Peter Paul Rubens, a painter and draftsman from Antwerp, was the most important and celebrated 17-century artist from Northern Europe. His influence was particularly strong. From 1620 onwards the so-called ‘high baroque’ (maniera grande) was introduced in his work.
“The Fall of the Damned” is such a highly dramatic and monumental religious painting. It features a jumble of the bodies of the damned, hurled into abyss by archangel Michael and accompanying angels.
The sketch of The Fall of the Damned was made in black and red chalks, with a grey wash and is kept in the British Museum. It is assumed to be the work of a studio assistant, while Rubens then went over the drawing with brush and oil colour.
At the lower edges, a monk is pulled down, gnawed by demons. Above him, a huge woman is carried on the back of another devil, his tail wrapped around her legs. At all angles, twisting and turning, these unfortunate souls stare up in terror at their terrible fates, or cover their heads in shame. No need to tell that this painting impressed the viewer…