Peter Paul Ruben’s art is a combination of the traditional Flemish realism with the classicizing tendencies of the Italian Renaissance style. Peter Paul Rubens had the cunning ability to infuse his own incredible vigor into a potent and extravagant style that came to define Baroque art movement of the 17th century. “Baroque art characterized by violent movement, strong emotion, and dramatic lighting and coloring.” The figures in his paintings create a permeating sense of kinetic lifelike movement, while maintaining the appearance of being grand in stature yet composed.
Peter Paul Rubens, the epitome of influential educated artist of the 17th century, studied the “works of Veronese, Tintoretto, Titian and Caravaggio.” (Baroque Art n.d.) and even went through the hassle of reproducing one of Leonardo’s drawings to show that he had understood the composition and style of Italian Renaissance art. Having been raised in Belgium, Peter Paul Rubens was familiar with Flemish Traditional art which was primarily landscape and portraiture, consisted of vivid detail with reserved composition.
Peter Paul Ruben’s thorough understanding of Italian Renaissance art and Flemish Traditional art became very apparent in 1604-05 with the oil on canvas composition The Fall of Phaeton, . The Fall of Phaeton is about Helios, the Greek god that rode the chariot of the sun, who bore a boy, Phaeton, by a mortal mother. Aided by the recklessness of juvenility, Phaeton deceived his father into allowing him take the chariot. The horses at once bolted out, searing nearly anything in their way with the sun's heat because Phaeton was half mortal meaning he was too weak to control the mighty horses. As the sun tumbles across the sky, Mother Earth calls to Zeus for help, seeing no other option to stop the chaos Zeus elects to throw a thunder blot at Phaeton knocking him out of the chariot to his death. Peter Paul Rubens portrayed the action at its climax. A golden shaft symbolizing the bolt of lightning targeted at Phaeton by Zeus streams down from the upper right of the canvas. Phaeton is kicked back from the shock, descending from the misled chariot. The herculean steeds that Phaeton could not keep in line dash from the chariot. Below this view of heavenly madness, we witness the curvature of the earth, as glimpsed from above. Crimson flames suggest the site Phaeton hit during his unfortunate adventure. Entangled with the horses are winged allegorical female figures who exemplify the seasons and hours in a state of confusion trying to untangle the reins and horses.
Peter Paul Rubens did a superb job of portraying action and strong emotion, almost as if the scene was painted in the instant of a moment. For example, the dark figure with wings just left of center seems determined to hang on, yet to the left they shrink back as if...