The Entombment, c. 1612-1614
Peter Paul Rubens (after Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio)
oil on oak
88.3 x 66.5 cm; 103.5 x 80 x 9.7 cm (framed)
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6431)
Caravaggio's monumental altarpiece, "The Entombment" was among his most celebrated works. Rubens knew it well, having painted another altarpiece in the same Roman church. He paid homage to it years later, after his return to Antwerp. Rubens subtly transformed his model, assimilating Caravaggio's work to his own artistic vision. He tamed the figures' grief and reconsidered their relationship, yet he preserved the heart of Caravaggio's invention - the almost physical presence of Christ's inert and vulnerable body. We sense its weight and feel the struggle to lower it gently into the tomb. Although a finished work, the artist executed it with a freedom closer to a sketch, and his fluid handling of paint is extraordinarily accomplished.