Peter Paul Rubens: The Descent From the Cross (1612-1614)
(Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium)
Propably one of the most famous works of Rubens. This altarpiece was by the Confraternity of the Arquebusiers. The Patron Saint of the Confraternity of the Arquebusiers was St. Christopher. As the name ‘Christopher’ means a ‘Christ Bearer’, Rubens decided to use this theme in each of the panels of the painting:
- The most left panel (an outside shutter) shows St. Christopher, , carring the Christ child across a river.
-The panel second to the left shows us the Visitation in which Mary, very evidently pregnant (Mary is pointing with her hand to her belly), is a bearer of the Child Jesus to Elizabeth.
- the centre of the painting captures the drama of Cavalry - the descent of christ from the cross. Shown are St. John in the scarlet cloak, Nicodemus on the ladder and opposite him is Joseph of Arimathea. Mary Magdalen and Mary Cleophas kneel at Christ’s feet while the Virgin stands upright, her anguish and grief shown in her pale face. All of them are carring Christ - they are all Christ-bearers, 'Christophers'.
- the panel second to the right is the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple in which Simeon is depicted bearing the Infant Christ in his arms. Simeon is here also a Christ-bearer.
- The most right panel (also an outside shutter) shows a hermit who lights the way for St. Christopher with a lantern. The hermit is about to recive Christ from St. Christopher.
The painting was done is 1612-1614.