Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)
Pen, brush, and brown ink on pale tan paper; reverse, black chalk and brown ink
8 3/8 x 5 5/8 in. (21.4 x 14.2 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Janos Scholz, 1952 (52.214.3)
The first great altarpiece Rubens painted after his return from Italy was The Descent from the Cross, commissioned in 1611 for the chapel of the arquebusiers in the Antwerp Cathedral. The triptych was dedicated to Saint Christopher, the guild's patron saint, and the theme was the carrying of Christ. This early study is for the inside right wing, where it is Simeon, the high priest, who carries the infant Christ. Rubens used bold pen strokes to block out and then make changes in the positions of the figures; in the final painting, which is still in the cathedral at Antwerp, Rubens changed the places of Simeon and the prophetess Anna.