The document goes back to 1583 and was accidentally discovered by Willy Stevens, an amateur historian. Stevens was searching for documents to use for his book about the local history of Lovendegem, a municipality just west of Ghent.
During his search, 73-year-old Stevens, a regular visitor of the archives, accidentally came across old papers from an Antwerp notary public that go back to the 16th century. One of the documents turned out to belong to Maria Pijpelinckx, Peter Paul Rubens' mother.
The mother had her last will drawn up in 1583 as she had become seriously ill. She was concerned about what would happen to her wool business, and wanted her eldest son, Jean Baptist, to take over the business and to specialise in the trade.
In a statement, the State Archives are labelling the discovery as a nice extra to further complete the family history of the renowned painter's family.