The truce of Antwerp, signed in April 1609, puts an end to warfare for twelve years but religious tensions remain. The St. Walburga's church in Antwerp commissions to Rubens for its altar a monumental triptych on the theme of the elevation of the cross, conducive to distinguish the Catholic dogma from the Protestant.
This triptych prepared in 1610 is a masterpiece of baroque art. The soldiers who raise the cross are facing a superhuman weight that proves the real presence of Christ. The diagonal composition of the central panel and the dazzling chiaroscuro are inspired by Caravaggio's style. The almost nude or armored soldiers who handle the cross are strong men for whom Rubens remembers the Laocoon and Hercules Farnese, of which he had made drawings in Rome.
The painting is positioned in height above 19 steps. He finishes in 1611 in situ this work, 4.60 x 6.40 m overall in open position, which will be later transferred to the cathedral of Antwerp.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells a large drawing 49 x 32 cm made in preparation to the Elevation of the Cross, lot 15 estimated $ 2.5M. Both right corners were cut for an undetermined reason, perhaps by the artist himself.
This drawing shows a soldier raising his arm to push the cross. He is naked while he will have an armor in the painting. In accordance with the practice of the Italian Renaissance, the study of the nude makes it possible to avoid anatomical errors in the painting of attitudes.
It was prepared by the artist to compare in a single drawing two possible positions of the left leg, more or less bent. The closer position is more convincing to express the effort. Rubens draws a stronger line on this version that he will use in the final work.
SOLD for $ 8.2M including premium