The Entombment

Object Details


The Entombment


Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577 - 1640)




about 1612


Oil on canvas


131.1 x 130.2 cm (51 5/8 x 51 1/4 in.)

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Peter Paul Rubens depicted the moment after the Crucifixion and before the Resurrection when Christ is placed into the tomb. He is being supported by those closest to him in life: John the Evangelist, in a brilliant red robe, bears the weight of Christ; Mary Magdalene cries in the background; while Mary, the mother of James the Younger and Joseph, bows her head in sorrow. Mary, the mother of Christ, cradles his head and looks heavenward for divine intercession.

The Entombment was meant to make the viewer's religious experience personal and encourage the faithful to imagine the physical horror of Christ's Crucifixion. Christ's tortured features confront the viewer, and our attention is focused on his corpse, sacrifice, and suffering. Wounds are openly displayed: blood flows from the gaping laceration in Christ's side and the puncture wounds on his hands. Rubens contrasted the living and the dead by juxtaposing the lifeless body and green-tinged skin of Christ with the healthy complexion of St. John.

This painting was probably made to serve as an altarpiece in a small chapel, perhaps one dedicated to the Eucharist. The slab on which the body is placed suggests an altar, while the sheaf of wheat alludes to the bread of the Eucharist, the equivalent of Christ's body in the Mass.

by 1651 -

Gaspar de Haro y Guzmán, seventh marqués de Eliche Carpio, 1629 - 1687 (Madrid, Spain)

Artaria and Co. (Vienna, Austria)

- 1868

Count Paul Pavlovitch Demidoff, prince of San Donato, 1839 - 1885 (San Donato (near Florence), Italy) [sold, Demidoff sale, Pillet, Paris, April 18, 1868, lot 13.]

1868 -

Blanche Cachin (Paris, France)

- 1912

Marquise Landolfo Carcano (Paris, France) [sold, Landolfo Carcano sale, Lair-Dubreuil, Paris, May 30, 1912, lot 172.]

- 1921

Charles Léon Cardon, died 1920 (Brussels, Belgium) [sold, Cardon sale, Fiévez, Brussels, June 27, 1921, lot 96.]

- 1992

Private Collection [sold, Christie's, London, December 11, 1992, lot 61 through Otto Naumann, Ltd., New York, to Alfred Bader Fine Arts.]


Alfred Bader Fine Arts (New York, New York), sold through Otto Naumann, Ltd., New York, to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992.

Spectacular Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist (March 25, 2014 to May 10, 2015) (Fig. 4)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), October 14, 2014 to January 11, 2015
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, February 15 to May 10, 2015
Education Resources

Education Resource




Rembrandt and Rubens Painting the Revolution

Lesson in which students study the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter Reformation, analyzing works by Rubens and Rembrandt.

Visual Arts; History–Social Science


Two-Part Lesson

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    Audio: The Entombment