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Displaying items by tag: spectacular rubens: the triumph of the eucharist

An exhibition with the formidable title "Spectacular Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist" opened this week at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The show comes to us from the Prado Museum in Madrid by way of the Getty in Los Angeles. It consists of four huge 17th-century tapestries along with the small (very small by comparison) paintings by Rubens that served as their designs, plus assorted other things that I'll mention later. Houston is the last stop before everything is shipped back to the owners, mostly in Madrid, perhaps never to travel again, almost certainly not all together.

The tapestries, only four of a full series that numbers 20, are from Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Convent of the Barefoot Royals) in Madrid, and they are indeed spectacular, as the title says -- large enough to cover walls many people high, woven by some of the finest tapestry factories of their day and of a quality seldom equaled.

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Although Peter Paul Rubens is recognized as one of the baroque period’s greatest artists, no woman wants to be called Rubenesque, a term describing the overly healthy figures that populate his work, like the meaty angel of truth in "The Triumph of Truth Over Heresy," or the round-shouldered women in "The Israelites Gathering Manna in the Desert." Both are in the Getty’s unique new exhibit, "Spectacular Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist," through Jan. 11.

Rubens and Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia go all the way back to 1609 when he was appointed court painter for her husband, Albert VII of Austria. Widowed in 1621, Isabel, a devout Catholic, turned to her faith and to Rubens as a confidant, even sending him on diplomatic missions, including spying on the French.

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The Flemish Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens and the beautiful Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia, the sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands, shared an artistic vision in service of the Catholic faith. In the 1620s, Eugenia commissioned Rubens to create 20 massive tapestries celebrating the Catholic Church through vivid allegorical scenes.

Those tapestries usually are at the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Convent of the Barefoot Royals) in Madrid, where they are rarely seen by the public. But that will change Oct. 14, when they go on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum as part of the exhibition "Spectacular Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist."

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