- Reference number
- Dyck, Anton van (Flemish)
- The Metal Serpent
- 207 cm x 234 cm
- On display
- Colección Real (Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, paso de tribuna y trascuartos, 1772, nº 35; Palacio Real Nuevo, pieza de trucos, 1794, nº 35; Palacio Real, Madrid, pieza de trucos, 1814-1818, nº 35).
This dramatic scene from the Old Testament (Numbers 21, 4-9) shows the moment when Moses saves his people from the serpents sent by God as punishment for their lack of faith. On a rod is the bronze serpent, the simple contemplation of which cures anyone bitten by snakes. It symbolizes salvation. This is a foreshadowing of Christ's Crucifixion, which brings pardon to humanity and triumphs over the mortal serpent of Original Sin.
The slender figures, tragic language, long brushstrokes and excessive paint in the white areas are typical of work from Van Dyck's youth.
The false signature of Rubens appears on the lower right corner.