RUBENS, Peter Paul
(b. 1577, Siegen, d. 1640, Antwerpen)

The Resurrection of Christ

Oil on panel, 138 x 98 cm (centre panel), 136 x 40 cm (wings)
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp

Rubens painted this triptych, called Moretus triptych, in 1611-12, shortly after completing the Raising of the Cross, and at more or less the same time as the centre panel of the Descent from the Cross. Martina Plantin, widow of the printer Jan Moretus of the Plantin Press, placed the commission.

Christ strides powerfully from his open, rocky tomb rather than the customary sarcophagus. The supernatural radiance of his body contrasts with the darkness that shrouds the astounded soldiers. The panel on the left shows John the baptist, Jan Moretus' patron saint, in his camel-hair tunic by the River Jordan. The sword at his feet is an allusion to his beheading. St Martina, patron saint of Moretus' widow, holds the palm branch that symbolises the martyr. According to her legend, the temple of Apollo collapsed when she made the sign of the cross - an incident recalled by the setting behind.