Transcription Rubens room in 3D


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Christ on the Cross, “The Coup de Lance”

Oil on panel
429 x 311 cm
Inventory number 297

As the sun is eclipsed by the moon, the crucified Christ succumbs to death. The condemned men beside him are still alive, but soldiers are about to hasten their end. To the right, the unrepentant thief Gestas puts up a struggle. Dismas, the repentant thief, stares resignedly at the heavens. At the foot of the cross, Mary, John the Evangelist and Mary wife of Cleophas lament the death of Christ. Mary Magdalene tries in vain to ward off the spear of the blind Roman soldier Longinus.
Rubens strongly emphasises the aftermath of the coup de lance. The Church was, after all, born from the wound in Christ's right side: when drops of Christ's blood fell into the eyes of Longinus, he regained sight and converted to Christianity, like the centurion in the far left of the painting, Dismas, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. The latter two, both of whom were secret disciples of Jesus, watch on in horror from a distance.

The Adoration of the Magi

Oil on panel
Ca. 1624
447 x 336 cm
Inventory number 298

A colourful procession enters a stable supported by an ancient column. The column is a reference to the destroyed kingdom of David. It was from his bloodline that the Messiah was born, heralding the dawn of a new world. On the right, Mary shows her son to the three magi, who are accompanied by servants, soldiers, horses and camels. Gaspar kneels and offers frankincense. Melchior, the figure in red, gives gold. And the Moorish King Balthasar, with turban, has brought myrrh. The three men represent the lands and races who knew of the birth of Jesus. He was predestined to save humanity from the clutches of evil, symbolised in the painting by the cobweb on the right.
The scene is represented from a frog's-eye view, creating an imposing effect, and quite fittingly so, because the fluency and the rhythm of the brushwork are simply phenomenal, all the more so as the Master is said to have completed the painting in just two weeks.

Teresa of Ávila Obtains Bernardino de Mendoza's Release from Purgatory through the Intercession of Christ

Oil on canvas
194 x 139 cm
Inventory number 299

Bernardino de Mendoza had earned his place in Heaven. During his life, the Spanish nobleman had been a diplomat, a historiographer, a priest and a generous benefactor. He had donated his land near Valladolid to Saint Teresa of Ávila to establish a convent. But then Mendoza died unexpectedly, so that he did not receive the last Sacrament, the anointing of the sick. Teresa, devastated by the fact that he would go to purgatory, prayed for his Salvation, whereupon Christ descended from the skies to tell her that her supplication had saved Mendoza's soul.
Both aspects are represented in Rubens painting. Christ appears before the kneeling saint and shows her how an angel is pulling Mendoza from the sea of flames. The second angel, alongside Christ, leads the benefactor to Heaven. A third cherub welcomes Mendosa to eternal bliss.

Christ on the Straw

Oil on panel
Centre panel, 138 x 108 cm; side panels, 136 x 40 cm
Inventory number 300-304

This is an epitaph triptych for the merchant Jan Michielsen and his wife Maria Maes, who lie interred in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. The central panel shows Joseph of Arimathea laying the body of Christ on some straw, a medieval ritual from which the painting derives its popular name. The old disciple lifts his dead master to wrap his upper body in a shroud. Beside him, Mary holds a sweat cloth to cover the face of her son. John and Mary Magdalene look on sorrowfully.
On the inside of the side panels, we notice the patron saints of the couple: Mary with Child and John the Evangelist. On the outside, Rubens portrayed Mary, once again with Child, and Christ as Salvator Mundi or saviour of the world. With this painting, the artist expressed the belief that, on the Last Day, the deceased will rise from death to enter the Celestial Kingdom, just as Christ did.

The epitaph of Jan Michielsen and his wife Maria Maes is on loan to the exhibition "Reunion. From Quinten Metsijs to Peter Paul Rubens. Masterpieces from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Return to the Cathedral of Our Lady".

The Last Communion of Francis of Assisi

Oil on panel
422 x 266 cm
Inventory number 305

When Saint Francis felt that his end was drawing near, he asked his fellow friars to lay him naked on the floor before the altar in the chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli - the so-called 'Porziuncola' - near Assisi. Covering the wound in his side with his left hand, he lifted his eyes to heaven and spoke to his companions: "I have done my duty; may Christ teach you yours". With a great sense of tragedy, Rubens depicted Saint Francis kneeling in the foreground. His habit and cord lie at the bottom of the stairs. A priest offers him the Eucharist. Nine friars minor are witnesses to the scene. Three angels, one of whom carries a laurel wreath, enter the church through the window in the top of the painting.
At the time, representations of the death of Saint Francis were popular. They confirmed the notion that the saint chose to die naked, like the crucified Christ. This way, he remained an example for the faithful up to the moment of his death.

