Sacred Architecture: Rubens's Eucharist Tapestries Author(s): Charles Scribner III Source: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 57, No.

4 (Dec., 1975), pp. 519-528 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 22/04/2014 00:05
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Charles III Scribner,

decorative Among his commissions for monumental programs, Rubens designed four cycles of tapestries: two historical (the Decius Mus and Constantine series), one religious (the Triumphof the Eucharist), and one mythological (the Life of Achilles). The third in this chronological sequence, the Eucharist Cycle (1625-27), represents not only Rubens's largest tapestry commission but also his largest surviving and most complex program of church decoration.1 Despite its importance, however, this cycle has continued to pose several unresolved problems: questions of precise dating, the number of tapestries involved, their order, and most crucial of all - their intended location and manner of hanging within the Convent of the Descalzas Reales, Madrid, for which Rubens's patroness, the Infanta Isabella, Governess of the Spanish Netherlands, had commissioned them.2 The Infanta had spent eight months with these Poor Clares during her youth and after her husband's death wore their habit for the rest of her life.3 The tapestries have remained in the convent to this day and a few years ago were placed on permanent exhibit, but with no apparent sense of a coordinated program; at present they hang merely as individual pieces throughout a gallery (a converted dormitory) that is not quite high enough to receive their colossal dimensions. Nevertheless, the display at least raises the important question: where and how were the tapestries originally designed to be hung ?
* I am deeply grateful to Professor John Rupert Martin, who first interested me in Rubens, encouraged a study of these tapestries, and advised my senior thesis (Princeton University, I973), in which this article originated. It was presented at his session on Rubens for the Annual Meeting of the College Art Association, Washington, D.C., in January, 1975. In addition to his generous support and guidance, Professor Martin read the manuscript and offered innumerable improvements. I am also indebted to Professors Irving Lavin and Julius Held for their helpful questions and observations. Finally, I wish to thank my father, Charles Scribner, Jr., who has for so long served as my invisible, though expert, editor. 1 The thirty-nine ceiling paintings for the Jesuit Church in Antwerp were destroyed by fire in the I8th century. For a complete study of Rubens's first cycle of ecclesiastical decoration, see J. R. Martin, The in Antwerp(Corpus Rubenianum CeilingPaintings for theJesuit Church Ludwig Burchard, I), London-New York, 1968. 2 The most important studies of this cycle are the following: E. Tormo, En las Descalzas Reales de Madrid: Los tapices: La apoteosis eucaristicade Rubens,Madrid, 1945; V. H. Elbern, "Die Rubensteppiche des kolner Domes, ihre Geschichte und ihre Stellung im Zyklus Triumph der Eucharistie," Kolner Domblatt, x, 1955, 43f., with supplementary articles in KolnerDomblatt,xIv/xv, 1958, and 12If., xxi/xxn, 1963, 77f.; and, most recently, J. S. Held, "Rubens's Triumph of the Eucharist and the Modello in Louisville," J. B. SpeedArt MuseumBulletin, xxvi, 1968, 2f. For further bibliography, see Elbern and Held. 3As she appears, for example, in the Norton Simon portrait and in the engraving by Paulus Pontius: see D. Steadman, ed., Selections from the NortonSimon,Inc., Museumof Art, Princeton, 1972, 35-39, and pl. 6. In the tapestry of Eucharistic Saints (the cartoon of which is in the John and Mable Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida) Rubens included her portrait as St. Clare herself. The Infanta's full name was Isabella Clara Eugenia.

