Rubens made this small oil sketch in preparation for a tapestry, part of a set depicting the Triumph of the Eucharist commissioned by the Hapsburg ruler Isabella Archduchess of Brussels to hang in the convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid. Here, the artist presents Charity as a maternal figure surrounded by children and nursing the wide-eyed, healthy baby in her arms. The robust, pink-skinned infants who clamor for her attention display the rounded, voluptuous flesh for which Rubens is so well known. He shaped their animated, vibrant forms using bold brush strokes and deep contrasts in tone. Wrapped in the warm glow of the torch, the figures stand apart from the dark, indistinguishable background and convey a sense of intimacy. Intriguingly, this painting appeared in the estate sale of François Boucher, indicating that the great French eighteenth-century painter of sensual bodies must have known it well.
Jessica Ball, Class of 2009
This oil sketch of an allegorical figure of Charity illuminating the globe served as the model for a tapestry of the same subject, part of a series representing the Triumph of the Eucharist commissioned from the great Flemish Baroque painter and diplomat Peter Paul Rubens by the Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain to hang in the Convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid. Purchased by the Mead in 1961 with generous alumni support, the panel once belonged to the French Rococo painter François Boucher, in whose 1771 estate sale it appeared.
EEB, 2008: 1821 Society brochure