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Oil Sketch for High Altarpiece, St Bavo, Ghent

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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.

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