When sent to England to help negotiate a peace treaty between Spain and Britain in 1629, Peter Paul Rubens painted Minerva Protects Pax from Mars (Allegory of Peace and War) (above) and presented it as a gift to King Charles I of England, hoping that the allegory wouldn’t be lost on him. Both diplomat and artistic genius, Rubens continues to bring peace to countless relationships today through every full-figured woman’s favorite adjective, “Rubenesque.”
One of the most iconic works at the PMA is Rubens’ Prometheus Bound (above). The Jacques Lipchitz Cubist sculpture of Prometheus Strangling the Vulture outside the PMA provides an amusing counterpoint to this classic work inside, with the bravura male torso straight out of classical sculpture coming to life in the futile struggle with the vulture. Rubens’ Prometheus Bound was one of the first paintings I remember seeing as a youngster and thinking of as truly great art, owing perhaps to the monumental size of the canvas and the easily understood narrative. Since those days, I’ve only grown to love it more and more.