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The Holy Women at the Sepulchre, c. 1611-14

Peter Paul Rubens
Flemish, 1577-1640
Oil on panel
framed: 46 x 53-3/4 in. (116.8 x 136.5 cm); panel: 34-1/2 x 42-1/4 in. (87.6 x 107.3 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

Not on View

On the third day after the Crucifixion, women visiting Christ's tomb are greeted by two angels surrounded by a blazing light of celestial radiance [Luke 24:4]. The angels deliver the astonishing news of the Resurrection. Each woman reacts differently to the miraculous announcement, contemplating the profound significance of what they have heard.

Working under the influence of Roman art, Rubens gives a deeply sculptural effect to this dramatic composition. Using highly rounded forms, with clear contours and rich colors, he creates a surging movement of rhythmic undulations from left to right. Though the exact identity of each figure has fallen into question, recent debate has convincingly suggested that the woman shielding her eyes with her veil is Mary Magdalene. The central figure is the Virgin Mary, whose form is derived directly from the Roman "Pudicitia," now in the Vatican.

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