Rubens's commission has traditionally been understood to consist of two distinct parts,4 the main one comprising a series of eleven large narrative tapestries, each conceived as containing a feigned tapestry hanging within an architectural setting - in other words, a tapestry within a tapestry (Fig. I).5 This group, uniform in height but differing in widths (Figs. 2, 3), illustrates a Eucharistic epic in four Old Testament prefigurations, two allegorical victories of the Sacrament over paganism and heresy, two groups of figures announcing and defending the Eucharist, and finally three magnificent triumphal processions.6 In addition to this narrative series there is a second group of five much narrower tapestries, which together form a single composition: the Eucharist adored by angels and earthly rulers of Church and State. This related but seemingly independent group was to surround the high altar of the convent chapel during two major Eucharistic processions held on Corpus Christi and Good Friday.7 A clear picture of how this group of tapestries was designed to be hung is offered by Rubens's own preparatory oil sketch in Chicago (Fig. 4).8 The architectural framings are combined to create the illusion of a two-storied loggia through which one witnesses the Eucharistic Apotheosis the scenes are not on feigned tapestries, as in the preceding narrative series, but now fill a unified spatial realm in which Heaven and Earth meet.
and 78. 5 This double illusion - a tapestry within a tapestry - appears to have been Rubens's own invention. The notion of illusionistic tapestries per se, however, has several antecedents. Beginning with Raphael's Sala di Costantino (Vatican), frescoed by Giulio Romano, it became a favorite Roman Mannerist device for monumental wall paintings: see U. Reinhardt, "La tapisserie feinte: un genre de d6coration du manidrisme romain au XVIe sidcle," Gazette des beaux-arts,LXXXIv, 1974, 285f. A late example of the motif appears in Baldassare Croce's nave frescoes for S. Susanna in Rome (begun in 1598), which combine feigned tapestries with illusionistic columns and may thus represent an important anticipation of Rubens's device. See below note 34. 6 For a good iconographic summary of the cycle, see V. Elbern,
"Rubensteppiche," Kolner Domblatt, x, 1955, 54f.

4E. Tormo, Apoteosis,19-24

21-23 and 52-547 E. Tormo, Apoteosis, 8 The sketch was first identified by Julius Held: see J. A. Goris and J. S. Held, Rubensin America,New York, 1947, 34 (Cat. No. 57); also, J. S. Held, "Louisville Modello," 12: I cannot agree with Held's identification of the central dark area as an "actual tabernacle" (ibid., 12), for Rubens has clearly indicated a grill, the dimensions of which are sufficiently large (roughly 3 x 3-5m) to preclude any such possibility. Moreover, there appears behind the bars a faint image of a seated or kneeling woman between curtains. The grill itself resembles the traditional kind that separates the cloistered nuns from the congregation. No such grill, however, is found today behind the chapel's high altar (or any other altar, for that matter). The question of its precise identification - as either an actual or an illusionistic architectural element - remains open and must await a detailed reconstruction of the chapel as it appeared in Rubens's time. The present chapel is the product of extensive remodelling during the intervening centuries: see E. Tormo, En las Descalzas Reales, Iv, Madrid, 1947, 27f.

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Unfortunately, no such plan exists for the larger group of tapestries, and consequently their location and manner of hanging have remained the subject of conjecture and considerable disagreement among scholars. According to one theory, they were meant to be hung side by side along the four walls of the cloister that adjoins the chapel, so that during their Eucharistic processions the nuns would simply pass from one scene to the next, and would thus see at their side Rubens's procession as an allegorical backdrop to their own (Figs. 2, 3).9 Alternatively, it has been proposed, on iconographic grounds, that the tapestries were originally located within the chapel, but how they were to be arranged there was left unresolved.10 Indeed, whenever it has been raised, that question has always been considered in terms of the tapestries' order:that is, their arrangement within what is assumed (at least implicitly) to be a linear sequence.11 Ordinarily such an assumption would appear perfectly reasonable. But with these tapestries any attempt to find a visually satisfying linear progression is inevitably frustrated by Rubens's unique framing devices - or, more precisely, by the lack of any conventional frames. For instead of framing the feigned tapestries with a uniform series of columns, entablatures, and bases, Rubens alternated between two distinct orders: Doric and Composite, the latter with Solomonic columns. The difficulty with the various linear arrangements that have been proposed is that they all leave the impression of a certain arbitrariness on Rubens's part - or, more strongly stated, the impression of architectural nonsense: an inconsistent colonnade of interchanging architectural orders (Figs. 2, 3). One can hardly imagine Rubens approving of such a structure.12 If, however, we view the tapestries not as so many individual wall hangings, but as parts of a conceptual whole, certain constants throughout the cycle come into sharper focus. The eleven narrative pieces incorporate precisely the same architectural elements as in the altar group (Figs. 2, 3, 4): not only are they divided between the same orders, but their heights also are identical.13 In short, these architectural consistencies themselves suggest a key to the cycle's overall plan; and since a specific structure has already been established for the altar group by the Chicago sketch, one may reasonably begin with the hypothesis that the same structure (comprising Solomonic over Doric columns) was intended for the larger group as well.
9 See E. Tormo, Apoteosis, 70 and 78. In order to cover entirely the walls of the cloister, Tormo even suggested (ibid., 78), with no attempt to explain his inconsistency, that the previously designated "altar tapestries" were also to hang there, on one level. The idea of the tapestries forming a linear backdrop for the nuns' processions was retained by J. S. Held, "Louisville Modello," 8. 10 V. H. Elbern, "Rubensteppiche," 6o-6i. Elbern, in fact, considered in passing (ibid., 61) the possibility of a classical ordering on two levels (as in the altar group), but tentatively rejected it. To his credit, however, he did suggest that a study of the columns might lead to some conclusions about the tapestries' order in their original location. 11 For a brief comparison of the various sequences proposed by different scholars, see J. S. Held, "Louisville Modello," 6. More recently, still another sequence has been proposed by J. Muiller Hofstede, "Neue Olskizzen von Rubens," Stidel- Jahrbuch, 11, 1969, 235, n. 61. 12 Needless to say, E. Tormo's suggestion (Apoteosis, 67) that Rubens followed no rule in designing his architectural settings but simply acted


