The Three Graces

Peter Paul Rubens, ca. 1630 — 1635
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

The energy that the three Graces – Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia – radiate is miraculously conveyed by Rubens in this famous painting. The three Graces were devoted to Venus. If they were not singing and dancing with Apollo and the muses, they were serving at the feast of the gods.

Among the life-sized nudes that Rubens painted during the last years of his life, The Three Graces is considered an absolute highlight. Nowadays, this monumental painting is gazed upon by countless spectators in the Museo del Prado, though the work originated as a private picture intended only for Rubens’ eyes. For centuries, this erotic painting established Rubens’ ironclad reputation as a painter of women. Like a modern Pygmalion, Rubens brought stone mythology to life. He painted the numerous ancient stories into our collective memory. Greedy for knowledge, Rubens absorbed ancient and contemporary visual traditions. This makes it seem as if we have met most of the creations of the last Renaissance artist before. In fact, even now, we usually imagine the ancient gods and goddesses as he depicted them.

Nico Van Hout, Curator of Seventeenth-century Paintings, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

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The Three Graces by Rubens

Video with Alejandro Vergara (3 mins)

View on the Prado's YouTube channel

The Three Graces: Painted on Panel

Video with Maite Jover (7 mins)

View on the Prado's YouTube channel