The Elevation of the Cross (Rubens)
|Artist||Peter Paul Rubens|
|Medium||Oil on wood|
|Dimensions||462 cm × 341 cm (182 in × 134 in)|
|Location||Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp|
Peter Paul Rubens painted The Elevation of the Cross after returning to Flanders from Italy. The work shows the clear influence of Italian Renaissance and Baroque artists such as Caravaggio, Tintoretto and Michelangelo. The central panel illustrates a tension between the multitude of finely muscled men attempting to lift the cross and the seemingly unbearable weight of Christ on the cross.
Peter Paul Rubens' foreshortening is evident in the contortions of the struggling, strapping men. Christ cuts across the central panel in a diagonal, stylistically akin to Caravaggio's Entombment where both descent and ascent are in play at a key moment. Motion, space and time are illustrated along with the struggle to upright the cross. Rubens uses dynamic color and chiaroscuro boldly, a style that would become more subtle with time.
The painting is located at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium, along with other Rubens works. It was commissioned by the church to express their allegiance with Catholicism, after the split of the protestants. Under Napoleon's rule, the emperor took the painting, along with Peter Paul Rubens' The Descent from the Cross, to Paris. The paintings were returned to the cathedral in 1815.
In popular culture
In Ouida's novel A Dog of Flanders the main characters Nello and Patrasche wish to see both Rubens' "Elevation of the Cross" and "Descent from the Cross" for once in their life. It serves as the climax of the story, as they both sneak inside the Antwerp Cathedral on a freezing Christmas Eve to witness the beauty of the painting. The next day they are found frozen to death in front of the triptych.
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- Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 164.
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