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i Tapestry after Rubens, EliJahandtheAngel.Madrid, Museo de las Descalzas Reales (photo: Mas)

An inspection of those eleven panels immediately confirms this hypothesis. There - as in the altar group Rubens employed a consistent principle of alternating perspectives. Every tapestry with twisted columns is viewed from below, whereas those with Doric columns are approached at eye level. Furthermore, this principle was applied not only to the illusionistic architecture but also to the compositions within the feigned tapestries: compare, for instance, the two triumphal processions of Ecclesia and Caritas (Figs. 2, 3).14 In adjusting the obviously two-dimensional compositions to the viewer's own perspective, Rubens thus created a subtle ambiguity between what is meant to be real and what is merely depicted.15 The boundary between actual and fictive space is blurred. At the same time, the all-governing perspective emphasizes a classically "correct" progression upwards from the simpler to the more elaborate order, and the tapestries must be hung accordingly. But this is not all. For a comparison of the same archion capricho (caprice) is totally unacceptable. It is significant, moreover, that in a later reweaving of the tapestries (the eight panels in the Cologne Cathedral) several of them were altered so that the series was uniformly framed with Solomonic columns: see illustrations in V. H. Elbern, This set, to be sure, was meant to be hung on one "Rubensteppiche." level in a linear arrangement: see ibid., figs. 21-22.
13 Approximately 4.9m. See illustrations in E. Tormo, Apoteosis, for calculations of the various dimensions. 14 Rubens's application of the alternating perspective to the internal compositions as well as to the architectural settings is perhaps most vividly illustrated by the two successive modelli for the Abraham and Melchisedech tapestry (Figs. io, I I). 15 Obviously, the figures depicted on the feigned tapestries need not have conformed to a rational perspective governing the "real" architecture within which they hang. As Rubens describes them, however, one feels that the figures could step out of their tapestries and into the viewer's own

space quite freely.

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5 Author's reconstruction. Above: Rubens, Four Evangelists, cartoon, Sarasota, Ringling Museum of Art (photo: Museum); below: Rubens, Eucharistic Saints, cartoon, Sarasota, Ringling Museum (photo: Museum)

6 Author's reconstruction. Above: Rubens, Victoryof the Euch modello, Madrid, Prado (photo: Mas); below: Rubens, Sacri modello, Massachusetts, private collection (photo: Fogg Art M

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7 Author's reconstruction. Above: Rubens, Victoryof Eucharistic Truth Over Heresy, modello,Madrid, Prado (photo: Mas); below: Rubens, TriumphofFaith, modello, Brussels, Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts (photo: ACL)

8 Author's reconstruction. Above: Rubens, Victoryof Eu bozzetto, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum (photo: Mus TriumphofFaith, bozzetto, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Muse

