. He used a wide range of impastos in order to create clear and smooth surfaces in his paintings, which seemed almost plastic-like! He was also a perfectionist and liked to pay attention to intricate details.

The nude paintings of various biblical and mythological women done by Rubes are especially well-known. His nudes highlighted the concepts of physical beauty, temptation, desire, fertility and virtue. Also, he does not stick to a single female archetype in his paintings, but rather experiments with different classic female archetypes such as the widow, diplomatic regent, virgin, wife and consort to name a few. Rubens generally depicts his women as large and fleshy in the paintings.

In fact, this signature style of depicting women earned him the term ‘Rubenesque’, which is an adjective used to describe Ruben’s females in the paintings! Also, it is because of his skillfully rendered paintings of nudes that his paintings appealed majorly to the male audience/patrons.

Apart from being an extremely imaginative and expressive artist, Rubens was also one of the most entrepreneurial and busy painter. He started a large workshop of his own, staffed with students and apprentices. The workshop churned out numerous religious pictures, modern history paintings, mythological scenes, classical paintings and of course portraits.

What’s unique about Rubens is that he paints on a diverse range of subject matter. In fact his vivacious style of painting surpassed even the most popular and influential artists during that time! Moreover, Rubens talent and reach was such that he inspired and influenced a lot of younger artists for centuries thereafter! The list of names includes Jean-Honore Fragonard, Eugene Delacroix, Theodore Gericault, Francois Boucher, Jean-Antoine Watteau and many more.