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figure, in the full bloom of health and vigour, is shown from behind. An attendant negress raising her abundant hair, discloses shoulders of the whiteness of finest marble, whilst we may observe her fair face in a mirror held by a Cupid in front of her (Fig. 56). We find her again in a very similar attitude, though in a much larger mythological composition, among the Daughters of Cecrops discovering the child Erechthonios. Here she is one of the two maidens, who, in defiance of the command of Pallas Athene, are prying into the basket containing the boy and the serpent. The third sister, who did not break the goddess' injunction, stands aloof under a tree, and is one of the most attractive maidens that Rubens ever painted (Fig. 55). Her figure, undraped, with head and shoulders enveloped in a clear shadow, decidedly recalls the goddess in that large and much-disputed picture of Neptune and Amphitrite (or Neptune and Libye) in the Berlin Museum. In this painting also, which is, however, far inferior to the Daughters of Cecrops, we may notice again the fair features of the Magdalen, though this time representing a nymph hiding in the water: the most attractive figure in this huge canvas. This picture, the genuineness of which was some years ago questioned by some with the same vehemence that it was affirmed by others, recalls in several points the magnificent painting at the Museum of Art-History in Vienna personifying the Four Continents and their Four Chief Rivers. To each of the four Rivergods is attached a nymph as a companion. In the foreground Father Nile his attendant nymph a negress has in accordance with ancient tradition fortis symbol a crocodile surrounded by putti. Opposite him the Ganges is attended by a nymph and a Bengal tigress, who is fiercely spitting at the crocodile. The two other Rivergods, the Danube and the Maramon,—the latter half hidden in reeds and shadows, because at that period so little known, — appear more youthful than their companions of the older worlds (Fig. 57).
In 1620 again was executed another important altar-piece: namely, the picture now in the Antwerp-Museum, representing Christ crucified between the two Thieves. It is eventide, and the Son of God has finished his agony. The Roman centurion, to satisfy himself of his death, pierce his side with a spear, whilst a soldier prepares to break with an iron rod the legs of the two others crucified with him. Overcome with grief the Mother of Christ, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and St. John shrink away from the mournful scene; whilst Mary Magdalen, clinging to the cross and resting her head and body against it, holds up her white arms to ward off the Roman with his cruel weapon (Fig. 58). In this picture, known by the name of Coup de lance, it is remarkable how all rules of perspective are ignored, and how little the natural dimensions of the respective figures to each other are observed: but it would show a want of artistic taste to find fault for this reason with an otherwise so admirably executed a painting. Rubens was commissioned to paint it for the Church of St. Francis, by the major Nicolas Rockox with whom he was on terms of intimate friendship. An excellent portrait of this gentleman with his wife has come down to us on the wings of another altar-piece, also ordered from Rubens, re
presenting the Conversion of St. Thomas: now preserved in the Antwerp Museum. The powerful impression conveyed by the Crucifixion abovementioned lies chiefly in the majestic repose of death, which raises the Crucified Christ far above all the griefs and the passions of this world. The artist again depicted the Death of the Saviour, a painting now in the Louvre, with only the Virgin, St. John and the Magdalen, grouped at the foot of the cross, forming a mournful silhouette on a lonely hill:
whilst still another, and perhaps the most impressive of all, is the Crucifixion in the Antwerp Museum; in which Christ hangs high on the Cross, alone and forsaken, with only silent nature around him. The vividly white body of the dead Saviour shines as the only light through the prevailing darkness. This splendid work has been copied and reproduced a Fig. 60. Sketch Foe The Decoeation Of Thh Centos Vault Of The Jesuit Chuech At Antweef.
Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
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vast number of times, and the Munich Pinakothek possesses a replica, though in a much smaller size (Fig. 59).
The completion of the Church of the Jesuits at Antwerp in the year 1620 brought Rubens very extensive commissions. On the 20th March in that year he signed a contract with Father Jacobus Tirinus, the head of the Jesuit College at Antwerp, to the effect that he would undertake the entire pictorial decoration of the church. He had already been entrusted with altar-pieces for it: but it was now chiefly the painting of the ceiling, which had to be considered. For this purpose Rubens was directed to make
39 designs, to be executed by Van Dyck and some of his other pupils, and subsequently to be finally completed by the master himself.
Only in a very few instances has it been permitted to an artist to decorate pictorially architectural buildings designed by himself, and thus to arrive at a combination of the highest perfection. If there be such a thing as a Jesuit style in painting, Rubens certainly was its greatest master; for he thoroughly understood how to represent splendour and magnificence, though at the same time his genius never allowed itself to be lost in confused exaggeration. Several sketches, imperfect though they be, still give us an