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The design derives in part from Andrea Mantegna's 'Triumph of Julius Caesar' (London, Hampton Court, Royal Collection), which Rubens would have known in Mantua as a young man, and also from woodcuts. The right-hand section of the work originally corresponded with number five of Mantegna's series. Rubens, having gradually extended the design to the left, then reworked the painting, outdoing his source.

The figure group includes (from left to right): maidens who could serve at sacred rites; animals for sacrifice; trumpeters and pipe players; slaughterers; in the centre dressed in red, a 'pontifex' (priest), with above him a soothsayer; and elephants bearing fruit and incense burners.

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