Peter Paul Rubens


These dynamic studies for a depiction of Christ’s Descent from the Cross represent Rubens’s initial ideas for a composition that he later realized in two painted versions. He started in the lower left center with the head of the dead Christ; he then turned the sheet 180 degrees and executed the figure group on the top half. Finally, he made a small-scale study at lower right. In the web of virtuoso, spirited pen lines, the most striking feature is Christ’s lifeless body at the top, his head fallen to one side and his limbs convincingly limp.

Peter Paul Rubens
Flemish; 1577–1640
Descent from the Cross, ca. 1617–18
Pen and brown ink and wash over black chalk