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Fig. 20. THE DESCENT FROM THE Cross. In the Hermitage at St. Petersburg.
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Rubens received his first important commission from the town of Antwerp: and painted for the Guildhall of that city the Adoration of the Magi, a large painting, brilliant in colour, which, however, did not long remain in the position intended for it; for in 1612 it was presented by the municipality to Count Oliva, in order to obtain his favour, who took it with him to Spain. When some time afterwards he ended his life on the scaffold, it passed into the possession of King Philip IV., and is now in the Museum
Fig. 21. Portrait of AN UNKNOWN MAN. In the Gallery at Cassel.
at Madrid. Commissioned about the same time by the reigning Prince of the Netherlands, Rubens executed another altar-piece, in which he displays himself at the height of his artistic developement. Archduke Albrecht had founded at Brussels in honour of St. Ildefonso an aristocratic Brotherhood, to whoin he had given an altar in his own church dedicated to “St. James on the Kaltenberg". The painter received a commission to adorn this altar and, although but a commoner by birth, he was elected a member by this Brotherhood, all of whom were of noble lineage. To show his gratitude for so much honour, he painted this altar-piece without demanding any remuneration. He gave to it the shape of an Ancona: the centre-panel of which represented a Miracle of St. Ildefonso, illustrating the following tradition. St. Ildefonso, Archbishop of Toledo in the seventh century, defended with the utmost zeal the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. V
Fig. 22. PerseuS AND ANDROMEDA. In the Hermitage at St. Petersburg.
For this act the Queen of Heaven herself descended into his cathedral in visible shape and presented him with a mantle of celestial texture. The Archbisnop is represented here on his knees before a throne, which occupies the centre of the picture, and from which Mary, with an expression of extreme
benignity, extends to him the miraculous garment. Virgin-Saints stand on cither side of the throne as ladies in waiting, whilst in a flood of light child-angels joyously hover around it. In the two wings the Archduke and his Archduchess on their knees, clad in royal robes, and with their Patrons
beside them, are awe-struck spectators of this miracle. St. Albert in Cardinal's robes protects the Archduke, while St. Clare attends the Archduchess, Clara Eugenia Isabella (Fig. 15). In this work Rubens has succeeded in uniting a marvellous chiaro-oscuro, with a brilliancy of colouring, which is almost