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tectural elements reveals not only the simple vertical shifts of viewpoint according to whether the order is Doric or Composite, but also several horizontal shifts: that is to say, the tapestries were clearly to be seen from varying positions to the left and right (Figs. 5, 6, 7, 1i). Similar distinctions arise, too, in their apparent sources of light. Add to these the many variations in horizontal dimensions, and the evidence can suggest only that each tapestry was designed for a specific location within the chapel.16 There are also certain criteria (dimensions, angle of view, lighting) for identifying possible tapestry pairings, one directly above another, which are once again consistent with the example provided by the Chicago sketch. Thus, the four evangelists take their place above the Eucharistic Saints (Fig. 5); the Victoryof the Eucharist over Pagan Sacrificeswas located above the Sacrifices of the Old Covenant (Fig. 6); and the Victoryof Eucharistic Truth OverHeresywas to be paralleled below by the TriumphofFaith (Fig. 7). Each pair, it might be noted, is unified not only with respect to lighting, angle of view, and dimensions, but also in pairing the and iconographically: compositionally evangelists and saints - the heralds and defenders of the Eucharist - the two compositions were related in the grouping of the figures and, specifically, in the contrapuntal gestures of St. Thomas and St. Matthew's angel directly above. Similarly, the second pair of scenes is defined by the common theme of sacrifice (pagan and Jewish), and the Ark of God's Presence, carried in at the top right, is deliberately paralleled above by the angelic herald of the Eucharist, while the two temple structures are aligned. And finally, in the militant pairing of the two triumphant heroines (Veritas and Fides) the complementary episodes are linked compositionally by a parallel, forward, and highly energetic movement of figures and, in particular, by the allegorical repetitious gestures of the centrally-placed females: as Faith raises her chalice, Truth (above) points to the flying inscription: HOC EST CORPUS MEUM. Not all the tapestries, however, fall into such convenient pairs since architectural features of the chapel itself undoubtedly had to be taken into account by Rubens, such as doorways, windows, and perhaps even side altars.17 Nevertheless, the distinguishing features of viewpoint and direction of light were clearly intended to effect a consistent architectural and visual unity comparable to the iconographic structure of the cycle. Indeed, the two are profoundly related, for - as we shall see presently - the archi16 Raphael took similar factors into consideration when designing his series of tapestries for the Sistine Chapel: see J. White and J. Shearman, "Raphael's Tapestries and their Cartoons," Art Bulletin, XL, 1958, 193f. 17 Professor Julius Held has pointed out to me some important questions concerning the tapestries' arrangement within their original setting, for which I am especially grateful and wish to express my thanks. These questions must await a detailed reconstruction of the tapestries as they hung within the original chapel. 18 These sketches are frequently referred to as grisailles, but the term does not do justice to Rubens's deliberate (if economical) indication of color. Seven of these preliminary sketches (bozzetti) are in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; two, in the Musde Bonnat, Bayonne; one, in the Art Institute, Chicago; and one related sketch, the "Triumph of Hope" (see below, note 25), is on the art market. 19J. S. Held, "Louisville Modello," 15.

tecture itself was an essential element in the total iconographic concetto. A survey of Rubens's preparatory sketches for this cycle indicates that as early as the first stage - the series of bozzetti18 - he took into account each tapestry's eventual location (Fig. 8). This fact, taken together with the proposed reconstruction, in turn suggests an explanation for the one glaring exception to Rubens's normal procedure in designing each tapestry for the cycle. The Abraham and Melchisedech tapestry presents a unique case in which Rubens changed his original conception and ended up by painting two different and finished modelli (Figs. Io, I1), of which the version in the Washington National Gallery served as the final model for the cartoon. Fortunately, every preparatory stage survives so that the tapestry's unusual evolution can be traced from beginning to end. In the bozzetto (Fig. 9) a square field is shown framed by twisted columns with only the simplest reference to the idea of a feigned tapestry: in fact, it has been suggested19 that the idea came to Rubens while painting this very sketch, the first of the series. Both Abraham and Melchisedech stand on level ground as the Priest-King hands the Patriarch bread and wine, the first of the four Old Testament prefigurations of the Eucharist. In the next stage, the Prado modello (Fig. Io)20 - that is, a finished oil sketch that the studio assistants would copy and enlarge into the full-size cartoon - the composition remains approximately square, still flanked by twisted columns, though now it has been considerably elaborated with added figures, details, and the introduction of steps, a device that recalls Rubens's earlier version of the subject, his modello (Paris, Louvre)21 for the Jesuit ceiling painting. In both cases the steps emphasize a hieratic distinction between the representatives of religious and secular authority, the explicit preeminence of Church over State.22 One would expect the cartoon (Sarasota, Ringling Museum; Fig. I2)23 to reproduced faithfully this modello. But, instead, Rubens proceeded to paint a second version, the Washington panel (Fig. ii), in which the same composition was somewhat widened with added figures so as to make a rectangular format, while the framing columns were changed from Solomonic to Doric. Such changes alone, however, would hardly have necessitated an entirely new modello: they could easily have been made at the cartoon stage or at least through an intermediate drawing. Consequently, it has even been proposed that the
20o This

panel is described (and illustrated) in its original state; that is, without the later additions of four strips of wood, which bear no relation to Rubens's design but were simply the result of a subsequent desire to make a uniform set of the Prado modelli: see L. van Puyvelde, Les esquisses de Rubens, Bale, 1940, 33. 21 SeeJ. R. Martin, Jesuit Ceiling, 76-79 and fig. 43.

