Skip to main content

Peter Paul Rubens, Kings Clothar and Dagobert dispute with a Herald

Key facts
Full title Kings Clothar and Dagobert dispute with a Herald from the Emperor Mauritius
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Group Oil Sketch for High Altarpiece, St Bavo, Ghent
Date made 1611-12
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 107.6 × 41.1 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG57.3
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Kings Clothar and Dagobert dispute with a Herald
Peter Paul Rubens

Rubens made this oil sketch, along with two others, in preparation for an altarpiece commissioned for St Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent. The central panel depicts Saint Bavo, a Roman soldier who left the military for the Christian Church, being received as a monk. This scene, in which King Clothar and his son King Dagobert each sit astride a horse, appears on the right panel.

The two kings hold their arms out defiantly to block the advances of a herald of the Roman Emperor Mauritius. He thrusts a scroll towards them, which contains an edict from the Emperor forbidding his soldiers from becoming monks. In defiance of the edict, Clothar and Dagobert support Saint Bavo being received into the Church. Although the three main figures are surrounded by a crowd of people, it is the horses that dominate the composition, especially Dagobert’s silvery steed – its body covers the width of the painting.

Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo

Oil Sketch for High Altarpiece, St Bavo, Ghent


These three oil sketches, or modelli, were made by Rubens in preparation for an altarpiece for St Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent, which was commissioned by Bishop Maes around 1611. The central panel shows Saint Bavo, a Roman solider who left the military to join the Christian Church, standing on the steps of St Peter’s Church, Ghent. Having given away all his money, he is being received by Saints Amand and Floribert as a monk. The left panel shows Saint Bavo’s sisters, Gertrude and Begga, who followed their brother’s example by becoming nuns. On the right panel, King Clothar and his son King Dagobert argue with a herald of the Roman Emperor Mauritius about a rule that forbade soldiers from becoming monks.