Art was one of the signifies of state power and prestige in that era, and royal courts often sustained studios, supporting numerous painters who worked on various painting projects. Their work often consisted of painting reproductions and originals that would benefit the image of their patrons. Peter Paul Rubens worked in such court studio, one belonging to the Duke of Mantua, Vincenzo Gonganza. There he developed a reputation for charisma and intelligence. Gonganza noticed the young man and was drawn to him, so much so that he chose the painter over his own court grandees to deliver a gift of paintings and other items to the youth on the throne of Spain. It was Gonganza who launched Rubens on a career in international diplomacy, sending the young man on his first major mission to the most powerful royal court of Europe — Spain. Rubens' mission was a success despite a near disaster.
What prompted Rubens' involvement in international political maneuvering was the dire condition of his native land. Beset by sectarian violence, Flanders, and especially Antwerp, once the center of international trade and art, lay in ruins, its people subject to terrors of the Court of Troubles. He engaged in this project of private peace making for over a decade, traveling between the courts of the continent, attempting to deal with statesmen and monarchs who were also clients. The men he often dealt with were rather childish: they lived in isolation and made important decisions blithely, sometimes on a whim. Rarely did they engage in what would be called reasoned deliberation of serious matters. Rubens was the voice of moderation and pragmatism. In the end, however, history has it that Rubens did not achieve a reconciliation of Spain and the Dutch provinces — peace in the Low Countries. That would be achieved as part of a larger international accord, the Peace of Westphalia, which brought into being the modern notion of state sovereignty.