Rubens: The Power of Transformation

Exhibition Overview


The Mystic Betrothal of St Catherine (front of a panel painted on both sides)

Few artists had as formative an influence on European Baroque painting as Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). A little-known aspect of Rubens’s œuvre is his reception of works by other artists. He took great liberties in how he used them as a source of artistic inspiration. The creative process of transformation and reinterpretation by which he adopted a wealth of formal languages different from his own is evident in his compositions – and will be the subject of a major exhibition the Städel Museum is organizing in cooperation with the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The works by Rubens himself will be enhanced by original ancient marble and bronze sculptures as well as key paintings and prints by his forerunners and contemporaries, including Titian, Tintoretto and Caravaggio, von Goltzius, Coxie, Giambologna, van Tetrode and van der Schardt, Elsheimer, Rottenhammer and Rembrandt.

Comprising some 120 objects, the special exhibition will unite works of sculpture, printmaking and painting. Representative work groups will shed light on Rubens’s method of staging pictorial themes – well-known but also entirely new ones – to create a concentrated product of his visual experience. At the same time, they will provide fascinating insights into intelligent pictorial strategies, surprising transformations of motifs, and a masterful search for the right format and suitable form – that is, into a working process that is essential to understanding the exceptional talent of this great master, and that ultimately led to images that have lost nothing of their immediate visual appeal to this day.

Exhibition Highlights


The Mystic Betrothal of St Catherine (front of a panel painted on both sides)

Peter Paul Rubens

The Mystic Betrothal of St Catherine (front of a panel painted on both sides)
Exhibition Highlights
The Mystic Betrothal of St Catherine (front of a panel painted on both sides)

Peter Paul Rubens

The Mystic Betrothal of St Catherine (front of a panel painted on both sides), 1628.0
oil sketch on oak, 64 × 49.2 cm
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