The Circumcision of Christ Peter Paul Rubens Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Circumcision of Christ was completed by Peter Paul Rubens in 1605 and can now found in the Church of the Jesus, St Ambrogio and St Andrea in Genoa, Italy

This painting is amongst the largest ever produced by Rubens, measuring approximately two metres wide by four metres long. The majority of this famous artist's major works were on a grand scale, at a time when commissions for institutions would be given large amounts of space in which they would be displayed.

In comparison, some of his purely private sales would be on a smaller scale, matching somewhat smaller homes of these purchasers. This painting was commissioned by Marcello Pallavicino and Rubens was in Rome at that time. There were no shortage of requests for work during his time in Italy, with this country remaining the centre for art within Europe ever since the groundbreaking work of the Renaissance masters.

There is an influence of Tintoretto within this painting, in terms of the use of light and the crampted composition of figures. Emotions run high in the figures looking on, anxiety added from Rubens' own imagination. The dramatic elements to this scene also remind some of the work of El Greco.

Rubens would continue to use the theme of Jesus Christ as inspiration in other paintings such as Christ on the Cross and The Resurrection of Christ. This iconic religious figure would also be seen in the work of Sandro Botticelli (Christ carrying the Cross), Raphael (Christ Blessing), Michelangelo (Risen Christ sculpture) and Leonardo da Vinci (The Baptism of Christ).

Light is key to this painting, allowing the viewer to distinguish the key figures of the composition. Rubens would darken the majority of the canvas before splashing light across the faces of those most significant to the theme of the painting. A similar approach can be seen in the work of Rembrandt and Caravaggio.