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The Garden of Love
Rubens, Peter Paul
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Rubens, Peter Paul

Siegen, Westphalia (Germany), 1577 - Antwerp (Belgium), 1640

Rubens, Peter Paul See author's file

The Garden of Love

1630 - 1635. Oil on canvas.
Room 029

We are confronted here with one of Rubens’s greatest gifts as a painter: his ability to create images of a joyful way of being in the world related to love and inspired by ancient literature and Renaissance art. In the case of the latter, this means primarily Titian. This painting is especially close in mood to the Bacchanal of the Andrians and the Worship of Venus. Many features of this scene call to mind Titian’s paintings: the coexistence of mythic and real-life characters, the presiding statue of Venus, the flying children, the natural setting and its rich colouring, the sensuous atmosphere and sexual insinuation, the presence of music, the relative size of the figures within the composition. Rubens knew Titian’s works, most likely through copies (they had not yet arrived in Spain when he last visited in 1628-29), and painted two versions of them around the time when he made the Garden of Love. In this painting we see that Rubens has fully assimilated the influence of the Venetian master.

In his art, Rubens associated the symbolic ideal of a plentiful natural setting with different situations, from ancient and Christian myths to ideas of fruitful government in his homeland, the Spanish Netherlands. Here he has brought it close to his personal life. Against the background of a wooded area and sky painted in gorgeous hues there is a terrace enclosed by a portico. This is built in the late-sixteenth-century Italian style Rubens wrote about in his book Palazzi di Genova of 1622, and which he had used in the design of his own palatial home in Antwerp. In the garden is also a shallow grotto with a statue of a Venus, the goddess of love who presides over the entire scene. One of the women in the gathering, dressed in blue, bears a striking resemblance to Helena Fourment, Rubens’s wife at the time. If we look at the portrait of Helena by Rubens in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, the resemblance, to my eye, is indisputable. A different matter is whether this implies a personal identification by Rubens with the story depicted, or simply the use of a female type inspired by his wife.

As always with the highly educated Rubens, the iconographical details are rich with allusions that add meaning to the painting. The peacock next to Venus, for example, has been interpreted as a reference to Juno and one of her attributes, motherhood. Rubens may have wished to add this nuance to the concept of love. Inside the portico is a statue of the three graces, frequent companions of Venus. The other mythological figures in the scene are the winged boys represented in the flesh instead of stone, thus bringing the mythical world that we witness to life. Rubens enjoyed painting this type of figures and liked to add variety to them by depicting some with bird wings, others with insect wings, a distinction he had seen in ancient art. Some of these children can be identified with Cupid because they carry bows and arrows. One of them holds a red ribbon attached to two doves, a coupling of the concepts of love (doves were associated with Venus) and union. The flying child in the centre carries a torch and a crown made of flowers, attributes that identify him with Hymen, god of marriage (Rubens painted the same god with the same attributes, but older, in one of the paintings from the Medici cycle). A seated woman dressed in green looks up at him. Is Rubens trying here to highlight this deity? The fact that the head of the woman gazing upwards occupies the exact centre of the composition may support this idea.

The matronly Venus implies that love pervades the scene. The winged children bring still more love, some of it of a kind specifically associated with matrimony, as we have seen. The crowd gathered dresses in clothes contemporary with the time when the painting was made - the shimmering coloured cloth and the folds are a beautiful feature of this image. The group in the background, under the portico, reminds me of the painting Dance of Mythological Figures. One of the men touches the breast of a woman while protecting another from a water sprout with his hat. (In a print by Christoffel Jegher made not long after the painting, the hand that touches the breast has been moved down slightly. Rubens was less concerned with modesty than many of his contemporaries).

Most of the figures in the foreground share a more serious state of mind. A man in a posture oddly reminiscent of Rembrandt plays a lute. Next to him is the seated woman dressed in green, who appears to sing, and a child who holds a music book. A woman in the foreground asks the figure dressed in blue to sit with her, or maybe she is telling her to touch Cupid.

The idea of love that we see here relates to Rubens’s personal life. He had widowed in 1626 and married Helene at the end of 1630, when she was sixteen and he fifty-three. From that time on he lived in a state of infatuation (Vergara, Alejandro, in Mythological Passions, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2021, pp. 106-109).


Technical data

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Inventory number
Rubens, Peter Paul
The Garden of Love
1630 - 1635
Height: 199 cm; Width: 286 cm
Royal Collection (Real Alcázar, Madrid, Otra pieza-donde murió Su Magd., 1666, s.n.; Real Alcázar, Pieza donde S. M. dormia, 1686, s.n.; Real Alcázar, Pieza donde S. M. dormía, 1701-1703, nº338; Real Alcázar, Pinturas que se llevaron a la casa donde vivio el Marques de Bedmar, 1734, nº810; Palacio del Buen Retiro, Madrid, Pinturas entregadas en dhas. Casas Arzobispales a Dn. Santiago Bonabia, 1747, nº810; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, Paso de Tribuna y Trascuartos, 1772, nº810; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, Cuarto del Mayordomo Mayor, 1814-1818, nº810; Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Madrid, Salón 1º Escuela Holandesa, 1834, nº186)

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier y Beroqui, Pedro, Inventarios Reales en 12 Volumenes y Un Indice (Fotocopias) (procedencia/provenanace), 1923.

