Skip to main content

Peter Paul Rubens, The Apotheosis of the Duke of Buckingham

Key facts
Full title Minerva and Mercury conduct the Duke of Buckingham to the Temple of Virtue
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Date made before 1625
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 64 × 63.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1843
Inventory number NG187
Location Room 18
Collection Main Collection
The Apotheosis of the Duke of Buckingham
Peter Paul Rubens

In this exuberant picture, Rubens seems to suggest that apotheosis – a person being elevated to divine status – is not a wholly majestic and dignified affair, as it is presented in many other contemporary paintings. Here, it seems that any great man taken to heaven and granted immortality by the gods has quite a journey ahead of him. George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, dressed in a seventeenth-century version of Roman armour, is hauled up through the sky in a swirl of moving figures. Minerva, goddess of wisdom and war, and Mercury, messenger of the gods, lead him. His eyes are turned up towards his goal high above: the Temple of Virtue.

This is a preparatory oil sketch for a painting commissioned for the ceiling of the Duke’s residence in London. It outlived him by around 400 years, but both ceiling and portrait were destroyed by fire in 1949 – only this spectacular picture survives.

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