22 A similar, even more explicit, use of steps as a hieratic device was anticipated in Rubens's painting of The Emperor Theodosius Before St. Ambrose (1618-19; Vienna, Staatsmuseum), illustrated in R. Oldenbourg, P. P. Rubens, Des Meisters Gemiilde (Klassiker der Kunst, v), 4th ed., Stuttgart-Berlin, 1921, 191. 23 The two top corners were cut off and later restored, but incorrectly: cf. Fig. I I, especially with regard to treatment of entablature and putto's head (upper left).

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Prado version was not a preparatory sketch after all, but rather a later reworking of the subject after the tapestry had been executed.24 But, in fact, Rubens altered something far more crucial than details. The change of columns was accompanied by a noticeable shift in the entire perspective. Here the steps offer the most telling evidence of that very fundamental change. Whereas before the steps and figures were viewed from far below, now one sees them almost straight on (Figs. 10, I I). At some point between these two modelli, then, Rubens decided to move the tapestry to a different location, which, in turn, required a complete reworking of its perspective and architectural design. That decision may, furthermore, be directly linked to a small oil sketch known as the Triumphof Hope (Fig. I3), a preliminary design for an intended but unexecuted tapestry for this cycle.25 In all respects save subject matter this bozzetto is much closer to the Washington modellothan is the preliminary Fitzwilliam bozzetto (Figs. 9, II, 13). Since the modelli, unlike the bozzetti, 26 reverse the intended image, it is necessary, in turn, to visualize our modello in reverse (Fig. 15) so that both sketches (Figs. 13, 15) may now be compared in the same sense, that of the final tapestry. Not only do the two share the same relative dimensions, direction of lighting (from upper right), and angle of view (at eye level, from the right), but also the unique characteristic of only one exposed column on the left balanced by a pair on the right, covered by the feigned tapestry. Even the manner of draping that tapestry remains constant. These unique correspondences between the unfulfilled Triumph of Hope and the Washington modello suggest a very simple explanation for the problem of the two modelli: after Rubens decided to drop the Triumph of Hope from the cycle,27 he quite literally dropped Abraham and Melchisedech from the upper level to fill its place. The fact that the bozzetto's relative dimensions, architectural features, perspective, and light source were all retained in toto (of course, reversed) indicates how carefully each tapestry was planned to cover a designated space. Finally, the proposed relocation and principle of reconstruction for the Eucharist tapestries not only throw new light on individual oil sketches but also on the cycle as a whole. Instead of seeing it as a divided commission - an altar group plus a second processional series - it may now be
24 V. H. Elbern,

