In the early 1620s, Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens completed one of his greatest achievements: designing the Triumph of the Eucharist tapestries. The most elaborate and expensive tapestries made in Europe in the 17th century, the 20 monumental works in this series celebrate the glory of the Roman Catholic Church.
Rubens (1577–1640) was commissioned to create the tapestries by the Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia, governor-general of the Netherlands, as a gift to her favorite convent, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Convent of the Barefoot Royals) in Madrid. Raised at the Spanish court, the infanta was the daughter of Habsburg monarchs Philip II and Isabel of Valois. Spectacular Rubens reunites Rubens’s exuberant oil sketches painted for this commission with the original tapestries, the largest number of works for the Eucharist series assembled in more than half a century. The exhibition offers an unrivaled opportunity for visitors to experience the Baroque master’s extraordinary impact, on both an intimate and a broad scale.
Spectacular Rubens features six painted modelli, or large-scale oil-on-panel studies, from the collection of the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. Also on view are four of the original silk and wool tapestries, among the most renowned treasures of the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales; several paintings by Rubens related to the Eucharist series; and a series of preparatory sketches for three of the four tapestries. The modelli have recently undergone conservation, rendering the pictorial surfaces once again lively and forceful, offering a record of Rubens’s impressive and beautiful brushwork.