Hélène Fourment with a carriage by Petrus Paulus Rubens

Musée du Louvre, Department of Paintings

 Hélène Fourment with a carriage by Petrus Paulus Rubens

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Petrus Paulus Rubens
(Siegen, Westphalie, 1577 - Anvers, 1640)

Hélène Fourment with a carriage by Petrus Paulus Rubens

Circa 1639
Oil on canvas

H. : 1,95 cm. ; W. : 1,32 cm

Paris, musée du Louvre, Department of Paintings, R.F. 1977-13.

Former collection Alphonse de Rothschild ; Collection Édouard de Rothschild; Guy de Rothschild; “dation” (in payment of property transfer tax), 1977.

This painting is one of the last known portraits of Ruben’s second wife, Hélène Fourment. Dressed sumptuously, in the Spanish fashion, Hélène leaves her palatial home to take a carriage with their son Frans (born in 1633). The artist quickly painted this portrait at the peak of his career, with a baroque dynamic composition and vibrant colors.  It reflects the social status and success of Ruben’s and his family in Antwerp. Rubens had just been appointed official painter of the Spanish Netherlands court in 1636. His family just settled in the Het Steen castle in Elewijt (today part of Belgium). In parallel he received prestigious commissions from the royal courts of Spain and England (Rubens had been raised to noble status in 1624). 

In 1884, Alphonse de Rothschild also acquired another large portrait by Rubens depicting his wife at the spectacular sale of the Duke of Marlborough’s collection at Blenheim Palace, England. This painting, Rubens, His wife Hélène Fourment and their son Frans, from the same period as Hélène de Fourment with a carriage, is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York City.

Petrus Paulus Rubens, Hélène Fourment, Rubens and their son Frans , New York, Metropolitan Museum.

Rubens painted his young wife on numerous occasions who quickly became his muse (she was 16 years old at the time of their marriage, while he was 53). Some of these portraits are less official depicting more intimate moments, such as Het Pelsken (1636/1638, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) or Hélène Fourment with her son Frans (1633-1635, Munich, Alte Pinakothek).

Petrus Paulus Rubens, Hélène Fourment with her son Frans, 1633-1635, Munich, Alte Pinakothek.

By joining the musée du Louvre’s collection, Hélène Fourment with a carriage accompanies one of the more intimate portraits of Hélène Fourment with their son Frans and their little girl Clara-Johanna (born in 1632). Hélène Fourment with two of her children was painted circa 1635-1636; it became part of Louis XVI’s collection 1784 and is partly unfinished (the arms of the couple’s third child Isabella, born in 1635, are slightly visible).

Petrus Paulus Rubens, Hélène Fourment (1614 - 1673) et deux de ses enfants , Paris, Musée du Louvre.

This painting of Hélène Fourment with a carriage was displayed in one of the receptions room on the first floor of the Saint-Florentin mansion. This “Salon Rubens” was arranged by Alphonse de Rothschild and named after the masterpieces by the artist that were on display in this room. During the Second World War, the Nazis seized the portrait, which was intended for the Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. It was returned to Édouard de Rothschild in 1946. For the musée du Louvre, it is one of the major antique painting acquisitions since the Second World War.

Laura de Fuccia, Project manager, Institut national d’histoire de l’art, 2019

Further reading


–  Bascou, Marc, « Les héritiers du baron Édouard de Rothschild », dans P. Prevost-Marcilhacy (dir.), Les Rothschild, une dynastie de mécènes en France, 3 vol., Paris, éditions du musée du Louvre/Bibliothèque nationale de France/éditions d'art Somogy, 2016, III, p. 320-321.

–  Foucart, Jacques, Catalogue des peintures flamandes et hollandaises du musée du Louvre, Paris, édition du musée du Louvre – Gallimard, 2009, p. 244.

–  Foucart, Jacques, « Un nouveau Rubens au Louvre : Hélène Fourment au carrosse », Revue du Louvre et des musées de France, XXVII, 1977, p. 343-353.

–  Jaffé, Michael, Rubens : Catalogo completo, Milan, Rizzoli, 1989, p. 375, n°1400

Online resources

See the themed research dedicated to Alphonse de Rothschild’s collection at the Hôtel de Talleyrand

See the artwork’s record on the musée du Louvre website: https://www.louvre.fr/oeuvre-notices/Helene-fourment-1614-1673-au-carrosse