Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Favorite Paintings in Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp (Antwerpen), Belgium

We had only a day trip to Antwerp, whose art scene was dominated by the great Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.  In one of several stops, the Cathedral of Our Lady (De Kathedraal), we saw several of his great panels.  Most ambitiously conceived and marvelously executed were two triptychs, which were my favorites in this great house of worship and temple of art.

Both triptychs depicted the crucial moment of Jesus's life cycle - The Elevation of the Cross (1610) and The Descent from the Cross (1612-1614) - moment before and after his death - the subject matters hardly need explain.

The Elevation of the Cross (1610)

The Descent (Deposition) from the Cross (1612-1614), Visitation (Left), Presentation (Right)

The most impressive aspect of these panels was the dynamism of the central panels.  Everything, everyone was animated, on the move, actively engaged in a vivid, moving drama.  It seemed that subtracting any muscle would have caused the collapse of the whole mass of people and object centering on the passive and immobile Jesus.  There were large swaths of colors surrounding the parlor of Jesus.  Another wonderful contrast of the artistic decision.  Rubens' figures were fully modeled and differentiated and characterized.  One felt that one could tell who they were and what they had done and what they were to become. 

There were some continuity between these two triptychs - both Jesus or Jesus and his throe cut across the enormous panels diagonally, adding the sense of dynamism.  Unsettled.  Dangerous.  The side panels of "Elevation" were the continuation of the central panel, sad and moving, while the side panels of "Descent", both calm and happy, described before and after Jesus's birth - the Visitation and the Presentation, adding poignancy to his agonizing death.

As a renown colorist, Rubens gave us a combustion of varied yet subtly harmonized colors.  The achievement of his through these two triptychs alone were monumental.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 60: My Favorite Paintings at Antwerpen Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts)
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 58: My Favorite Sculpture and Painting at Church of Our Lady, Bruges

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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