Baroque and Beyond C. 1600–1850

Dutch and Flemish Painting

What is “rubenesque”?

Rubens had a very particular way of depicting figures in his paintings. His works are filled with strong, voluptuous, and attractive people. His style is so consistent, that these “rubenesque” figures serve as a relatively quick and easy way to identify a Rubens painting. In his mythological painting, Venus and Adonis (c. 1635), Rubens depicts the ancient goddess of love just as her lover, Paris, must leave. Along with her cherubic son Cupid, Venus clings to Adonis. Her long, red hair flows around her face and her supple fingers press into Adonis’ muscular arms as she pleads with him. Nude, her body is fleshy and white—quite different from the thin, elongated forms popular during previous centuries of Northern European art. The term “rubenesque” is therefore used to describe any similarly depicted figure in the work of other artists who have been inspired by the Flemish master.


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