Influence of Michelangelo on Peter Paul Rubens

Although Michelangelo never met Peter Paul Rubens, he had a direct impact on the man's work, as did many of his contemporary Italian painters. In 1600,

Rubens went to Italy. There, he studied the works of preceding and contemporary artists in great detail. All had great influence on him, especially the light of Caravaggio, the order of Raphael, and figures of Michelangelo.

In addition to finding work with Italian nobles, Rubens went around the country sketching reproductions of the best works of these and other artists. In fact his sketches saved some paintings from being completely lost, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Battle at Anghiari. He also sketched a model of Michelangelo’s lost Hercules statue. In the Sistine Chapel he copied Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, with several small

modifications of his own. In the Rubens drawing, he takes Michelangelo’s God and intensifies him, making the muscles more defined and his face more emotional. You can clearly see an artist learning from another in this sketch.


When he did do works of his own, these studies paid off. Michelangelo’s influence is clear in several of Rubens’ original works. In Prometheus Bound, the writhing torso of Prometheus is similar to those on Michelangelo’s Prisoners statues, and Rubens’s figures in The Raising of the Cross also resemble Michelangelo’s style. Like Michelangelo Rubens shows muscular figures, their bodies straining to support the cross. The faces on his figures are full of emotion, anguish, and show the intensity of the situation.

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Creation of Adam (hands detail)
Creation of Adam (hands detail) by Michelangelo

Creation of Adam

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“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.”

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