Sir Peter Paul Rubens: 1577-1640
The Fall of the Damned or The Fall of the Rebel Angels-1620
Sir Peter Paul Rubens was the most renowned northern European artist of his time, and is now widely recognized as one of the best painters in art history. He was the originator of the Baroque style which was based on human movement, flesh tones, and human sensuality. Rubens work was the marriage of the realistic tradition of Flemish painting with the freedom and classical theme of Italian Renaissance painting. Rubens revitalized and redirected European painting.
Peter Paul Rubens is the most well known of the Flemish baroque painters. His mastership of the real human form gives us insight into how people must have looked and lived at that time. He painted altar pieces, portraits, and landscapes. Rubens was a very prolific artist. His work consisted of religious subjects, history paintings, and mythological subjects. He painted portraits of friends, self-portraits, and in his later life painted landscapes. Peter Paul Rubens was an accomplished designer as well: he designed tapestries and prints, and his house.
His love of painting full-figured women coined the terms 'Rubensian' or 'Rubenesque', which is still in use today. The Fall of the Damned is essentially a religious painting. It depicts a mass of the naked bodies of ‘the damned’ (those who have sinned), which are being hurled into the great abyss of hell by the Archangel Michael and his angels. The moment of God's last judgment is depicted clearly for the Anti Reformation audience of its day; as a whirlwind that will catch all bad deeds, sucking down the naked mass of the bodies of the damned to hell. It was meant to scare and frighten people and it did.
The original sketch of The Fall of the Damned was in black and red chalk with a grey wash .It is probably the work of a studio assistant. Rubens then painted over the drawing with a brush and oil paint. The dramatic chiaroscuro of the human forms and clouds emphasizes the darkness into which these figures fall, far from the heaven light above. Chiaroscuro in art is characterized by extreme contrast between light and dark. It is also a technical artist’s term for contrasts of light to suggest a volume and depth in three-dimensional objects (sculpture).
The painting caused a furor in its day because of the nude content- it was still considered scandalous in the 20th century: a vandal threw acid on the painting in 1959. Thankfully, it did not destroy the painting.
The original sketch is in the British Museum. The painting is in the Alte Pinakothek. The Alte Pinakothek is situated in the Kunstareal in Munich, Germany. It is one of the oldest galleries in the world and has one of the largest collections of Master paintings.