In 1620 Rubens was commissioned to paint a series of ceiling panels for the new Jesuit church in Antwerp. Most of these were destroyed in a fire in 1718. The original designs were retained by Rubens, and this is one of them.
St. Barbara, an early Christian martyr, was locked up in a tower by her father, Dioscuros, to discourage suitors. When she tried to escape, her father killed her and was himself struck by lightning.