Curated by Alejandro Vergara, Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist is an exhibition featuring the six panels from this series in the Museum’s collection following their recent restoration. The Eucharist series was one of the most important commissions received by Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640), in which the panels on The Triumph of the Church and The Victory of Truth over Heresy are particularly notable.
Due to its placement on the Scheldt River, Antwerp was an invaluable gateway to Flanders; the southern, Catholic region of the Netherlands (present-day Belgium) that had remained loyal to the Spanish Hapsburg Crown. Through the last decades of the 16th century, the city was plagued by civil war, religious turmoil, foreign rule, and economic stagnation. Antwerp slowly began to recover when Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633) and her husband Albert (1559-1621) were appointed archduchess and archduke of the Southern Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th century. The archducal couple initiated, in the interests of the Spanish Crown, a Catholic renewal on a massive scale and Antwerp again became the most dynamic art center in northern Europe. Hundreds of artists, including Rubens who was appointed court painter, produced works that were prized across the continent. Additionally, the city exported a great variety of luxury goods: silk, carpets, furniture, musical instruments, glass, and cut diamonds. This vast outpouring of artistic production brought Antwerp new wealth and prestige. Baroque art had its origins in the Catholic church, which exercised religious propaganda through overt displays of artistic virtuosity. Upon his return from Italy in 1608, Peter Paul Rubens, a devout Catholic, introduced Baroque art to the Southern Netherlands in a blend of Flemish realism and Italian Grand Manner that radically altered traditional composition. Rubens had an encyclopedic knowledge of religious symbolism and classical mythology. After studying masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance and then-recently unearthed sculptures of classical antiquity, Rubens asserted that corporeal depiction should most closely resemble human anatomy. Thus, he developed his signature portrayal of painting fleshy, robust nudes. His greatest innovation, however, was the expression of vitality achieved by introducing a dynamic line through his compositional groupings, resulting in figures that appear to move and twist.
The exhibition Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist also includes four of the tapestries woven from these designs, which belong to Patrimonio Nacional. The exhibition enables visitors to appreciate the complex and painstaking process behind the restoration of this unique group of works, initiated in 2011 with the support of Fundación Iberdrola.
Museo Nacional del Prado Website