Isabella Brant was the first wife of the artist Rubens, and he painted her several times in a number of different portraits until her early death at the age of just 34 in 1626. His Portrait of Isabella Brant was completed between 1620 and 1625, and shows his wife from the chest upwards, her hand clasped to her breast, a wry smile playing across her lips. Although the portrait is a close-up, accurate depiction of his first wife, there is still much of the Baroque style about this piece of artwork. The movement of her hand and her expression give the idea that Rubens has captured a moment in time, rather than a static model who is merely sitting to be painted. Her alabaster skin is illuminated from within by a variety of colours, peaches and pinks, as well as the rosy colour of her cheeks and the different coloured strands that add a real tangible texture to her hair.
Alongside his Portrait of Isabella Brant, Rubens also sketched his first wife in 1621, the drawing bearing a remarkable likeness to the final portrait painting. Much like the final portrait, this drawing brings to mind the vibrancy and immediacy of Isabella Brant's character, and the way that Rubens is able to so effortlessly capture this spirit even in a simple drawing. This drawing is completed in red, white and black chalk against a brown paper background, and with these three colours Rubens is able to highlight Isabella's dark wavy hair, the colour of her cheeks and lips, as well as her clear and impenetrable light coloured eyes.
Both this drawing and his portrait painting of her speaks to the relationship between Rubens and his wife, with all details of her appearance captured in careful detail, whilst her beauty is further enhanced by other attractive real-life touches, such as her secret smile and lively, dancing eyes. Another of his famous paintings of Isabella Brant by Rubens is the Honeysuckle Bower, which was painted in 1609 as an oil on canvas self portrait, which was completed shortly after their wedding the same year. Rubens is famous for his allegory and symbolism, and this painting is no different, with symbols of love and marriage throughout, including the garden setting and the choice of the honeysuckle plant which flowers behind them. It is clear from all of his paintings of Isabella Brant first wife, that Rubens was undoubtedly very much in love with her during their relationship and marriage, which was only cut short by her death. The Portrait of Isabella Brant currently hangs in the Cleveland Museum of Art.