This publication examines Ruben´s Passion of Christ as a transformation of diverse influences, and as a tribute to his deeply held religious beliefs and his determination to give his viewers the sense of witnessing a moment in history.
"In sum, the present volume, which like the rest of the series is very fully illustrated, discusses works that are central to our understanding of Rubens. The publication marks another important step in producing a complete, up-to-date catalogue of the master's oeuvre." (C. White in Master Drawings, vol.40, n°2, summer 2002, p.170-172)
Rubens was well placed to take advantage of the increasing demand for scenes of Christ's Passion in the Southern Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th Century. He had developed a reputation for his religious paintings in Italy, and his return to Antwerp coincided with the efforts of the Catholic Church to restore and replace altarpieces damaged by the Calvinists. The experience of Italy fostered Ruben´s interest in both the historical and the human aspects of Christ´s Passion. The influence of classical sculpture and of Titian, Michelangelo and Caravaggio is evident in the monumental quality of his compositions, but he also valued the emotional intensity of Northern masters like Rogier van der Weyden and Quentin Massys. He made many innovations in his concern for accuracy, especially in disputed subjects like the Elevation of the Cross. Ruben´s success in transforming all these diverse influences is a tribute to his deeply held religious beliefs and his determination to give his viewers the sense of witnessing a moment in history. The images that Rubens created were appropriated throughout Europe.