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Saint Bavo is received by Saints Amand and Floribert
Peter Paul Rubens

The modello (oil sketch) shows Saint Bavo on the steps of St Peter's church in Ghent. Before his conversion to Christianity, Saint Bavo was a knight called Count Allowin of Haspengouw. Here he is shown being received as a monk into the church by Saint Floribert (bending forward), abbot of the Benedictine monastery, and Saint Amandus, who converted him. In the foreground, Rubens has delighted in showing Saint Bavo's wealth being distributed to the poor; the wriggling children and the muscular beggars give the donation a heroic theatricality.

In the right panel Kings Clothar and Dagobert, father and son, support Saint Bavo's decision and dispute with a herald of the Emperor Mauritius, an edict that forbade knights to become monks. In the left panel are Saints Gertrude and Begga, Bavo's sisters, who followed his example and became nuns.

The painting was commissioned around 1611 for the high altar of St Bavo, Ghent.

This is the central panel from Rubens's oil sketch for the High Altarpiece at St Bavo in Ghent.

Key facts
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Full title Saint Bavo is received by Saints Amand and Floribert
Group Oil Sketch for High Altarpiece, St Bavo, Ghent
Date made 1611-12
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 106.7 x 82.1 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG57.1
Location in Gallery Room 18
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Oil Sketch for High Altarpiece, St Bavo, Ghent

These sketches were made as part of Rubens's preparation for an altarpiece for the church of St Bavo, Ghent, which Rubens finally realised in reduced form in 1626.