Rubens’s grandparents by the painter Jacob van Utrecht in Rubenshuis, Antwerp

Jacob van Utrecht (Jacob Claesz. van Utrecht): Bartholomeus Rubens, oil on panel, height: 56 cm. width: 36.5 cm
Jacob van Utrecht (Jacob Claesz. van Utrecht): Barbara Arents, oil on panel, height: 56 cm. width: 36.5 cm

Perhaps you've had the feeling that you’ve already seen the images when viewing portraits in a museum. And they seem you familiar faces from your previous encounters in the world of fine arts. Or simply they have become a collective image of some persons from the Renaissance era, bearing and emitting the spirit of the times in which they lived. For me, these faces are the portraits of Bartholomeus Rubens and Barbara Arents in the paintings by Jacob van Utrecht. I always had the feeling that I've seen them in albums and reproductions, so I was filled with delight in my direct encounter with the originals of these paintings not somewhere else but in the home of Rubens in Antwerp. A moment of true fascination! Because these are not just incidental personages painted by the artist Jacob van Utrecht.

The famous Flemish painter Jacob Claesz. van Utrecht (Jacobus Traiectensis) is one of the greatest representatives of early Renaissance painting and a member of the Saint Lukas Gilde, a trade association of the artists in Antwerp. There is too few biographical information about the artist's life, but it's known that he worked mainly in Antwerp (1506-1512) and Lübeck, Germany (1519-1525). Are not available a sufficiently reliable archive records about the date and place of his birth. Is assumed, with a certain probability, that he came from a family in Utrecht and the fact that he has signed "Jacobus Traiectensis" emphasizes his origin from the city called Traiectum (in Latin). Even, the year of his birth and his death has not been established with certainty. It‘s considered that he was born c.1479/80. A number of sources indicate a different year of his death. Some authors suggest that he died approximately 1530. But there is one of his paintings, in the collection of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland, which is dated 1540. This probably gives a ground to consider that Jacob van Utrecht died in or after 1540.
The painting is: "Portrait of girl", 1540 by Jacob Claessens van Utrecht (c.1479/80- after 1540) in Sinebrychoff Art Museum‎, Helsinki, Finland.

The only thing that remains undeniable is that his portraits of Renaissance personalities are brightly confirmation of his talent of insightful connoisseur of the inner world of Renaissance personages, so convincingly shown in the portraits painted by him. And that, the portraits of Rubens's grandparents are carefully preserved and displayed in itself Antwerpen home of their great grandson, is an extremely rare opportunity for artistic delight of lovers of portraiture and an opportunity to gain more complete picture for the family and lineage of one of the most remarkable artists of all time Peter Paul Rubens.

But, who were Bartholomeus Peter Rubens (1501 – 1538) and Barbara Lambert Arents Spierinck (1510? – 1564)? There are enough good data of their origin and occupation, identified by their family coats of arms. From the portraits in Rubenshuis, Antwerp us watch two young people painted by Jacob van Utrecht shortly after their wedding, which took place on February 5, 1530 - the grandparents of Peter Paul Rubens. The only son of the couple presented on the portraits was Jan Rubens (1530 - 1587), the father of the great Peter Paul Rubens, who was lawyer and municipal magistrate. The grandfather of Rubens, Bartholomeus Rubens has been a pharmacist, and his wife Barbara Arents, the grandmother of Rubens, came from a noble family. On the portrait “Bartholomeus holds a piece of gum Arabic in his left hand, and there is another piece on the table. The substance - acacia resin, which was sold by pharmacists - refers to his profession, his wealth and also the practice of art. It was an expensive raw material to which medicinal properties were attributed, and which was also used as a binding medium for gouache paint. The two little violets in Barbara's right hand are a symbol of humility. The rosary in her left hand is made of blood coral, which was another expensive product sold by pharmacists” (info by Rubenshuis). On the portraits, Bartholomeus Rubens was about 30 years old and his wife was 20-years.

Short tracking of lineage of Peter Paul Rubens:
Sir Peter Paul Jan Bartholomeus Rubens: Born, June 28, 1577 Siegen, North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany. Died, May 30, 1640 in Antwerp.
Son of: Jan Bartholomeus Rubens and Maria Hendrik Jan Pypelincx.
Husband of: Isabella Brant (1591 – 1626) and Helena or Hélène Fourment (1614 – 1673).
Father of his marriage to Isabella Brant of: Albertus Rubens; Clara Serena Rubens; Nicolaas Peter-Paulus Rubens van Rameyen (1618 – 1655).
Father of his marriage to Hélène Fourment of: Constance Albertine Rubens; Clara Johanna Rubens; Franciscus Rubens; Isabella Helena Rubens and Pieter Paul Rubens.
Brother of: Blandine Rubens; Jean Baptiste Rubens; Claire Rubens; Henri Rubens; Filips Rubens and one other.
Half brother of: Christina von Dietz.
Grandson of: Bartholomeus Peter Rubens and Barbara Lambert Arents Spierinck.
Great-grandson patrilineal of: Peter Peter Rubens and Margaretha van Looveren.

The grandfather of Rubens, Bartholomeus Peter Rubens died earlier, in 1538, only eight years after his wedding with Barbara Arents Spierinck, eight years after creating his portrait by Jacob van Utrecht.
The Rubens's grandmother, Barbara Arents Spierinck has parents who was nobles: Lambert Arents dit Spierinck (c. 1480 – c. 1521) and Catharina Bisscot (c. 1495 – c. 1526). Barbara Arents Spierinck has two marriages. Her first marriage was on February 5, 1530, married to Bartholomeus Rubens in Antwerp, in the church Walburgiskerk, and have one child - Jan Rubens (1531-1587), father of Peter Paul Rubens. In 1538 she married Jan de Lantmeter, they have three children: Filips de Lantmeter, Babara de Lantmeter, Jacquelijne de Lantmeter. Jan de Lantmeter makes a testament of July 5, 1566 and he treats on an equal basis with other children his stepson from his marriage to Barbara Arents - Jan Rubens, the father of Peter Paul Rubens.

Source of information: Genealogie Online heeft over de familienaam Spierinck and Open Archieven
                                    Rubenshuis, Antwerpen, Belgium

Photos: my own archive.

Related images

Portraits of Rubens's grandparents by Jacob van Utrecht, Rubenshuis, Antwerpen

Jacob van Utrecht, Bartholomeus Rubens, 1530 (fragment), Rubenshuis, Antwerpen

Jacob van Utrecht, Bartholomeus Rubens, 1530, Rubenshuis, Antwerpen

Jacob van Utrecht, Barbara Arents, 1530, Rubenshuis, Antwerpen

Jacob van Utrecht, Barbara Arents, 1530 (fragment), Rubenshuis, Antwerpen

Portraits of Rubens's grandparents by Jacob van Utrecht, Rubenshuis, Antwerpen

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