A series of secret clues have been spotted in a famous painting of Dutch Master Rubens’s wife that suggest she had an affair with the artist Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck was originally thought to have created the portrait in 1621 as a gift to honour his mentor Peter Paul Rubens The painting, titled Portrait Of Isabella Brant, was of Rubens’s wife and was produced 12 years after the pair had married Anthony Van Dyck created the Portrait Of Isabella Brant (pictured) in 1621 which academics now suggest have hidden clues about the pair’s affair including an enigmatic figure in the background and Isabella’s postureCritics initially said that it reflected ‘the close personal and professional relationship between the two’ But now, a Cambridge academic claims that Van Dyck left a series of clues to an adulterous romance between the sitter, Isabella, and himself Dr John Harvey began to investigate the story of the image while researching his forthcoming novel Pax in which re-imagines episodes from Rubens’s life RELATED ARTICLES Previous 1 Next Sculptor who inherited a 1,500-acre estate and 15-bedroom Model citizen! 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Share this article Share He has argued that the portrait was painted away from the couple’s Antwerp home and was completed without Rubens’s knowledge There is also no evidence that the painting was ever presented to him, nor was it recorded in his estate when he died Dr Harvey said: ‘Van Dyck painted it not for Rubens but himself. ‘It would surprise anyone, I think, to suggest that the best way you can show gratitude to your mentor is to give him a portrait of his wife that appears to celebrate her royal beauty without any reference to her husband ‘ The painting was orignally thought to be a gift to Van Dyck’s mentor Dutch Master Rubens (pictured) but evidence now suggests that the painting was never presented to him nor was it recorded in his estate when he diedThere are several hidden clues which the academic think prove the affair because they undermine Van Dyck’s mentor’s marriage Firstly, Isabella is positioned facing to the right (her left), which according to the traditions of portraiture at the time, was the opposite to where a wife traditionally sat Harvey claims that this would have been recognisable as her husband’s ‘place’ to viewers at the time and was, therefore, a conscious effort of Van Dyck to try to subvert the marriage Secondly, an enigmatic figure stands in the background of the image which Harvey thinks could be Van Dyck’s symbolic admission of ‘dangerously sexual’ feelings about his subject Van Dyck (pictured) had started his career as a precociously talented student at Rubens’s studio in Antwerp but left suddenly around the time the portrait of Isabella was created which fuelled speculation about an affairVan Dyck had started his career as a precociously talented student at Rubens’s studio in Antwerp in 1616 and after four years he left to become a court painter for Charles I in London But around the time the portrait of Isabella was created he left Antwerp suddenly For decades stories speculated that he had been sent away, possibly because of a burgeoning romance with Rubens’s wife The 29-year-old Isabella was 13 years younger than her husband, who is still considered to be one of the greatest Flemish painters, but eight years older than Van Dyck Dr Harvey went on to say: ‘There is no hard evidence that the affair occurred but this painting raises some odd questions ‘Add it to a cloud of historical gossip that also exists and it starts to seem likelier that something happened ‘The three of them together represented a situation that was perhaps not uncommon in the world of art and craft studios where a great master, with a younger wife, also had an outstandingly brilliant – and live-in – apprentice ‘There were potential consequences when a young artist or apprentice lived like a favoured son, the great hope of the house, with a married couple where the husband was famous and busy and his wife was in comparison neglected ‘The portrait is now housed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, America Pax, by John Harvey, will be published on October 31. Dutch Master Rubens: An artist, diplomat, polyglot and art collector Dutch Master Rubens: An artist, diplomat, polyglot and art collectorPeter Paul Rubens was born in 1577 in Siegen, Westphalia (present-day Germany), before moving to Antwerp in Belgium with his mother By 1600 he had started receiving commissions from Royal Courts after travelling to Italy and Spain Eight years later, when he returned home to Antwerp, Rubens was bestowed the title of official court painter to the Low Countries by Archduke Albert of Austria and Isabella of Spain The title made him exempt from all taxes, guild restrictions and official duties in Brussels His works included portraits and landscapes but his specialty was considered to be his religious and mythological compositions He increasingly became drawn into diplomatic circles on Archduchess Isabella’s behalf and his knowledge of languages meant he was soon revered In October 1609 Rubens married 19-year-old Isabella Brant who was 13 years younger than him He created his own painting to celebrate the occasion called Double Portrait in a Honeysuckle Bower Rubens was able to maintain a tremendous output of artwork due to his extensive studio of assistants, apprentices, collaborators, and engravers Among his team was Anthony van Dyck who stayed in his company for four years.In 1626 Rubens’s domestic life was shattered by the death of his wife Isabella He remarried four years later, aged 49, to 16-year-old Helena Fourment who is said to have inspired some of the most poignant portraits of his career Rubens continued to work through the remainder of his life and had even started to amass his own collection of great artworks He died in 1640, aged 62.