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Peter Paul Rubens

The Baroque

Peter Paul Rubens. Erection of the Cross. (1610). 6m x 4,60 m 


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Peter Paul Rubens. Erection of the Cross. (1610). 6m x 4,60 m 

This Triptych painted at the origin for the church Saint Walburge is today with the cathedral of Antwerp. It is an ordering of an easy tradesman, Cornelius Van der Geest. picture is a retable. In a church a retable is a work of art (painting or sculpture) which represents a character or a religious event which is placed either on the furnace bridge or below this one. Picture challenges by its dimensions: 6 meters broad by 4m 60 top, and the fact that it acts of an open triptych but by way of polyptyque because the front faces, closed work, are also decorated and painted. In fact there exist 5 different and independent panels. The 3 panels opened of course have a bond between them. The 2 panels, works closed, none. In a public place as a church the presence of polyptyque supposes a production. The table much more interesting open than is closed. Also it is open only to certain occasions. Sunday during the office, religious days, and for certain ceremonies concerning of the important characters (burials, marriages…). There is use a spectacular according to the position of work, opened or closed. The purpose of the open triptych is to justify the faithful ones so that they attend the office of Sunday. The other days of the week work is closed. All this fulfills the requirements of the catholic Council of Thirty (1545-1563) which, in answer to the Protestant reform, asks the artists to strike the directions and to wake up the mercy at the faithful ones. This council is directly at the origin of the Baroque movement and the exuberance which characterizes it to move, persuade, to convert, and to even fill with enthusiasm the faithful ones…

On the closed panels: 4 saints and holy: Holy Walburge, Saint Eloi, Holy Amand and Sainte Catherine. Sainte Walburge (710 - 777) is an English missionary bénédictine. Saint Eloi (588 -660), is a French bishop, owner of the goldsmiths and blacksmiths, professions very appraisals in Antwerp. Saint Amand (679) is the apostle of Flandres, bishop of Tongres-Maastricht towards 647. Sainte Catherine of Alexandria is a Christian martyrdom. According to the legend, it reproaches the Roman Emperor Maxence (306 - 312), in Alexandria, to persecute the Christians and manages to convert the pagan philosophers who must convince it. Of Maxence anger condemns it to the torture of the wheel, but this one crumbles…She is then decapitated. With the top of each couple of Saints 2 angels pay homage to them and wear their togas and their crowns of flowers. 
The central panel: 3.40 X 4.60 m were painted in the church, a sail of ship was used to isolate it from the places. 9 people hoist the cross in a synchronized movement. Christ raises the eyes towards the sky. In the foreground, a dog attends the scene. On the panel of left Marie and Jean are calm but tragic, a group of women and children are thrown into a panic and desperate, a woman looks at the spectator. On the right of Roman soldiers including one with horse which directs the torment. With the background, the two small drainage canals, one is undressed, the other by ground is already in cross.Picture is built, in the center, on the large rising diagonal from right to left as well for the composition as for the light what accentuates the rise and the action. Rubens uses several means to challenge the spectator and to take it to witness. He seeks with to imply it in the situation. He gives also a significance to the picture…

Rubens uses against diving. The point of view of the spectator is placed very low.
This implies that the image of Christ is high and accentuates the impression of rise. 

Christ Marie and John are located on the higher horizontal tension field. 
The group of character who hoists the cross is located between the 4 natural points of interest of work.

The picture is divided in clear zones and dark zones. The faithful ones, Marie and John, the tearful women, the dog, the of torture ones, are in the dark zones. This day is one day dark for them. Christ and her supposed destination the sky are in the clear zones. 
The central panel is built on the rising diagonal from right to left, the principal guiding lines, the arms, the cord, the bodies, the cross rise towards the sky.
The side panels are elaborate according to another principle. The diagonals separate the faithful ones in tear from Marie and John and the soldiers from the executed small drainage canals.
Induced play of the glances him also an upward movement. Marie and John look at the Christ who looks at the sky to him. While following this way the glance of the spectator can only go up. 

Details : 

The muscles of the men, the cord and the cross are tended upwards.
The glance of Christ is him tended towards the sky and the creator. 

This dog is not in the foreground by chance. The dog is the animal nearest to the man, he was always his faithful and devoted companion. Work is addressed to faithful and call them with the devotion. In many culture the dog is in keeping with death, it is the guide towards beyond. It is also here a recall of the Maniérist period.

Marie and John look at Christ with gravity and compassion. Their hands are united sign of solidarity and of union in the pain, only the right hand of John outlines a gesture of accompaniment and goodbye. 
The faithful ones are dismayed and thrown into a panic. Only an young woman looks at the spectator to take it to witness and to imply it in the action. For this reason, if one considers also the play of the glances between Marie John and Christ one can speak about production of the protagonists by the artist. 

Light : A beam of light follows the large rising diagonal of the central panel and comes to strike the chest of Christ. Another beam of light having the same source also comes to light the faithful ones in tear. By the light Rubens induces the idea of redemption and sacrifice. The light is shared between Christ and the believers manner of indicating that its sacrifice is not vain but repurchases the sins of humanity and for final is intended to save it. 
Colors : Opposition between cold colors and hot colors. 
Harmonize and Contrasts. The carryforward of the colors used to work out the picture on the chromatic circle indicates an opposition between cold colors and hot colors. 

Similar Pictures :

Peter Paul Rubens. Deposition. (1612-14) 

In the triptych of the Deposition Rubens uses the large diagonal from left to right. This one is also rising. The 8 characters form a unit with Christ literally and are plain with him. This descent expresses the idea of reception of the body and rise in the heart. 

Peter Paul Rubens. Lamentation of Christ. (1617 - 18).

The triptych of the lamentations represents the setting with the tomb. Christ is placed in her shroud by John and Marie. Even without life, Christ, like Marie and the apostle of the right panel, looks the sky. Work expresses the idea of illumination and rise.