- Reference number
- Rubens, Peter Paul (Flemish)
- Tereus' Banquet
- 195,5 cm x 266 cm
- On display
- Colección Real (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, cuarto del infante don Javier, 1772, nº 1002; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, antecámara de las señoras infantas-pieza encarnada a la derecha, 1794, s.n.; Palacio Real, Madrid, dormitorio de príncipes-pieza primera, 1814-1818, s.n.).
Tereus, King of Thrace and wife of Procne, raped his sister-in-law, Philomela, cutting out her tongue in order to avoid being denounced. But when Philomela weaves a tapestry, her sister Procne discovers the atrocious event. In vengance, she kills Tereus' son, serving it to him in a macabre banquet.
The story is based on Ovid's Metamorphosis (Book VI). Rubens chose to depict the exact moment when, after eating the dinner served to him, the Thracian king requests his son's presence. At that moment, the two women, driven mad in the face of their imminent vengence, show him the head of the victim as one more of the plates at the banquet.
This work is very likely the cruelest of the mythological scenes painted by Rubens for the small palace near Madrid called Torre de la Parada. Outstanding is this work is the palatial architecture in the background, as well as the artist's highly dramatic rendering of the bloody scene. As in other paintings from this series, the figures' lateral movement helps give the sensation of violence called for by this subject.