WHATEVER pleasures there had been in being a Renaissance man, the Flemish artist, Peter Paul Rubens, took them. Every afternoon he rode his Spanish thoroughbreds. He ate richly enough to die of gout, fathered eight children, dabbled sufficiently in diplomacy to be knighted by the King of England, and as a 53-year-old widower married a 16-year-old beauty. His love of life was so consuming that it was amazing that he had any time left in which to paint.

Actually, few of the 2,000-odd paintings that are recognized Rubenses were totally done by his hand. He ran a well-organized factory with pupils and...

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