Bottineau, Yves, L'Alcázar de Madrid et l'inventaire de 1686. Aspects de la cour d'Espagne au XVIIe siècle, Bulletin Hispanique, 1958.

Burchard, L., The Garden of Love, The Burlington magazine, Index, 1963, pp. 428-432.

Fernández Bayton, Gloria, Inventarios reales: testamentaria del Rey Carlos II: 1701-1703 (procedencia/provenance), Museo del Prado: Patronato Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado: catálogo de pinturas: escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado: Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 280-282.

Lensch, Frank, El Jardín del Amor, Kunstchronik, 4, 1978, pp. 133-147.

Downes, Kerry, Rubens, Jupiter Books, Londres, 1980, pp. 136/ lám.91.

Horst W. Janson, Rubens and Sculpture. Some Observations, The Ringling Museum of Art Journal, 1982, pp. 154-163.

Perre, Harold Van De, Pietro Paolo Rubens. Prophete de L'Art Moderne, Elsevier Librico, Zaventem, 1984, pp. 26,90.

Stapleford, Richard; Potter, John, Velázquez. 'Las Hilanderas', Artibus et Historiae an art anthology, 8, 1987, pp. 173/ lám.21.

Goodman, Elise, Rubens. The Garden of Love As Conversatie a la Mode, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam. Philadelphia, 1992.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, II, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 982.

Anes, Gonzalo, Las colecciones reales y la fundación del Museo del Prado, Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 177.

Vergara, Alejandro, Rubens and his spanish patrons, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 160.

Vergara, Alejandro, The Presence of Rubens in Spain. (Volumes i and II). Tesis D, A Bell & Howell Company, Ann Arbor, 1999, pp. 126-127.

Aterido Fernández, A.; Martínez Cuesta, J.; Pérez Preciado, J. J., Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio: inventarios reales, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004.

Heinen, Ulrich, Ruben's garten und die gesundheit des künstlers, WALLRAF-RICHARTZ-JAHRBUCH: WESTDEUTSCHES JAHRBUCH FUR KUNSTGESCHICHTE, 65, 2004, pp. 86.

Logan, Anne Marie, Peter Paul Rubens the Drawings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York, 2005, pp. 256-267.

Rubens im Wettstreit mit Alten Meistern. Vorbild und Neuerf, Hatje Cantz, 2009, pp. 109.

Beneden, B. van, Rubens´s house revealed, Apollo, March, 2009, pp. 102-108.

Shawe-Taylor, Desmond, The conversation piece: scenes of fashionable life, Royal Collection, Londres, 2009, pp. 62-71.

Palazzo Rubens : The Master as Architect, Rubenshuis. Mercatorfonds, Amberes, 2011, pp. 117-120.

Sensation et Sensualité: Rubens et son Héritage, Bozar BooksFonds Mercator, Bruselas, 2014, pp. 296-605.

Wile, Aaron, Watteau, reverie and selfhood, The Art bulletin, XCVI, 2014, pp. 319-337 [321,324 fg.3].

Martínez Leiva, Gloria; Rodríguez Rebollo, Ángel, El inventario del Alcázar de Madrid de 1666. Felipe IV y su colección artística, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, 2015, pp. 211 nº 73.

Savatier, O., 'Peter Clorewet d'après Rubens. Le jardin d' amour' En:, Dansez, embrassez qui vous voudrez. Fêtes et plaisirs d'amour au siècle de Madame de Pompadour, Silvana, 2015, pp. 42-43 fg.1.

Büttner, Nils., Rubens : Eine Biographie., Verlag Schnell & Steiner GmbH, 2015, pp. 148 f.62.

Vergara, Alejandro, 'Comentario ', En: Pasiones mitológicas, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2021, pp. 106-110 nº9.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1576.
Rubens / 1576. El jardin del amor. / En el portico esta la fuente de las tres gracias, y delante de él la de Juno. En medio, en primer termino, una dama sentada canta con muestras de enagenamiento, y la escuchan otras. Por todo el cuadro se ven diferentes grupos de galanes y damas, y amorcillos en varias actitudes. El galan que esta a la izquierda con vestido rojo, capa y chambergo, es el autor, y la dama a quien abraza su muger. (C.L.) / Alto 7 pies, 1 pulg; ancho 10 pies, 2 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1611.
1611.-(1576-N.)-El jardin de Amor.-Damas, galanes y amores, formando graciosos grupos en un ameno jardin, donde descuellan el vestíbulo de un hermoso palacio y una fuente que corona la estátua de Juno. (Véase nuestro Catálogo extenso.)-El museo de Dresde posee otro cuadro original semejante á éste. pero ménos brillante, y el de Viena una copia soberbia, ejecutada por Van Baalen. / Col. de Carlos II, R. Alc. y Pal. de Madrid.-C.L.-F.L. / Alto 1,98; ancho 2,83.-L.

Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, 1834. Núm. 186.
Salon 1º Escuela Holandesa [...] Ciento ochenta y seis. El Jardín del Amor de Ydem [Rubens] Lº 150.800

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Alcázar de Madrid, 1701-1703. Núm. 338.
Pieza donde Su Magestad dormia [...] {338} Yttem Vn Sarao de tres VAras de largo y dos de ancho con marco tallado y dorado de mano de Rubenes tasaado en quinienttos doblones

Inv. Felipe V, Buen Retiro, 1747. Núm. 810.
Pinturas enttregadas en dhas. Casas Arzobispales a Dn. Santiago de Bonabia [...] 810 / Ottro de ttres varas y ttercia de ancho y dos Varas y tercia de altto del Simbolo del Amor de la familia de Rubenes, y original suio en ttreinta mil rreales

Inv. Alcázar, Madrid, 1734. Núm. 810.
Pinturas que se llevaron a la casa donde vivió el Marqués de Bedmar [...] 810 / Otro de tres varas y tercia de ancho y dos varas y tercia de alto con marco tallado y dorado bien tratado simbolo del Amor de la familia de Rubenes y original suyo.

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 810.
Paso de Tribuna y Trascuartos [...] 841-810 / Dos iguales el vno representa vn sacerdote que lleva el Viatico y el sacristan con vn escudero del señor y el otro de la familia de Rubenes que significa el símbolo del Amor de tres varas y quarta de largo y vna menos de caida originales de Rubenes

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 810.
Cuarto del Mayordomo Mayor [...] 810 / Tabla, tres varas y media de largo dos y media de alto, un recreo de la familia de Rubens junto a un puente en que hay dos bailando = Rubens

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 810.
Pieza de tocador [...] 810 / Tres varas y tercia de largo por dos y tercia de alto: Un festejo de Campo con la familia de Rubens ... 28.000

Inv. María Luisa Gabriela de Saboya, Alcázar de Madrid, 1703. Núm. s. n..
De la pieza donde su Mgd. dormía se sacaron las pinturas sgtes. [...] Itt. un sarao de tres Varas de Largo y dos de ancho con marco tallado y dorado, de mano de Rubenes colocada en la pieza de antes de la Galería de la Reyna nra. sra.

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1666. Núm. s.n..
OTRA PIEÇA, DONDE MURIÓ SU MAGESTAD DON PHELIPE 4º [...] {73} Un sarao, de Rubenes, de tres baras de largo y dos de ancho, con marco de talla dorado, tasado en ochocientos ducados de plata... 8.800.

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1686. Núm. s.n..
Pieza donde Su Majá dormía [...] (617) Un Sarao de tres varas de largo y dos de ancho con marco de talla dorado de mano de Rubenes.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in pen and black ink. Back, right side

Inscribed in pen and black ink. Frame, back, left side bar

Koninklijk Museum Antwerp /Cat no 51/ Titel [...]/Eigenaar Museo del Prado/Madrid
Printed label. Frame, back, upper bar

Exhibitions +

Mythological Passions: Tiziano, Veronese, Allori, Rubens, Ribera, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velázquez
02.03.2021 - 04.07.2021

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

Rubens and his Legacy
24.01.2015 - 10.04.2015

Rubens and his Legacy
25.09.2014 - 04.01.2015

05.11.2010 - 23.01.2011

14.09.2004 - 05.12.2004

The age of Rubens
Toledo OH
20.02.1994 - 24.04.1994

The age of Rubens
22.09.1993 - 02.01.1994

Location +

Room 029 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Fountain / Source

Lute: Personaje masculino de perfil en el centro de la composición con laúd. Debido a la posición del intérprete sólo se puede ver del instrumento el final del mastil y el clavijero típicamente echado hacia atrás, en ángulo respecto al mástil, con doce clavijas. El número de clavijas indica que tenía seis órdenes dobles de cuerdas, como era habitual en el siglo XVI (Proyecto Iconografía Musical UCM) El laúd evoluciona a partir de su ancestro directo, el “ud”, original de Medio Oriente que aparece en Occidente en los siglos IX y X. Floreció en toda Europa desde el medioevo al siglo XVIII.
A mediados del siglo XVII el laúd era uno de los instrumentos más apreciados en Europa para la música solista y de acompañamiento, especialmente en Centro Europa.

Update date: 21-09-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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