The hidden Rubens: the large canvas of Saint Andrew at the De Amberes Foundation
The canvas kept at the Carlos de Amberes Foundation is one of the most significant works by Rubens, the Flemish master who in 1637 was called to Madrid by King Philip IV to paint a series of canvas. The Martyrdom of St. Andrew, a large canvas measuring 2 meters by 3, was completed a year before the artist’s death and it is therefore possible to consider it the apex of his style and a sort of his artistic and spiritual testament. The work was commissioned by Jan van Vucht, a Flemish living in Madrid. On his death, he left the work at the hospital of Saint Andrew of the Flemish, the original nucleus of the current building that houses the De Amberes Foundation.
The history of Saint Andrew
The story narrated in Rubens’ canvas is inspired by the Golden Legend of Jacopo da Varagine. Here it is told how the apostle Andrew, in Greece, had converted numerous pagans to Christianity. Among these, there was also the wife of the proconsul Eugea, the girl who appears kneeling in the picture. When the proconsul learned of Saint Andrew’s work, he imprisoned him and tied him hand and foot to the cross to let him die slowly. The saint’s ordeal lasted two days. Saint Andrew never stopped preaching and continued to convert those who flocked to listen to him at the foot of the cross. Impressed by the goodness of his words, the multitude rebelled against the Aegean proconsul and when he decided to free the saint, it was too late. Sant’Andrea granted forgiveness to the proconsul, but said that he was now on the verge of dying and “had already seen his King who was waiting for him“.
Rubens’ painting seems to represent the precise moment in which the Saint is about to reunite with Christ. At his feet, sent by the Proconsul, the executioners try to untie the ropes that keep him bound but their arms are paralyzed just by touching them: the saint asks to be delivered to the earth, because his time has come.
In addition to the work of Rubens, the Carlos de Amberes Foundation hosts – in rotation – other works of Flemish art dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, that is the period in which the history of Spain and that of the Netherlands were deeply intertwined under the dominion of the Habsburg.
TO VISIT THE MARTYRS OF SAINT ANDREW
Chapel of the Carlos de Amberes Foundation, C / Claudio Coello 99
For more information, visit the FOUNDATION WEBSITE
From Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm. Closed on bank holidays