The Education of Mary

Oil on canvas
194 x 140 cm
Inventory number 306

Saint Anne is seated on a marble bench in a summer garden. Standing beside her is the young Mary. Joachim looks endearingly over the shoulder of his wife at their daughter. Mary has a book in her hand, but she is not reading. Her gaze is directed at the viewer. Two angels descend from heaven with a garland of roses. They crown Mary as the 'Mother of God' and 'Bride of the Father'. The thornless rose on the right is a symbol of Mary&'s immaculate conception.
According to non-Biblical texts, Joachim and Anne gave their daughter to the service of the Temple when she was three. She would stay there up to age twelve and succeed in distinguishing herself from the other temple virgins through her geniality, her exceptional piety and a remarkable knowledge of the Holy Scripture. This painting most probably depicts a visit by Anne and Joachim to their daughter in the temple.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

Oil on panel
Centre panel, 143 x 123 cm; side panels, 146 x 55 cm
Inventory number 307-311

The central panel depicts, among other things, the apparition of Christ to the apostle Thomas. The latter, in the right of the picture, would not believe that the Son of God had risen from the dead. The presence of the apostles Peter and Paul refers to the notion of forgiveness, the second theme of the painting. Peter renounced Jesus on three occasions and Paul, before his conversion, had persecuted Christians. Yet Christ forgave them their sins and allowed them into the Heavenly Kingdom.
On the side panels, Rubens portrayed Nicolaas Rockox and his wife Adriana Perez. The triptych was, after all, intended as an epitaph for the prominent Antwerp couple in the Church of the Friars Minor Recollects. Rockox is shown holding his hand to his chest in a gesture of love. Adriana is depicted with a rosary, a symbol of faith. They are begging for forgiveness of their sins and asking to be admitted to heaven.

The epitaph of Nicolaas Rockox and his wife Adriana Perez is presently on loan to the exhibition "Guests in the Rockox House Museum".

Holy Family with Parrot

Oil on panel
Ca. 1614
163 x 189 cm
Inventory number 312

The Holy Family is reposing in the shadow of a wall. Mary lovingly runs her hand through the curly hair of her son, who is sitting on her lap holding an apple. To the right, Jospeh looks on with an expression of both worry and tenderness. Behind the three figures, a brightly coloured parrot is nibbling at a vine that has overrun a column.
The apple, parrot and vine all refer to the foundations of Christianity. The apple represents the original sin of Adam and Eve, from which humanity shall be redeemed by the Messiah. The parrot and vine are symbols of Mary's virginal motherhood and martyrdom.
Originally, the painting featured only Mary, Jesus and the cradle. Rubens later added the parrot, the landscape and Joseph. He subsequently donated the work to the Guild of Saint Luke, from where it was eventually acquired by the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp.

Christ on the Cross

Oil on canvas
221 x 121 cm
Inventory number 313

The crucified Christ, with hands and feet pierced by nails, lifts his head and looks up to the heavens. At the foot of the cross, we notice the letters 'N' and 'R', the initials of Rubens's friend and patron Nicolaas Rockox, who commissioned the work. The town in the background is the old Jerusalem. Christ's dramatic expression and the muscularity of his body are characteristically Baroque.
This composition, with a lonely crucified Christ, was new in religious painting. Previously, artists had invariably depicted the crucifixion with secondary figures. The new variant would become a source of inspiration to many other painters. Rubens himself produced different versions of the scene. Art historians disagree on whether this particular version is entirely the work of Rubens.

The Holy Trinity

Oil on panel
158 x 152 cm
Inventory number 314

The painting depicts God in heaven enthroned on clouds, as the light of His greatness shines all around. The dead Christ lies before Him on a shroud, with arms limp alongside his body and legs stretched out before him. The stigmata - the wounds in his side, hands and feet - are gaping. Blood oozes from his forehead. Alongside God, the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a white dove. In the background, two angels are depicted with the Arma Christi or Instruments of the Passion: the whip, the crown of thorns and the lance of Longinus on the left, the nails of the crucifixion on the right.
Rubens produced this painting for Judoca Van der Capelle, the wife of the Antwerp clerk Jan de Pape. It decorated the Holy Trinity altar at the Carmelite church. The Holy Trinity represents salvation, grace and blessed celestial life. No surprise, then, that the couple were buried before the altar.

