Muse of Artists – Helena Fourment Rubens

Helena Fourment or Hélène Fourment (11 April 1614 – 15 July 1673) was the second wife of Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. She was the subject of a few portraits by Rubens, and also modeled for other religious and mythological paintings.

Hélène Fourment was the daughter of Daniël Fourment, an Antwerp silk merchant, and Clara Stappaerts.

Hélène Fourment married Rubens on 6 December 1630, when she was 16 years old and he was aged 53. His first wife, Isabella Brant, had died in 1626. Hélène’s brother Daniël Fourment the younger was married to Clara Brant, the sister of Isabella. Daniël Fourment the elder was an art lover and possessed works by Rubens and Jacob Jordaens, and works by Italian masters; he also commissioned from Rubens a series of tapestries depicting the life of Achilles.

Rubens and Hélène Fourment had five children:

  • Clara-Joanna, baptized 18 January 1632; she married Phlips van Parys, knight
  • Franciscus, baptized 12 July 1633; he married Susanna-Gratiana Charles
  • Isabella-Helena, baptized 3 May 1635
  • Peter Paul, baptized 1 March 1637, became a priest
  • Constantia-Albertina, baptized 3 February 1641; became a nun

After the death of Rubens, Helena started a relationship with Jan-Baptist van Brouchoven, assessor and alderman of Antwerp, who later became Count of Bergeyk.On 9 October 1644 their son Jan van Brouchoven, the later second Count of Bergeyk and one of the most important politicians in the Southern Netherlands of his time, was born, and Helena and Jan-Baptist married in 1645. They had five further children together.

Hélène Fourment was said to be very beautiful, amongst others by the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Austria, then Governor of the Netherlands, stating that she was “undoubtedly the most beautiful one may see here”,and by the poet Jan Caspar Gevaerts, a friend of Rubens, who praised “Helen of Antwerp, who far surpasses Helen of Troy”.

 

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