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Rubens & Women (27 September 2023–28 January 2024)

In autumn 2023, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present Rubens & Women, a major exhibition of the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). Uniting a diverse range of paintings and drawings from throughout Rubens’s career, the exhibition will be the first to challenge the popular assumption that the artist painted only one type of woman, providing instead a more nuanced view of the varied and important place occupied by women, both real and imagined, in his world.  

Over 40 paintings and drawings along with archive material will reveal the essential ways in which Rubens’s relationships with women nourished his creativity and career – from the role played by his female patrons and family members to his profound faith, artistic beliefs, and great loves. Featuring masterpieces from international and private collections, many of which will be appearing in the UK for the first time, this landmark exhibition will reconsider one of art history’s most influential figures.  

The exhibition will open with a striking series of portraits of elegant, elite and powerful women shown alongside intimate depictions of his two wives, Isabella Brant and Helena Fourment, and his eldest daughter, Clara Serena. Highlights will include Portrait of a Woman (c.1625) from the Royal Collection Trust and one of Rubens's most lavish portraits Marchesa Maria Serra Pallavicino or Marchesa Veronica Spinola Doria (1606-7) from the National Trust.  

Rubens had a unique ability to infuse images of biblical women with great tenderness and gravitas, reflecting his Roman Catholic faith. A key group of works, including the The Virgin in Adoration of the Child (c. 1616) from Snijders&Rockox House, Antwerp, and Young Woman Looking Down (Study for head of St Apollonia) (1628), which is travelling to the UK for the first time from the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, will highlight the real women in his life, including his wives and children, who acted as models for religious commissions.  

A further theme will follow the evolution of the female nude in Rubens’s art. It will demonstrate how Rubens’s early nudes were quite different in style from those he became famous for, tracing how he arrived at his preferred form through an engagement with sculpture, careful study of antique models and observation from life. Highlights will include Ceres and Two Nymphs (1615-17) from the Museo del Prado, Madrid.  

The exhibition will underline how the women in Rubens’s art were not simply passive objects to be observed, but active agents of their own destiny, and a powerful finale to the show will include large-scale paintings of heroic mythological women with highlights including The Birth of the Milky Way (1636 – 1638) from the Museo del Prado, Madrid, on display in the UK for the first time, Diana Returning from the Hunt (c.1615) from Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Venus, Mars and Cupid (c. 1614). 

A captivating line-up of star works includes Rubens’s Clara Serena Rubens, the Artist’s Daughter (c.1620-3), which will be on long-term loan to the Gallery from a private collection for an initial period of three years. The intimate portrait depicts Rubens’s daughter shortly before she died in 1623, just before her thirteenth birthday, and is now on show at the Gallery. In a break from painting and to reveal Rubens’s fascination with the classical world, the exhibition will also include Aphrodite or ‘Crouching Venus’ (200 AD), travelling from the British Museum where it is on long-term loan from The Royal Collection Trust.  

The exhibition was conceived in close relationship with the Rubenshuis in Antwerp and is curated by Dr Ben van Beneden (Former Director of the Rubenshuis and co-author of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard) and Dr Amy Orrock (Independent Art Historian).

Jennifer Scott, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery, said:  

“This exhibition will shed new light on the women depicted by Rubens, presenting complex heroines based on inspirational women in the artist’s own life. With significant works from the Gallery’s collection shown alongside international masterpieces on display in the UK for the first time, this is an exciting opportunity for audiences to reconnect with one of art history’s most famous figures.”  

Dr Amy Orrock, co-curator, said:  

"Prepare to be surprised by the many faces of Rubens’s women. You will meet formidable patrons, nurturing goddesses and much loved family members, all depicted with Rubens’s mix of skill, erudition and humanity. Visitors will get the chance to discover Rubens’s great versatility as an artist, through intimate drawings, energetic oil sketches and dramatic paintings. Collectively, these works reveal tender and unexpected narratives of faith, love and artistic inspiration."

Dr Ben van Beneden, co-curator, said:  

“This exhibition will focus on a significant aspect of Rubens’s art. In doing so, it will encourage visitors to take the time to really consider each work, and to look beyond certain clichés. It will highlight the tenderness and empathy with which Rubens depicted not only his family, but many of his female figures. If Raphael endowed his female figures with grace, and Titian with beauty, Rubens gave them veracity, energy and soul.”

- Ends 

Notes to editors 

Caitlin Collinson, PR Manager  

Listings Info  
27 September 2023–28 January 2024 

Ticket on sale date will be announced via Dulwich Picture Gallery’s website and social media channels a few months prior to exhibition opening. For more information visit 

Publicity images can be downloaded from the Gallery’s website at: 

Dulwich Picture Gallery 
Dulwich Picture Gallery, founded in 1811, is the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery. It cares for and displays an outstanding collection of Old Master paintings within Sir John Soane’s pioneering architecture. As an independent gallery, which receives no regular public funding, it pursues its founders’ purpose of presenting art ‘for the inspection of the publick’ while engaging as many people as possible, of all ages and backgrounds, through a creative programme. Entering the gallery space visitors discover a surprising and contemplative experience that encourages the discovery of personal connections with historic works of art – a place to Find Yourself in Art. 

Official Paint Partner: Mylands 

Image: Peter Paul Rubens, The Virgin in Adoration of the Child, c. 1616, oil on panel, 65 x 50 cm. KBC Bank,Antwerp, Snijders&Rockox House.