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The Triptych of St. Ildefonso

Peter Paul Rubens1630/1632

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

In 1588 the brother of Emperor Rudolf II and viceroy of Portugal, Albert VII, founded the St. Ildefonso Brotherhood in Lisbon. Following the appointment of Albert and his wife Isabella (a daughter of the Spanish King Philip II) as sovereign regents of the Spanish Netherlands, he moved the headquarters of the brotherhood to Brussels in 1603. This explains why a saint seldom revered in Flanders found his way into one of the most significant altarpieces of Rubens’s late period. The infanta commissioned the work in Albert’s memory in 1630, nine years after his death. According to legend, while walking through his church one day, the Spanish monk (605–667; 657 archbishop of Toledo) was surprised by a blazing light and the vision of the Virgin Mary on a throne, accompanied by two female saints. While his companions took flight, he approached the venerated saint and was presented with a precious chasuble she had made herself. The donors appear on the wings of the altar in the company of their patron saints. Rubens had not used the form of the triptych since 1618. Why the painter and client chose this antiquated type more than a decade later remains unclear. Perhaps the depiction of the donor and her (by then deceased) husband to the right and left of the central panel was an attempt to circumvent an order issued in 1608, which – although not always obeyed – forbade the use of portraits of living people in the central altar panel. The wings, however, are so closely tied to the centre panel with regards to composition that the physical division of the three sections by the frame is of hardly any consequence: the red of the velvet draped over the two prie-dieux returns in the garment of the Virgin Mary, while the yellow-gold colour of the regents’ attire is reflected in the niche behind the throne. Conversely, the dark robes of the patron saints form a tonal unity with the habit of the male protagonist. The distinctive feature of this monumental work is that every part of it is in Rubens’s own hand. This, however, does not apply to the outer side panels (The Holy Family Beneath an Apple Tree; KHM,GG 698), which have also been preserved but are now separated from the original triptych. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

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Details

  • Title: The Triptych of St. Ildefonso
  • Creator: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Date Created: 1630/1632
  • Location Created: Antwerp, Belgium
  • Style: Flemish Baroque
  • Provenance: acquired in 1777 from Coudenberg Abbey in Antwerp
  • Place Part Of: Belgium
  • Inventory Number: GG 678
  • Artist Biography: International diplomat, savvy businessman, devout Catholic, fluent in six languages, an intellectual who counted Europe's finest scholars among his friends, Peter Paul Rubens was always first a painter. Few artists have been capable of transforming such a vast variety of influences into a style utterly new and original. After study with local Antwerp painters, Rubens began finding his style in Italy, copying works from antiquity, Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo and Titian, and contemporaries like Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio. He worked principally in Rome and Genoa, where Giulio Romano's frescoes influenced him greatly. Returning to Antwerp, Rubens became court painter to the Spanish Viceroys, eventually receiving commissions from across Europe and England. Rubens's energetic Baroque style blends his northern European sense of realism with the grandeur and monumentality he saw in Italian art. His characteristic free, expressive technique also captured joie de vivre. From his workshop, with its many assistants, came quantities of book illustrations, tapestry designs, festival decorations, and paintings on every subject, which his engravers reproduced. He maintained control of the quality, while charging patrons according to the extent of his involvement on a picture. Frans Snyders, Jacob Jordaens, and Anthony van Dyck each assisted him.Rubens's impact was immediate, international, and long lasting. The works of Thomas Gainsborough and Eugène Delacroix, among others, testify to his posthumous influence. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Wood

Additional Items

The Triptych of St. Ildefonso (Supplemental)

The Triptych of St. Ildefonso (Supplemental)

The Triptych of St. Ildefonso (Supplemental)

The Triptych of St. Ildefonso (Supplemental)

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