An Autumn Landscape with a View of Het Steen in the Early Morning (probably 1636)
by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
Medium: oil on oak
Dimensions: H 131.2 by W 229.2 cm
Rubens painted this panoramic landscape to hang proudly above the grand fireplace at his house, Het Steen. This painting is a personal celebration of the artist's life: Het Steen, on the left, and its sprawling estate, seen all around, were purchased on his retirement from diplomatic duties. This work, and its companion painting – The Rainbow Landscape, c.1636 – were painted for sheer pleasure. How do we know how Rubens felt about his newly acquired land? What devices did he employ to show us how vast his territory was? Notice how we view the scene from an elevated position in order to take it all in as though our lens is wide-angled.
People seem to be working in harmony with nature and the whole scene enjoys the warmth of the early morning sun. There may not be a physical rainbow present in this work, but do you think it borrows from a rainbow's prismatic colour? How many different types of activity can you spot in the painting? If you look very carefully, you will see the artist with his new wife, Helena Fourment, far left. Perhaps the two magpies in the middle of the sky symbolically allude to the happy couple. Imagine you were a farm labourer in this landscape, how many different kinds of sounds could you distinguish?