Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640)
- The Rainbow Landscape
- c. 1636
- Oil on oak panel
- Image size: 135.6 x 235 cm
Object size: 181 x 284 x 17.5 cm
- Great Gallery
- This painting represents a view from Rubens’s manor house, Het Steen, over
the surrounding countryside. The fifty-eight- year-old Rubens purchased Het
Steen, situated between Brussels and Antwerp, in 1635 for his retirement and
around a year later painted this view and its companion piece, A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning, now at the National Gallery, London. Both were painted not on commission but for the artist’s own pleasure, and remained in his collection until his death. Both express his love for the landscape of Brabant.
The Rainbow Landscape is a homage to the Netherlandish tradition of landscape painting with its elevated ‘bird’s eye’ perspective and the use of distinct zones of colour to create broad spatial divisions. Peasants and milkmaids are shown returning from the fields, driving home the cattle and gathering the hay. Although not a classical, pastoral landscape in the tradition of Poussin or Claude, it is in its own way highly idealised. The rainbow recalls the covenant between God and Man after the flood, whilst the harvest can be
interpreted as Man’s just rewards for his labours.
In the eighteenth century, The Rainbow Landscape and its companion piece
were in the Balbi collection in Genoa, from where they were bought in 1803
by William Buchanan and sent to London. Het Steen in the Early Morning
was acquired by Sir George Beaumont, who later left it to the National Gallery. When The Rainbow Landscape was put up for sale in 1856, Sir Charles Eastlake tried to purchase it for the National Gallery. He was decisively outbid by the 4th Marquess of Hertford, who paid 4,550 guineas for it. He never saw the painting, which remained in London while he lived in Paris.