Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard
The Life of Christ before the Passion
The Ministry of Christ
By Koen Bulckens
A new volume of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard book series was launched in the Saint Carolus Borromeus church in Antwerp.
It catalogues Rubens’s exploration and representation of the theme of the public life of Christ. The period in Christ’s life during which he spread his message by wandering and preaching with the apostles in the Holy Land, offered a particularly poignant and important part of religious discourse within the context of the Counter-Reformation period in the Netherlands. In order to rebut the Calvinists and their call for the stripping of imagery and lavish decoration from churches, and the destruction of furniture and altarpieces that followed, the Roman Catholic Church sought to establish an innovative and powerful visual rhetoric with renewed urgency. The scenes from the ministry of Christ could serve as potent reminders of the core values of Roman Catholic spirituality. Rubens, as a devout Catholic, created a number of impressive paintings to express this, although most of the works he produced seem to have been intended for the open market. The works discussed span the entirety of Rubens’s career and attest to the complexity of the iconographic division in which the depictions of Jesus Christ’s public life were thought and created.