Peter Paul Rubens in Barga

Follower Peter Paul Rubens: Christ on the Way to Calvary

This painting, Flemish school, circle or follower of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), depicts the biblical scene (Lucas) of Christ on his way to Calvary escorted by Roman soldiers. On the left we see how Simon of Cyrene took up the cross behind Christ, while in the centre is Maria, reaching out towards her son. She is supported by John the Evangelist, while Veronica is thrusting a cloth forward to wipe Christ’s face.

The original painting by Peter Paul Rubens was commissioned in 1634, as a high altarpiece of the church of Saint-Peter en Paulus at the prestigious Benedictine abbey of Afflighem (Belgium). The altarpiece with the impressive dimensions of 569 x 355 cm was delivered in 1637. Currently it is at Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.

A small drawing on paper (its whereabouts unknown) and three preliminary sketches on panel are considered to precede the Afflighem altarpiece; a grisaille in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels; a modello in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and an oil sketch in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.

Two years before Rubens commission for Afflighem Abby, Rubens made a grisaille of the subject of Christ ascending mount Golgotha, which Paulus Pontius translated into a print in the same year (1632). This grisaille is now in the collection of the Berkeley University Art Museum and it shows a very detailed and unified rendering of the subject.

Possibly Rubens used this print to get the commission for a new altarpiece for the Afflighem abbey, and someone might have used the same print to execute the painting,  which is on display and for sale in the Portrait Painting Gallery in Barga.


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