The Virgin and Child with Sts. Elizabeth and John the Baptist

Peter Paul Rubens1632/1634

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Rubens painted this devotional image when he was at the peak of his artistic, diplomatic and domestic career: elected chief of Antwerp’s painters, recently knighted by Britain’s Charles I and Spain’s Philip IV and happily remarried. Rubens originally included a figure of St Joseph, hunched next to the column behind Christ’s head, but painted it out in order to focus attention on the Virgin’s head. Antwerp was renowned for its cult of Mary and Rubens was a particularly devout follower. The change heightened the painting’s message of human and divine love conveyed through a continuous movement of gestures and glances between the Virgin, St Elizabeth and their respective sons. St John’s lamb, a symbol of Christ’s future sacrifice, looks out at us and encourages our thought and contemplation of the image and its message.

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  • Title: The Virgin and Child with Sts. Elizabeth and John the Baptist
  • Creator: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Date Created: 1632/1634
  • tag / style: Religious; Baroque; Peter Paul Rubens; Virgin; child; St Elizabeth; Mary; sheep; interior; robes; lamb; column; divine love; John the Baptist
  • Physical Dimensions: w1395 x h1800 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish painter who throughout his life engaged in a number of activities; he was a collector of art, a classical scholar and a diplomat. In 1629 Rubens arrived in London as the special envoy from the Spanish court to assist in the settlement of peace between England and Spain. Many of the paintings Rubens painted during his stay in London are in the National Gallery. The most well known work by Rubens in London is the decoration of the ceiling of the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall. The assignment of such a large-scale commission to Rubens by King Charles I is proof of the artist's high status and reputation amongst English patrons. Rubens was a painter of historical and mythological themes but he also completed several portraits and landscapes. Peter and his brother Paul, a student of classical literature and philosophy, spent several years in Italy studying classical and Renaissance art as well as Roman poetry and history.
  • Additional artwork information: To learn more about the Walker Art Gallery’s 17th-century European art please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/room-guide/room-three.aspx
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Purchased with the assistance of a Treasury Grant, the Art Fund and other benefactors in 1960


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