Peter Paul Rubens (born June 28, 1577) was one of the most charismatic and influential Flemish painters of the ‘Renaissance’ period. His bold interpretation of the mythological stories and their dramatic rendition on the canvas made him a pioneer in the ‘European’ style of painting. Peter had adopted the ‘Baroque’ style of painting, exuberating struggle and drama. He personified allegorical characters and rendered them on canvas, depicting their trauma, emotional struggle, and their sheer bravery, as is best evident in his “The Raising of the Cross” or “The Elevation of the Cross,” which depicted the last stages of Jesus Christ during his crucifixion. Paul Rubens created this painting after his return to Flanders from Italy. Created during 1610-11, “The Elevation of the Cross” is a triptych panel painting. A triptych is divided into three sections, with each one symbolizing a story.
In “The Raising of the Cross” however, Rubens highlighted only one storyline, that regarding the ‘Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.’ The middle section of “The Raising of The Cross” is much dramatic and tensed, as it shows nine executioners raising the body of the Christ. Rubens’ influence of other Italian ‘Renaissance’ painters, such as Tintoretto and Michelangelo is evident in the painting. There is a dynamic usage of colors and the executioners are shown with seminude muscular bodies. The most distinct feature of this panel painting was the way Christ was lifted in a diagonal manner, which manifests Caravaggio’s influence on Peter Paul. Caravaggio’s painting titled ‘Entombment’ was similar in nature as the high and the fall of the subject was of prime importance. The other two sections display the emotional pandemonium that occurred when Christ was crucified. One section displays the mournful Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, and the followers of Christ. The despondent environment revolving around the death of Christ is palpable in this section of Paul’s painting. The other section displays the royal monarchs in their grandiose nobility who witness the Crucifixion of Christ with much sinister pleasure. This section also portrays the Crucifixion of other two Jewish thieves. The outer sections of the triptych depict saints, such as Saints Amand, Walpurgis, Eligius, and Catherine of Alexandria.
French Rulers confiscated Peter’s 15′ x 11′ painting in 1794 and fled with it to Paris. After the fall of the great ruler Napoleon, the painting was returned to the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, where it resides until date. Rubens demonstrated his artistic brilliance with an excellent capture of drama, mournful silence, and rich nobility that revolved around the death of Christ. Through “The Raising of the Cross,” Paul Rubens definitely capitalized his knowledge of ‘Renaissance’ painting with much ingenuity and innovation. This triptych, relating the tale of the magnanimity of Jesus Christ, is considered a brilliant exemplary of the ‘European’ artistry.