Rubens’ Catholic Canvas

The Dish


Robert Kiely praises Willibald Sauerländer’s The Catholic Rubens: Saints and Martyrs for reminding us that the painter’s “baroque passions” should not become “an excuse for ignoring his expression of religious and ethical sentiments and ideals”:

Many of his paintings are of religious subjects. Yet they are so bright and cheerful, so crowded with buxom women and muscular men caught in swirls of light and color, that his work, even his religious paintings, must be considered baroque (in the dismissive sense of the term)—decorative, theatrical, busy, pagan, and only superficially Christian. But, in the arts, as in life, simplistic classification gets in the way of actually paying attention. How refreshing it is, then, to read this scholarly, accessible, and beautifully illustrated book by the German art historian Willibald Sauerländer. …

According to Sauerländer, calling Rubens a master of “baroque passions” is not altogether wrong unless—as too often is the case—it becomes…

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