The unfortunate story of the Antwerp Rubens statue


The city of Antwerp wanted to commemorate the 200th anniversary of its most famous painter Rubens' death in 1640 with a statue. However, there were problems. The public money collection had not yielded enough, so there was no money for a bronze statue. That is why they opted for a plaster cast of what was to become the real statue later. However, when leaving the studio of sculptor Guillaume Willem Geefs, the statue fell off the cart and it got damaged pretty badly.

Fortunately there was a second plaster copy ready to be placed. It is important to know that the statue was not placed on the Groenplaats in the first place. It was given a place from which it could look out over the Scheldt river: the Sint-Wilburgis square, which was situated in the immediate vicinity of the Het Steen castle. This square is disappeared when the river was straightened.

Picture by Pixabay
The bronze statue was finally finished in 1843. And it was placed on the Groenplaats, just where until 1739 a cemetery's crucifix stood. But it almost went wrong again. When driving up the Groenplaats, the cart on which the statue was standing sank through its wheels. The damaged image was repaired and could eventually be placed the same year.

Picture by Pixabay
Rubens is strangely not depicted as an artist. He stands proudly overlooking the Groenplaats and the cathedral with a sword around his waist and his wide-brimmed hat that he wears on his self-portraits, but anyone who looks intently at the image knows that he was a painter: his palette is at his feet.