« PreviousContinue »
MADONNA WITH THE HOLY INNOCENTS. In the Louvre.
After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York.
unique in the history of art. On the outer side of the two wings he also painted an idyllic Holy Family, known as the Madonna under the AppleTree. In 1641, this splendid altar-piece was removed to make way for a so-called miraculous picture; on which occasion both the wings were taken off,
Fig. 26. THE GARLAND OF FRUIT. In the Pinakothek at Munich. After a photograph from the original by Franz Hanfstängl, Munich. (To page 44.)
in order to make a separate picture of the Holy Family above-mentioned. When in 1657, the order of St. Ildefonso ceased to exist, these pictures came into the possession of the monks of Kaltenberg. In order to raise fonds. for rebuilding their church burnt down in 1743, the monks resolved to sell the pictures, which had fortunately been saved. In 1776 the Empress Maria Theresa, through the medium of her ambassador, Prince Starkenberg, bought them for 14,000 florins, whereby this masterpiece came to Vienna and found a place of honour the following year in the Belvedere Gallery; whence it has now been transferred to the Museum of Art-History.
In 1610 when, according to tradition, Rubens had completed the St. Ildefonso altar-piece, he executed another work for the Walpurgis-church at Antwerp. This is the celebrated Elevation of the Cross, now in the transept of the cathedral at Antwerp. There is in the Louvre a drawing for this picture, giving an idea of the whole composition which, when finally executed, was divided into three parts: The Elevation of the Cross in the centre: on the right the Weeping Women: on the left the Roman Centurion (Fig. 16). The central-subject has been reproduced in numberless ancient and modern prints (Fig. 17). A thick darkness covers the sky; whilst the Saviour, extended upon the Cross, turns his suffering face towards the last rays of the setting sun. The whole attention of the spectator is attracted by this figure alone; for all the other figures are unimportant. Their whole attention appears to be directed to raising the heavy cross, and preventing it from slipping from its intended position. On one of the wings may be seen the Centurion, surrounded by other men on horseback, giving his orders with all the pride of a Roman official: behind him are the two malefactors. On the other wing is a striking group of the Mourning Women, amid whom St. John supports the Holy Mother overwhelmed with grief. Originally there was a lunette above the central-portion of this Ancona, representing God the Father, toward whom the Crucified One was directing his gaze: and also a predella consisting of three small pictures. These pieces were sold separately in the 18th century by order of the church-authorities.
A still more powerful picture is the Descent from the Cross, which the master painted two years later as a pendant to the Elevation and which is likewise in the transept of the Antwerp Cathedral. It was commissioned in 1611 by the Rifle - corps-Guild for a sum of 2400 florins. The records of payment are still in existence, and it is amusing to see that on three occasions, while the work was proceeding, 9 florins, 10 stübers were spent on wine for the master's pupils: and that, after the completion of the picture, 8 florins 10 stübers were paid for a pair of gloves as a present for his wife. Rubens' Descent from the Cross is a well known and much admired picture. The dead Christ lowered in a white sheet is surrounded by His disciples and friends, who support His body, whilst near at hand stands His Mother. Her head is shrouded in a mourning veil; she is overcome with grief and supported by the other two Maries. This painting was famous from the day of its completion: and may be considered perhaps
THE PICTURE OF CERES. In the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, Paris and New-York.
more than any other work, a landmark in the History of Art. From the date of its completion Dutch and Flemish painters realized that it was no longer necessary to go to Italy to see first rate works of art. On the two wings are painted the Visitation and Presentation in the Temple: and on
their outer side St. Christopher. This latter subject Rubens repeated again in a picture now at Munich (Fig. 19). The idea of Christ being thus carried is the binding link in all four representations: and the one main thought that runs through the whole altar-piece: First, as the Incarnate Son of God in the l'isitation; again, in the Presentation in the Temple; then, in the Descent from the Cross; and, lastly, as Ruler of the World on the shoulder