Rubens' daniel in the lion's den

Peter Paul Rubens, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, c. 1614 – 1616. Oil on canvas, Overall: 224.2 x 330.5 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1965.13.1. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Early Rubens

October 12, 2019 – January 5, 2020

Admission is always FREE for AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass Holders & Visitors 25 and under. Learn more.


The AGO is thrilled to showcase Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) in a new exhibition featuring the North American debut of some of his most ambitious works. Rubens is one of the most revered painters in Western art – widely recognized for his riveting, dynamic and even cinematic style, known as the Baroque.

Early Rubens includes such masterpieces as The Head of Medusa (from The Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic) and The Boar Hunt (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille), complementing treasures from the AGO Collection: The Massacre of the Innocents and his most finished oil sketch, The Raising of the Cross.

The exhibition highlights works the Flemish master produced between 1609 and 1621 – a crucial time that was the artist’s most innovative and inspired. This period was significant for the evolution of Rubens’s style and for the revitalization of Antwerp, Belgium – his hometown and a city once celebrated as the “gem of Belgium.” His return to Antwerp in 1608, after studying in Italy for eight years, coincided with a period of relative peace for the war-torn city. His invaluable connections with the city’s elites fuelled his meteoric rise to fame. He launched a renowned studio that established his distinctive style and made him a driving force behind the city’s renewal.

“ Intensely alive…” - The Globe and Mail

One of the most famous and valuable paintings in the AGO Collection, The Massacre of the Innocents underscores Rubens’s achievement as a painter and provides powerful insight into the mindset of the citizens of Antwerp in 1610, giving expression to their collective trauma instigated by religious warfare. Visitors will see this work in a new way and discover the incredibly important place it holds in Rubens’s development.

Early Rubens is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Art Gallery of Ontario.




Peter Paul Rubens was born in 1577 in Siegen, Westphalia. He was a tireless entrepreneur, a skillful diplomat and an ingenious self-promoter. He is one of the most famous painters in Western art, widely recognized and admired for his dramatic style and a leading figure of the Baroque era – a period typified by the most emotionally intense and sensual art, music and sculpture. As a young man, he took his formative training in Antwerp but travelled to Italy and Spain on an eight-year journey that proved to be transformational. While abroad, he immersed himself in intensive study of ancient sculpture and masterpieces by the Renaissance and Baroque masters he admired. Through his theatrical and bold style, his work would soon combine what he had learned on his trip with his northern European heritage. Rubens very quickly established himself as one of the most pre-eminent painters in Antwerp. Equally engaged as a leading figure in the city’s intellectual and cultural life, Rubens strategically positioned himself to gain wider international celebrity in the following decades.


rubens' massacre of the innocents

Peter Paul Rubens, The Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1610. Oil on panel, 142 x 183 x 1.9 cm. The Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

Rubens, Massacre of the Innocents
oil painting of the myth of Medusa by Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens. Head of Medusa [detail], 1614. Oil on wood, Unframed: 60.6 x 122 cm. Moravian Gallery, Brno. Purchase, 1818.

Rubens, Medusa
Peter Paul Rubens, The Flight of Lot and his Daughters leaving Sodom

Peter Paul Rubens, The Flight of Lot and his Daughters from Sodom, 1613–15. Oil on canvas, 220.3 x 243.8 cm. Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Fla. SN218.

Rubens, The Flight of Lot and his Daughters from Sodom
rubens' the tribute money

Peter Paul Rubens, The Tribute Money, c. 1612. Oil on panel, 144.1 x 189.9 cm. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, museum purchase, M.H. de Young Art Trust Fund, 44.11. Image Courtesy the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Rubens tribute money slide
Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Isabella Brant

Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Isabella Brant, c. 1620–1625. Oil on wood, framed: 83 x 73.5 x 9 cm; unframed: 53 x 46 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1947.207.

Rubens, Isabella Brant


Listen to the audio guide for Early Rubens, produced by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honour.

This audio guide includes interviews with the following people:

Sasha Suda, curator of Early Rubens, formerly Curator of European Art, AGO and now Director and CEO, The National Gallery of Canada.

Kirk Nickel, curator of Early Rubens, formerly Assistant Curator of European Painting, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Nico van Hout, Head of Collection Research – Curator of Seventeenth-Century Paintings, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp.

Early Rubens Events


Sorry, no events found. Check back soon.

PAST EVENTS reusable block


Sodom and Gomorrah
Friday November 29, 2019, 8 pm

Directed by Robert Aldrich 1962, 2h, 34 min.

Study Day: Rubens 101
Friday November 15, 2019

Join us for an afternoon of everything Rubens.

Rubens the Intermedial Artist
Wednesday November 13, 2019

Join art historian Evonne Levy for a talk that explores how Rubens, like all artists of his time, moved nimbly between media –  his practice as a painter was a highly intermedial practice, moving c

AGO Next
Early Rubens
November 12, 2019 | 6:30 pm

AGO Next is a dynamic membership program for art lovers under 40.

Samson and Delilah
Friday November 8, 2019, 8pm

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille 1949, 2h, 11 min.

Mythology Mixology: Rubens and the Art of Storytelling
Wednesday November 6, 2019

Join art historian Dr.

Clash of the Titans
Wednesday October 30, 8 pm

Directed by Desmond Davis 1981, 1h, 58 min.

AGO Live: Early Rubens in-gallery harpsichord performances
Sunday October 12, 2019 - Sunday January 5, 2020

The AGO invited The Canadian composer and musician Owen Pallet to arrange music to be performed in Early Rubens.

AGO Live: Songs of Heaven
Saturday October 12 & Sunday October 13, 2019

A divinely inspired mash up, Songs of Heaven puts a contemporary spin on the centuries old tradition of antiphonal (call an

Curator’s Talk: Early Rubens
Friday October 11, 2019

Join Alexandra Suda, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada and Early Ru

Curators' Circle
Exclusive | Early Rubens
Monday October 7, 2019 | 5:30pm

Early Rubens explores one of the most influential artists in Western art history.






Through paintings, drawings, and prints, this book shows how a desire for commercial success influenced and changed Rubens's artistic style. Essays delve into Italy's effect on Rubens, on the narrative aspect of his paintings, and how he managed commissions from famous patrons. Filled with new insights on the most fruitful phase of Rubens's career, this book offers a refreshing look at one of the most influential Baroque artists.

by Sasha Suda (Author, Editor), Kirk Nickel (Author, Editor)
280 pages
25.1 x 2.7 x 28.9 cm


Book cover for Early Rubens exhibition catalogue



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