PETER PAUL RUBENS
CHRIST TRIUMPHANT OVER SIN AND DEATH
In this painting, Rubens celebrates Christ’s victory over death. He is thus dressed in solemn red, and holds the white flag with a red cross that announces his Resurrection. Angels bear the symbols of his triumph, the victor’s laurel, and signs of his martyrdom, the palm branches. The skeleton and the snake at Christ’s feet stand for death and sin. The jaws of hell are open to symbolize the downfall of sin and death, on the right-hand edge of the picture, with flames flickering out of them. Christ’s eyes are wide open and gaze directly at the viewers, thus conveying to them that the Resurrection of the Lord also means their redemption.

Christ and the angel blowing a trumpet are taken from Rubens’s so-called Great Last Judgement (1616, Alte Pinakothek, Munich). The painting probably comes from the tomb of the rich Antwerp citizen Jeremias Cock in the Church of St Walpurgis in Antwerp. It is known that Cock made purchases for this tomb in 1627, and that Rubens’s painting was associated at an early date with Cock’s entombment in the high choir of the church. The figures are designed to be seen from below, which also supports the idea that Christ Triumphant over Sin and Death was used as an epitaph placed at a great height. It is not clear whether the picture was painted for this purpose, or whether Cock selected a picture that Rubens had already completed, as a dating between 1615 and 1622 is entirely plausible on the basis of stylistic criteria.
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Peter Paul Rubens
Christ Triumphant over Sin and Death, 1615/1622
Oil on canvas
height 182 cm, width 230 cm
Inv.-No. GE270
Provenance: 1627 probably commissioned by Jeremias Cock for his tomb in the Church of St Walburga in Antwerp; 1813/14 acquired by J. F. Wolschot at the Vink de Wesel auction in Antwerp; 1831/32 probably came into the possession of George Watson Taylor; presumably owned by Sir William Knighton at Blindworth Lodge, Hampshire; 1897 art dealer C. Sedelmeyer in Paris; 1925 Sarens auction in Brussels; from 1956 in the collection of J. Declercq in Antwerp; 2002 acquired by Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein.
Further works on display
Portrait of Jan Vermoelen, 1616
Double Portrait of Albert and Nikolaus Rubens, c. 1626/1627
Decius Mus relating his dream, 1616/1617
The Interpretation of the Victim, 1616/1617
Decius Mus preparing for Death, 1616/1617
The Dismissal of the Lictors, 1616/1617
The Death of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Trophy, 1616/1617
The Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1637
The Lamentation, c. 1612
The Discovery of the Infant Erichthonius, c. 1616
Oil sketch of Mars and Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
Venus in Front of the Mirror, 1614/1615
Mars und Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
Satyr and Maid with Fruit Basket, 1615
Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens, c. 1616
Henry IV seizes the Opportunity to conclude Piece, 1628
The Victory of Henry IV at Coutras, 1628
The Consecration of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus
Three Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Joachim, 1615/1620
St. Catherine in the Clouds, 1620/1621
Four Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Anne, 1615/1620
Apollo in the Chariot of the Sun, 1621/1625
The Conversion of St. Paul, 1601/1602
Perseus and Andromeda
The Virgin adorned with flowers, 1609/1610
Psyche taken up into Olympus, 1621
Landscape with Milkmaids and Cows, 1616
Allegory of war, 1628
The Hunt of Meleager and Atalanta, 1628 (?)
The Assumption of the Virgin, modello, 1637
Ganymede, 1611/1612
Diana´s Hunt, 1628
St. Francis of Assisi before the Crucified Christ, 1625
Portrait of a Monk (?)
Adoration of the Magi, 1609/1610
The Visitation, 1611/1612
Portrait of Nicolaas Rockox, 1615
Samson and Delilah, c. 1610
Related themes
Rubens in Wien
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