Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
The Miracles of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Altarpiece
c. 1617/18
acquired for the Imperial Picture Gallery in Vienna in 1776.
© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

This altarpiece alternated with The Miracles of St. Francis Xavier as the main altarpiece in the Jesuit church at Antwerp, which was built between 1615 and 1621. Rubens was in charge of the whole decorative scheme of the church. Here Rubens has combined different scenes from the life of the founder of the Society of Jesus set in a large church interior. Some of the scenes refer to actual happenings in the saint's life, some are part of the repertoire of everyone "who strives for sanctity".
Unlike the spontaneous composition discernible in the preparatory modello, the carefully thought-out composition of the finished painting - mainly executed by Rubens´ workshop - increases both the individuality of the figures and the expressiveness of the whole work. Huddled groups of figures and overlappings have been eliminated in order to heighten the work´s didactic-propagandistic character, its message to believers and worshippers.

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