The Rockox Triptych. The Incredulity of St Thomas


Peter Paul Rubens
Siegen 1577 - Antwerp 1640
1613 - 1615
oil on canvas
143 x 123 cm
Inventory number 307-311

In the early 17th century, the then mayor of Antwerp Nicolaas Rockox began to prepare his afterlife to the smallest detail. He had a sepulchre chapel built in the church of the Friars Minor Recollects, where he and his wife Adriana could later rest in peace. He asked his close friend Rubens to paint a triptych to express the couple's commitment to the faith.
In the centre panel, Rubens depicted the apparition of Christ before the incredulous Thomas, the figure on the right, who refused to accept that the Son of God had risen from the dead. The old man beside Thomas is Peter, the apostle who renounced Jesus by denying their friendship on no fewer than three occasions. The third figure is Paul, who, prior to his conversion, had persecuted Christians. Yet Christ forgave all three men their sins and admitted them to the Heavenly Kingdom.


On the reverse of the side panels, Rubens depicted the family arms of Mr and Mrs Rockox. On the inside, he portrayed the couple in sober black attire. Subtle accessories, like his gilded buckle and her double pearl chain, betray their prominent position in society. Rockox holds his hand to his chest, in a gesture of love. Adriana has a rosary, a symbol of faith. They are begging for forgiveness of their sins and to be admitted to heaven.

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