Descent from the Cross - Peter Paul Rubens, 1612. 420.5x320 cm
The “Descent from the Cross” triptych was created by the great Flemish Peter Paul Rubens for the cathedral of his hometown of Antwerp, at a time when, starting in 1610, he wrote, for the most part, on religious topics. The triptych “Exaltation of the Cross” and many others also belong to the same period. With this truly significant work, Rubens claims to be a completely original artist, but still under some influence of the great Italian masters and teachers - Caravaggio and Jacopo Tintoretto.
The picture catches the eye from the first instant - the figure of Christ, who fell on the shoulder with his head, the displacement of the body and as if stopped for a brief moment, before falling into the hands of the Apostle John. According to the author’s plan, the mortified body of the Son of God - lead gray, like a marble statue, on the bright white background of the burial shroud, "flows" into the bright red, life-affirming clothes of his beloved student - John.
The old man standing on the stairs and already losing his balance, as if soaring upwards, has already released the body from his hands, and the second elder, Joseph of Arimathea, still holds the Savior under the arm.
Kneeling Mary Magdalene is ready to accept the feet of Jesus, the very feet of the Master, whom she had just recently wiped with her hair and smeared with incense.
With the white face like a shroud, the Mother of God stands, holding out her hand to the Son to receive him. Her suffering is understandable and close to everyone who loves Christ.
For all the realistic “gravity” of what is happening, there is no ostentatious “drama” in the picture, no theater cries, gestures, not even tears. Experienced by Caravaggio, with his emphasized sharp contrast of light and shadow, Rubens in his work is still freed from "imitation of the Italians" and writes a palette of light gray, pinkish-green and amber colors in female figures, and more traditional red and ocher in men.
The composition of the central part of the triptych is built diagonally: from the right - to the left and from above - down. The dark background of the outgoing day contrasts with the bright, white-red spot of the central figures - Christ, the Apostle John, the head and hands of Mary Magdalene. The environment around Jesus Christ forms a harmonious, interconnected, solemn action. At the bottom of the picture, in the foreground in the right corner, as symbols of the suffering of Christ are depicted: a page from the Scripture, washed nails and a crown of thorns in a basin of water.
Before us is the most magnificent of religious works created by Rubens, glorifying him as a singer of true Christian values.