From October 7th, 2023 to February 18th, 2024 Fondazione Palazzo Te, Palazzo Ducale of Mantua and Galleria Borghese of Rome join forces in an ambitious project that pays tribute to Rubens, the painter who profoundly drew inspiration from classical culture, leaving a profound and indelible mark on Italian and European courts. Rubens! The Birth of a European Art is in fact the initiative that brings together the three exhibitions organised by the above mentioned institutions to celebrate the master of Flemish origin whose work became the absolute protagonist and archetype of Baroque: three exhibitions that are part of a broader cultural operation dedicated to the relationship between the Italian culture and Europe, seen through the eyes of Rubens.

From October 7th, 2023 to January 7th, 2024, Mantua’s Palazzo Te dedicates to Rubens the research exhibition Rubens at Palazzo Te. Painting, Transformation and Freedom, which will focus in particular on the relationship between the Flemish painter and the mythological culture he encountered in Italy. Curated by Raffaella Morselli, the exhibition aims to create a correspondence between works, decorative and iconographic motifs in Palazzo Te: a paradigmatic itinerary that demonstrates how the Renaissance suggestions absorbed and elaborated by Rubens in his Mantuan and Italian years continued, evolving, to be present in the paintings of his maturity, to the point of being transmitted in the intellectual and artistic legacy left to his pupils. The works in the exhibition have therefore been chosen on the basis of the dialogue they establish with the myths and the interpretation that Giulio Romano made of them in the various rooms, elements that contributed to generate in Rubens a never ending connection with the Renaissance and the myths.

In the same period (October 7th, 2023 – January 7th, 2024) Palazzo Ducale in Mantua will hold the exhibition Rubens. The Holy Trinity altarpiece, focusing on one of the artist’s most impressive undertakings: the cycle of the three enormous canvases for the Church of the Holy Trinity, one of which – after incredible vicissitudes – is still on display in the Doge’s Palace and constitutes a fundamental stage in the cognitive journey of this great artist. Rubens consolidated his ties with Mantua when he arrived in 1600 as a promising young painter at the court of one of Italy’s most important lords: the Gonzaga. He would leave about ten years later, in his thirties, with the reputation of an undisputed master. The exhibition project presents a new museographic and lighting layout of the entire Ducal Apartment, commissioned by Vincenzo I and realized by Antonio Maria Viani: here, works of the permanent collection – from the late 16th century to the late 17th century – are displayed. The focal point of the itinerary will be Sala degli Arcieri, where the altarpiece – whose story is told by an innovative three dimensional reconstruction of the Church of the Holy Trinity, today no longer accessible to the public – will be on display.

From November 14th, 2023, to February 18th, 2024, Galleria Borghese will hold the exhibition Pygmalion’s touch. Rubens and Sculpture in Rome, curated by Francesca Cappelletti and Lucia Simonato. The exhibition will explore how the influences of Rubens’ trip to Italy in the first decade of the 17th century take on a decisive new vigour in the years following the return to his homeland, also thanks to the Italian stays of his Flemish pupils. The project aims to emphasize the extraordinary contribution made by the artist, at the real beginning of Baroque, to a new conception of the antique, the natural and the imitation, focusing on the disruptive novelty of his style in his first decade in Rome and how the study of models could be understood as a further impetus towards a new world of images. The exceptional venue of Galleria Borghese also offers the unprecedented opportunity to see Bernini’s large groups, ancient statuary and other modern sculptures, in direct relation to Rubens’ paintings and drawings, capturing the energy with which the artist the masterpieces of antiquity.

Rubens! The Birth of a European Art – an extraordinary cultural initiative realized under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the Municipality of Mantua and some of the most prestigious Italian and international museums – is a unique opportunity for collaboration that, alongside the exhibition projects, includes in-depth meetings, conferences, events and the production of scientific publications dedicated to the great artist.

How does Rubens construct his own glossary, a vocabulary of Italian Renaissance and mannerisms, coming from Flanders? What entry words does he include in his own dictionary of images and texts? And above all, who and what does he look at to enable himself to elaborate a new figurative language that is neither Flemish nor Italian, but powerfully Flemish-Italian? The imaginative population of gods and ancient texts invented and quoted by Giulio Romano at Palazzo Te were the ideal training ground for the cultured Rubens. The Renaissance intellectual, who had been nourished in Flanders during years of cultural education by Latin and Greek material in texts and images, found here the perfect place to immerse himself in ancient dreams.

The exhibition, divided into twelve sections that follow the itinerary of Palazzo Te, aims to create a correspondence between the mobile works and the decorative and iconographic motifs of Palazzo Te. It is a paradigmatic itinerary that demonstrates how much the Renaissance suggestions developed by Rubens during his years in Mantua and Italy continued and evolved in his mature paintings, up to the intellectual and artistic legacy he left to his pupils. The works selected for this exhibition, therefore, have been chosen according to the dialogue they establish with the myths and their interpretation by Giulio Romano in the various rooms, inducing in the Antwerp painter a never ending connection with the Renaissance and with mythological fables. Under the roof of Palazzo Te, Rubens’ conversion from Flemish to Italian took place, and his world was transformed into that of a universal language with which he spoke to all the courts of Europe. Through this immersion in Italian art seen with Rubens’ eyes, his personal art history manual, it is clear that the question of whether Rubens is to be considered Flemish or Italian is now outdated. Rubens is the universal new man, who transcends religious, geographical and political boundaries to invent a new language that is, to all intents and purposes, international. A European figurative language, the first in the history of art.

Opening times
7 october 2023 – 18 february 2024

Rubens at Palazzo Te. Painting, Transformation and Freedom
Palazzo Te
7 october 2023 – 7 january 2024

Rubens. The Holy Trinity altarpiece
Palazzo Ducale of Mantua
7 october 2023 – 7 january 2024

Pygmalion’s touch. Rubens and Sculpture in Rome
Galleria Borghese, Rome
14 november 2023 – 18 february 2024