Descent from the Cross (After Rubens)
They often say that something much sought after is better found when you stop searching. And that’s exactly what happened when it came to discovering a new inspiration for my next abstract project. As soon as I completed my abstracted interpretation of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, I was hungry for another art historical challenge. But search as I might, nothing quite ticked the boxes for me. Fast forward a few weeks to Easter and my parents’ stay in Mallorca. When I returned from a quick easter-egg countering visit to the gym, my parents where extolling the virtues of a certain “Descent from the Cross” painting which had been presented on TV as part of an Easter special. As my interest peaked, I searched for the painting on google. And although, as it turned out, I didn’t come directly to the painting which had been the subject of the documentary, the Descent I found struck me like a bolt of lightening: The Descent from the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens. My new project had been found!
Painted between 1612-1614, The Descent from the Cross is the central panel of a triptych which forms the second of Rubens’s great altarpieces for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. Featuring some 9 of Christianity’s most important figures, and filled with the diagonal action tracking the descent of Christ’s body from the cross, it is a veritable masterpiece of both composition and colour. What struck me when I first saw the painting was the light – this incredible white light shining from the centre of the painting and glowing in contrast to the dark stormy sky behind. Not only that, but the colours used by Rubens are likewise inspiring, not least the magnificent red tunic of St John and the vivid blue of the Madonna.
This light, colour and the brilliance of Ruben’s composition formed the central tools of my reinterpretation which I present today. It is a work which follows the same colour palette and compositional alignment of the Rubens original, albeit that the figures are paired down to abstract forms, as is the central exercise of my new interpretative abstract method. This painting is nevertheless embellished by some more realistic elements, and most notably at all, the work is finished off with a distinctive marble antiquity-style torso replacing the main Christ figure. At some 120cm in height, and with the same dramatically looming thunderous sky as its backdrop, my Descent from the Cross is certainly a centrepiece in my new collection, and the fruit of a period of very enjoyable but laborious work.
I’m on the search for my next project. But as with the Rubens, I’m going to wait for it to come to me.
© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com