The Baptism of Christ

Oil on canvas
411 x 675 cm
Inventory number 707

Christ is depicted knee-deep in the river Jordan, as John the Baptist, the figure on the bank, pours water over his head. On the far left, angels are carrying the robe and some attributes of the Messiah. Above Christ's head, the Holy Spirit descends from heaven in the form of a dove. The tree in the centre effectively divides the canvas into two. To its right, some naked men are getting ready for their own baptism.
Rubens produced this painting during his stay in Italy, where he worked as a court painter to Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga. The dynamic and the foreshortened figures in the painting are characteristic of Rubens's 'Italian period'from 1600 to 1608. In this particular work, the influence of prominent Italian masters such as Tintoretto, Michelangelo and Raphael are clearly noticeable.

Holy Virgin Surrounded by Saints

Oil on canvas
546 x 401 cm
Inventory number IB1958.001

This painting originally adorned the high altar of the Augustinian church in Antwerp. It is one of the best and largest altarpieces by Rubens.
At the centre, Mary sits enthroned with the infant Jesus on her lap. The child is placing a ring on Saint Catharine's finger. On the steps before the Virgin's throne, Rubens depicted various saints. At the top stand Peter with key, Paul with sword, Joseph and John the Baptist, accompanied by two angels and a lamb.
At the bottom, Rubens represented ten holy figures that were important to the Augustinians. The patron saint Augustine, with a flaming heart in hand, stares piercingly at the viewer. Beside him there are two other spiritual saints who, like Augustine, protected the Church with words. The military saints to the left did the same, but with deeds. Behind them stands a group of four female saints.

The Lamentation of Christ

Oil on panel
55 x 73 cm
Inventory number 319

On a shroud that is spread out on some straw lies the naked body of Christ, his shoulders leaning against his mother and his head resting on her chest. In a gesture of resignation, Mary closes her son's eyes. Behind her stands John. By her side, Mary Magdalene is tearing her hair out in grief. Further to the right, we notice three more female figures, kneeling. The first weeps into a handkerchief, the second leans forward to hide her tears, and the third looks desperately up to the heavens, as if to ask God to explain the sorrowful death.
The objects in the foreground are references to preceding events. The nails, tongs and claw hammer refer to the crucifixion and the descent from the cross. The broom and the lantern were used to clean the rock tomb. And the basin with sponge and the pail with towel are the tools with which Christ's body has been washed. Finally, Mary Magdalene's balm jar and Nicodemus's box with aromatic oils are reminiscent of the unction.

Christ on the Cross

Anthony van Dyck
Oil on panel
104 x 72 cm
Inventory number 406

This painting shows Christ in the loneliness of his suffering. His tormented gaze is directed towards heaven as he speaks his final words: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Marc 15:34). The background, consisting of a brief barren landscape and a stormy sky, enhances the dramatic impact of the composition. In the top left, we see the solar eclipse that occurred at the time of Christ's death.
Strikingly, van Dyck omitted any further references to the context of the crucifixion. There are no elements whatsoever referring to Golgotha, the site where Christ was crucified. And the figures of Mary, John the Evangelist, and Dismas and Gestas - the repentant and unrepentant thieves - are conspicuously absent. The effect of these omissions is that the viewer can focus fully on the central theme of the composition: the death agony of the Messiah.

The Descent from the Cross

Oil on canvas
125 x 92 cm
Inventory number 315

The disciples of Christ lower his dead body from the cross and cover it in a shroud. The figure in the bright red attire at the bottom is John the Evangelist. He can barely keep his balance as he receives the heavy body. To the left, Mary reaches out for her son. The kneeling figure of Mary wife of Cleophas looks up at Christ, while Mary Magdalene holds on to his leg.
This rendering is a smaller version of the central panel of the altarpiece of the arquebusiers guild in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. The two versions are identical, save for some minor details. The painting originally adorned the former church of the friars minor, also in Antwerp. In 1794, when Napoleon abolished all churches and monasteries, it was taken to France. It later became part of the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp.


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