On September 25th, the museum launched a very special project. In the specially created Studio Rubens, we are restoring the Enthroned Madonna by Rubens for two years, with six conservators working on a scaffold. You can follow along in the Rubens Gallery.

Framed, the artwork measures more than 6 meters in height, almost 4.5 meters in width, and 24 centimeters in depth—providing ample space to showcase a multitude of characters.

A cast of characters

The Madonna is enthroned upon a pedestal under a fluttering red drape. Catherine kneels at her feet. Peter, Paul, Joseph and John the Baptist are also present. Central at the base is Augustine, patron saint of the Augustinians. In full finery and with a fiery heart he gazes piercingly at the viewer. Around him there are ten saints significant to the Augustinian order.

Tronende madonna omringd door heiligen_PPRubens

Compositional puzzle

With this work, Rubens once again shows himself to be a true master of Baroque imagery. The composition is dynamic and boasts warm, high-contrast colouring and vibrant light. Arranging such a large number of figures presented a challenge. Many preliminary studies testify to Rubens' search for an acceptable composition.

Sojourn in Paris

Rubens was commissioned for this work by the Augustinian order. From 1628 to 1794, the painting decorated the high altar in Antwerp's Augustinian church. In 1794, the French occupiers confiscated the work and moved it to Paris. It was not until 1815 that it returned to its rightful owners. The KMSKA has had the work on loan since 1958.

Fine company

At Antwerp's Augustinian Church, the enthroned Madonna was in good company. Two other masterpieces flanked her: Saint Augustine of Hippo in Ecstasy by Anthony van Dyck and the Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia by Jacob Jordaens. The Rubens Gallery reunites this threesome.

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