The Elevation of the Cross, after Peter Paul Rubens
63.2 cm x 128.5 cm (24 7/8 in. x 50 9/16 in.)
(Antwerp, circa 1615 - after 1642, Antwerp?)
Medium and Support:
Engraving on three sheets
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Leo Steinberg Collection, 2002
This engraving reproduces The Elevation of the Cross in Antwerp Cathedral. Rubens’s first major commission after returning from Italy, the altarpiece was executed in 1610 and 1611 for the Jesuit church of Saint Walburga. Theatrical and triumphal, it remains one of his most powerful religious works. More than four feet across, the engraving evokes not just the composition but the scale, the triptych format, and even something of the force of its prototype.
More than any artist, Rubens was concerned with the dissemination of his work through prints. Conscious of successful collaborations in the past, principally that between Raphael and Marcantonio Raimondi, he maintained a virtual team of engravers who worked in a collective style. Jan Witdoeck was a later participant. Building upon the virtuoso system of the Dutch Mannerists and contending with the master’s indomitable style, they brought the translation of pictorial effects to a level and coherence never surpassed. A century later French printmakers would still cite their work as the model for reproductive engraving. Their language would endure until commercial photography made such reproduction obsolete in the late nineteenth century.