understood and appreciated as a unified, carefully orchestrated program of church decoration in which the allegorical history of the Sacrament is both architecturally and conceptually integrated with its final Apotheosis over the high altar (Fig. 4). But Rubens's innovative combination of illusionistic architecture and feigned tapestries was not conceived simply as a means of providing sumptuous and festive decoration for the convent chapel. Its purpose was no less than to create within that chapel an entirely new edifice with a specific meaning of its own. In discussing the series of large narrative tapestries, Victor Elbern proposed that in designing eleven such hangings Rubens intended a reference to the eleven curtains of the Jewish Tabernacle, as prescribed in the Book of Exodus:28 "Thou shalt make also eleven curtains of goats' hair, to cover the top of the tabernacle" (Exod. 26:7). That is to say, Rubens's tapestries specifically recalled the curtains that surrounded the Holy of Holies, the actual dwelling place of God in the Temple. Such a typological concetto would, of course, be wholly consistent with the cycle's iconographic program. In fact, Rubens's choice of an unusual (perhaps unprecedented) Old Testament prefiguration (Fig. 6, bottom),29 showing the Ark of the Covenant carried in triumphal procession to the Temple of Jerusalem while sacrifices are offered by the High Priest, implies a very specific correlation between that Temple and its successor, the Church: thus the Ark prefigures the Sacrament carried in a monstrance (Fig. 2), the sacrifices prefigure the Mass, and the procession finds an appropriate counterpart both in Rubens's allegorical triumphs and in the nuns' own Eucharistic processions. The symbolic importance that Elbern attached to Rubens's eleven tapestries might, at first, seem to be precluded if we imagine all the cycle's tapestries hung together in the chapel, in which case there would be a total of sixteen, not eleven, separate pieces. If, however, we count only what Rubens describedas tapestries, we find in fact exactly eleven fictive hangings, which can now be understood as more than just an illusionistic tour deforce.30 But if these feigned tapestries symbolize the curtains of the Holy of Holies, how then is one to interpret their architectural setting ? The key is provided by the Solomonic columns, so called because their antique prototypes were believed to have been brought from the Temple of Solomon in
error: in his modello (Munich, Alte Pinakothek) for the Majority of Louis XIII for the Medici Cycle, two of the rowing Virtues were originally painted in the wrong direction, as X-rays have revealed: this point was brought to my attention by Julius Held in a lecture delivered at Princeton University on 13 November 197328 V. H. Elbern, "Rubensteppiche," 58. 29 For an iconographic treatment of this subject, in the context of Old Testament prefigurations of the Eucharist, see V. H. Elbern, "Addenda zum Zyklus 'Triumph der Eucharistie' von P. P. Rubens," Koiilner Domblatt, xxi/xxn, 1963, 77f. I am grateful to the owner for his kind permission to study and to reproduce his modello. 30J. Miiller Hofstede, "Olskizzen," 204-05. Muiller Hofstede does not treat the question of where the large tapestries were to be hung. Their location within the chapel both confirms and further extends his astute observation: the numerical symbolism can apply only to the illusionistic tapestries, and thus it becomes clear why the altarpieces do not similarly include feigned tapestries. Their total number (eleven) was every bit as important as their illusionistic effect.

"Der eucharistische Triumph, erginzende Studien zum Zyklus des P. P. Rubens," Kolner Domblatt, xIv/xv, 1958, 135. Even less convincing is Puyvelde's explanation of the second modello as the result of the tapestry weavers' finding the framing columns of the first (Prado) version "trop lourdes": see L. van Puyvelde, "Projets de Rubens et de van Dyck pour les tapissiers" Gazette des beaux-arts, LVII, 196 1, 146. 25 For a full discussion of this composition, see J. Muller Hofstede, "Olskizzen," 202f. 26 The bozzetti were painted in the sense of the tapestries probably because they served as presentation sketches for his patroness (and her advisors) to approve and criticize. The only exception is the multiple Chicago sketch, which shows the five included tapestries already reversed (that is, their arrangement around the altar is in mirror image). See J. S. Held, "Louisville Modello," 12. 27 For reasons about which we can only speculate. To be sure, as the only marine scene, this composition appears out of place with the rest of the cycle. In any case, it is worth noting that the oarsmen (angels) face the wrong direction. Nor was this the first time that Rubens made this

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andMelchisedech, bozzetto. 9 Rubens, Abraham Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum (photo: Museum) Jerusalem to St. Peter's in Rome.31 There was also, significantly, a tradition that within the Temple such columns actually surrounded the Holy of Holies, as illustrated in a miniature by Jean Fouquet for his Antiquiteis judaiques.32 By similarly distributing the Solomonic columns around the convent chapel Rubens thus created a topographical allusion comparable to Bernini's contemporary application of the motif (including the original marble columns) in the Crossing of St. Peter's.33 Upon entering the chapel, now surrounded by both the hangings and columns of the Old Temple (Fig. I), one set foot in another realm.34 In physically covering the walls of the chapel, Rubens's tapestries the ancient, long conceptually and illusionistically recovered

andMelchisedech, first modello. Io Rubens, Abraham Madrid, Prado (photo: Mas) since destroyed Holy of Holies, here transformed into its new Christian identity wherein the Ark is replaced by God's Eucharistic Presence. Rubens was to re-employ the notion of a feigned tapestry hanging within an architectural structure a decade later in the Stage of Welcome35 for the Pompa IntroitusFerdinandi, a secular counterpart of the sacred triumphal procession. But his particular invention of a two-storied structure alluding to the Temple of Jerusalem reappeared only once, and significantly as the Stage of the Infanta36 (Fig. I4) for the same Pompa Introitus Ferdinandi. Here his now deceased patroness's own apotheosis was staged in a familiar construction, whose iconographic meaning is made clear in this instance by the inclusion of the seven-branched

