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Franciscan Allegory in Honor of the Immaculate Conception

Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish (active Italy, Antwerp, and England), 1577 - 1640

Made in Southern Netherlands (modern Belgium), Europe


Oil on panel

21 1/8 × 30 7/8 inches (53.7 × 78.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 358, European Art 1500-1850, third floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 677

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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This sketch was made for another artist to use as a guide in making an engraving (print) for wide circulation. Rubens encircled the composition with ropes like those worn as belts by Franciscan friars and based its symbolic elements on the Franciscan theological doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (the idea that the Virgin Mary was herself conceived and born without original sin). At the center of the image Saint Francis kneels, supporting three globes and, atop them, the Virgin. This sketch was probably made at the request of a member of the Habsburg dynasty since it glorifies ancestors of both the Austrian and Spanish branches of the family, who appear on the right side of the picture receiving a gesture of blessing from the Virgin.

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