Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens
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The Church Triumphant
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Peter Paul Rubens
The Virgin as the Woman of the Apocalypse, ca. 1623-24
Oil on panel, 63.5 x 49.2 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, acc. no. 85.PB.146


Catalog Entry by Peter C. Sutton

The subject is derived from the Book of Revelation 12:1-10. At the center appears the "woman" of the Apocalypse, an allusion to the Virgin, who is "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet," protectively holding up the infant Christ Child. (The link between the Woman of the Apocalypse and the Virgin was made at least as early as the thirteenth century by Bonaventura.) She wears a white dress, blue mantle, and ocher shawl. On the orb of the moon on which she stands she crushes a serpent with her right foot, a reference to Genesis 3:15. To the left the archangel Michael, in red with armor and wielding a lightning bolt, and two angels, one with a lance, subdue a hydra-headed, reddish dragon (the "great red dragon, having seven heads") and other demons that tumble into a fiery abyss below (Rev. 12:7-9: "And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. . . . And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him"). At the right are two other angels, and above, God the Father commands another angel to attach wings to the Virgin's shoulders (Rev. 12:14: "And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness"). Prominent at the upper left are stars (Rev. 12:4: "and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to earth")...


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