Mr. Europe. Rubens and the roots of European modernity

Palazzo Té webinar Series

MAURIZIO FERRARA - University of Milan
RAFFAELLA MORSELLI - University of Teramo

Twenty-five years ago, The New Yorker magazine dedicated an article to Rubens, calling him Mr. Europe. His painting of the aftermath of war depicted the condition of Europe at the height of the religious wars. It was the defeat of that universalistic humanism that had inspired the action of the political Rubens, mediator of peace. A system of values that had promoted the commercial and cultural flourishing of that “city belt” between Italy and Flanders that had been the context of Rubens’ own activity. Yet it was precisely the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War that generated the seeds of a new project of civil coexistence based on tolerance and the free expression of ideas. Depicted as a woman with torn clothes and arms raised to the sky, the Europe in Rubens’ painting would find in that project its soul and vocation. And three centuries later, the six countries crossed by the city belt will give that project a new institutional expression, the European Union.

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