Rus Articles Journal

Rubens, “Four philosophers“. What tell tulips about?

“Let while you were in the homeland, the destiny quite often opposed to that we were together, and continually deprived of us pleasure of appointment. But nevertheless I knew that you live in the neighbourhood and at any time it is possible to meet you, and it weakened feeling of separation. Spaces what nowadays divide us many times over strengthened my melancholy for you.

Our love seeks to be the first and does not wish to know rivals, the rights it will concede not more willingly, than the master the throne and the groom a marriage bed. Farewell, my precious“. (From Philip`s letter on May 21, 1601, Luven)

Flanders. 60 kilometers separate Antwerp from Luven (Leuven). To present measures - not distance if to go on the car or by train. And on horses? Half a day of driving. Every day you will not do a bit of traveling to see relatives. Nearby - but also not nearby.

Peter studied and worked in Antwerp, Philip, his elder brother, after Latin school went to study to university in Luvena, to get legal education. At university Justus Lipsius (1547-1606) - the philosopher, the philologist, Seneca`s follower taught at this time. Jan Voverius was a fellow student and Philip`s friend.

Peter went to Italy to work for the duke Mantuansky, Philip and Jan came to Italy to continue education. In Rome Jan`s acquaintance and St. Petersburg took place, and Peter wrote his pencil portrait (1602). St. Petersburg returned to Antwerp in 1609, Philip - slightly earlier. All the time, while brothers were in separation, they wrote each other the letters full of love.

One more proof of spiritual proximity of brothers - Philip`s preface to the collection of the compositions:

“Antwerp, 1608 [lat.]
[...] I add to end the Elegy turned to my hotly beloved and desired brother here; this composition not new or recent, it is written three years ago when it floated to Italy from Spain where it was sent. I want to imprint memory of love and sincere gratitude here to that whose skillful hand, whose sharp and right judgment helped me with work on my book much [...] “

B 1610 Peter paints a portrait of Philip who became the city secretary of Antwerp by then - the second person in management of the city. And in a year Philip suddenly dies.

The melancholy for Philip found a way out: Peter creates the picture “Four Philosophers“ (1611, Piety`s Palace, Florence, Italy). On a cloth - St. Petersburg, Philip, Justus Lipsius (most senior), Jan Voverius. Also there is one more character who went to a better world one and a half thousand years ago - the Roman philosopher - Seneca whose bust towers over all is firm. A picture background - ruins on the Palatinsky hill in Rome.

The senior from them is Justus Lipsius - was their mentor, the teacher. Most likely, Rubens was not familiar with Lipsius, his views were absorbed by Philip. It also infected the artist with stoicism. Those years Flanders fought for the future. Seneca`s philosophy helped to endure heavy turns of destiny, to achieve dream of the better life. ( Here is how Wikipedia defines stoicism bases: “On representations of stoik any moral action is nothing else as self-preservation and self-affirmation, and it increases general welfare. All sins and immoral acts are a self-damage, loss of own human nature. The correct desires and abstention, acts and affairs - a guarantee of human happiness, for this purpose it is necessary to develop in every possible way the personality as opposed to all external, not to incline before any force“.)

the Picture “Four Philosophers“ - as if a tribute of fraternal affection. And not only love - but also appreciation that Philip entered Peter into a circle of intellectuals and gave him the chance to learn and absorb their philosophical views. Peter united in a picture of congenial people. It copied the works - Philip`s portraits (1610), Yana Voveriusa, a self-portrait. Justus Lipsius had to be written from a portrait of work of Abraham Yassens (the museum of Platinum - Moretus, Antwerp). Drew Seneca Peter from a marble bust during stay in Rome.

Before a bust - tulips, a sign of respect for the great person. Two of them are higher, one of which revealed more and priuvyal. Both with strips - the “broken“ tulips, in those days - extraordinary expensive. Two others - yellow and red. Yellow - it is closed absolutely, and red - only begins to reveal. It seems that tulips correspond to people in a picture: the most revealed - the Justus Lipsius second “broken“ - Jan Voverius, red - Philip and yellow - Peter. At the same time a tulip - a symbol of the Netherlands of that time.

If this is so, becomes clear sense of a picture: before us not only flowers, but also color of the country. Four persons, four personalities. Their philosophical views defined their actions directed to welfare of the Netherlands which is torn apart by war. At the time of “lead rains“ they were not left by hope and love. They left a bright mark in the history of the country and in world culture.

Rubens and Voverius happened to live long life: Rubens still should create Medici`s gallery, and - to become Voverius the economic adviser to the archduke Albert, the Supreme governor of the Netherlands.

In this portrait - the message written by tulips to future generations: do not lose courage, do not incline before circumstances, be improved, you love.