31 For a discussion of the columns, see J. B. Ward Perkins, "The Shrine of St. Peter and Its Twelve Spiral Columns," Journal of RomanStudies, XLII, 1952, 21f.; T. Alfarano, De basilicae vaticanaeantiquissimaet nova structura(Studi e testi, xxvi), ed. M. Cerrati, Rome, i914, 53f.; and I. Lavin, BerniniandtheCrossing of St. Peter's,New York, 1968, I4f. 32 I. Lavin, Crossing, 22 and n. Io07.Illustrated in K. Perls, Jean Fouquet, Paris, 1940, 215 (fig. 248). 33 For a thorough discussion of Bernini's topographical concetto,see I. Lavin, Crossing, I4f. Though it is unlikely that there was any direct connection between Rubens's tapestry cycle and Bernini's program for the Crossing of St. Peter's, they both shared in common at least one important antecedent: Rubens's Altarpiece of St. Helen with the True Cross (now in Grasse) for the Chapel of St. Helen in S. Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome. The altarpiece (illustrated in K.d.K., I) represented Rubens's first important Roman commission (I6oi) and his first use of the Solomonic columns, which were to become an important motif in his vocabulary of images. Their topographical significance within that painting (as a specific reference to Jerusalem) and its relevance to Bernini's concetto are discussed by Lavin (ibid., 33-35). 34 An important precedent for Rubens's use of symbolic (Solomonic) illusionistic architecture to frame a narrative cycle of ecclesiastical decoration is found in the frescoed Oratorio del Gonfalone in Rome (I568-I584). This late Mannerist cycle illustrating the Passion was surely known to Rubens since the Oratory is only a few blocks away from the Chiesa Nuova, for which the artist painted three altarpieces during

his second stay in Rome (I6o6-o8). The Gonfalone frescoes, moreover, as Lavin has suggested (ibid., i6, n. 72), may incorporate in the columns a specific reference to the Sacrament. Especially significant is their inclusion in the background of Livio Agresti's Last Supper.The frescoes del Gonfalone, are illustrated in A. Molfino, L'Oratorio Rome, 1964A second, even more suggestive, anticipation of Rubens's decorative scheme is found in the nave frescoes by Baldassare Croce in S. Susanna, Rome (begun in 1598). Here the story of Susanna was represented on feigned tapestries hanging between Solomonic columns, complete with garlands and central cartouches, as in the EucharistTapestries. These close correspondences, the date of the frescoes (on the eve of Rubens's arrival in Rome), their location within an important, newly decorated church in Rome, and the sheer originality of their conception all suggest that these frescoes may represent an important background source for Rubens's cycle. See illustration in U. Reinhardt, "Tapisserie feinte," 293 (fig. 8). Rubens's explicit combination of hangings and architecture as an allusion to the Holy of Holies, however, appears to be without precedent in art and must be understood as his own ingenious invention. 35 Illustrated in J. R. Martin, The Decorations for the Pompa Introitus Rubenianum Ferdinandi xvi), London-New York, LudwigBurchard, (Corpus 1972, figs. 2 and 3. In fact, the three putti hanging the tapestry derive from Rubens's modello(Fig. 6) for the VictoryOverPagan Sacrifices(ibid., 43). 36 Ibid., figs. 63 ,64-

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S11 Rubens, Abrahamand Melchisedech,final modello.Washington, National Gallery (photo: Museum)




I2 Rubens, Abrahamand Melchisedech,cartoon. Sarasota, Ringling Museum (photo: Museum)

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i -iii




New York, Richard L. Feigen & Co., Inc. 13 Rubens, Triumph ofHope,bozzetto. (photo: Bruce C. Jones)

14 T. van Thulden, TheStageofIsabella,etching


15 Figure I I, reversed

candelabrum on top. This element, Gevartius explains,37 was modelled on the candelabrum taken from the Temple of Jerusalem, as depicted on the Arch of Titus. Thus Isabella's triumphal memorial appropriately recalled38

her grandest commission to Rubens and, in turn, his own most comprehensive and thoroughly Baroque expression of the Catholic faith. [Princeton University]

37 Ibid., i33. 38 Architecturally, as an allusion to the Temple; iconographically, as an apotheosis; and functionally, as part of a monumental program of

decoration for a triumphal celebration, specifically one involving a procession.

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