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Saint Bavo is received by Saints Amand and Floribert
Peter Paul Rubens
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This scene makes up the central panel of an altarpiece Rubens made for St Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent; this painting is a preliminary sketch for the work. Saints Amand and Floribert receive Saint Bavo, a former Roman soldier, on the steps of St Peter’s Church, also in Ghent.

A cleric holds the black habit of the Benedictine Order for Saint Bavo, a replacement for his armour. He has relinquished his sword to the man behind him, while another hands out his riches to a group of beggars. Two courtiers stand at the bottom of the steps, a dog at their feet, while more people crowd the staircase and the foreground, creating a feeling of frenzy.

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

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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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