Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is one of the most canonised and reproduced artist in (Belgian) art
history. Through his own reproduction atelier, printed copies of his work already circulated widely
in Europe during his life. However, the number of Rubens reproductions exploded once
mechanical reproduction techniques developed and this phenomenon reached its first apex
around the 300th Rubens anniversary celebrations in 1877.
The extensive corpus of Rubens reproductions has never been fully investigated. Especially the
mechanical reproductions have been largely neglected by Rubens scholars. It is often overlooked
how mechanical reproductions are unique interpretations with specific dimensions, texture and
colour tones, mediating the original material and creating another (hi)story of the authentic
artwork. Besides, each reproduction is used within a narrative, depending on the function of the
medium in which it occurs.
Through the study of the Rubens reproductions between 1877 and 1977 and their distributing media, this PhD-project wants to establish a historical and theoretical discourse on the
development and the impact of mechanical reproductions within modern society.