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Peter Paul Rubens, A Roman Triumph

Key facts
Full title A Roman Triumph
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Date made about 1630
Medium and support Oil on canvas stuck down on oak
Dimensions 86.8 × 163.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1856
Inventory number NG278
Location Room 14
Collection Main Collection
A Roman Triumph
Peter Paul Rubens

A crowd of people relax on a grass bank, enjoying the spectacle of a flamboyant procession celebrating the return of a great general and his army. The columns and alcoves of classical Roman buildings tower over them. Below, trumpeters and pipers blow their instruments and animals are led to the sacrifice. A man balanced precariously high up among a forest of flickering torches lights a taper from a flame, but the tall figure of a priest in brilliant red is the focus of the picture.

Rubens based his image on two of Andrea Mantegna’s series of nine monumental paintings, The Triumphs of Caesar, one of the great works of the Renaissance. Rubens saw the pictures while he was in Mantua. It’s likely that he worked at his own spasmodically over several years, experimenting and making amendments for his own interest and pleasure, as it was still in his possession when he died.

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