- Inventory number
- Rubens, Peter Paul
- Saint Matthew
- 1610 - 1612
- 106,5 cm x 82 cm
- On display
- Royal Collection (Collection of the I Duke of Lerma, before 1614; Collection of Isabel Farnesio, Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, Segovia, “pieza donde se dice misa”, 1746, n. 228 ; La Granja Palace, “piezas del despacho”, 1766, n. 228; Aranjuez Palace, Madrid, “pieza de tocador”, 1794, n. 228; Aranjuez Palace, “tocador de la reina”, 1818, n. 228)
This is one of a series of twelve panels (P01646, P01647, P01648, P01649, P01650, P01651, P01652, P01653, P01654, P01655, P01656, P01657) that make up an apostolate that originally included a Savior of the World.
The disciples of Christ are represented in the style the painter used around 1612-1613. These are large figures of forceful appearance and considerable plasticity, contrasting with the dark backgrounds. The use of these human types and the intensely directed light are the result of the painter's trip to Italy, where he was influenced by the art of Michelangelo.
The saints are depicted with their most representative attributes in order to facilitate their identification. Those attributes are drawn from a variety of iconographic and literary traditions, which has sometimes led to confusion about their identities. Saint Peter, with the keys to Heaven, begins the series. He is followed by Saint john, with the goblet with which he was intended to be poisoned, and Saint James, with a pilgrim's hat and staff, in keeping with Medieval tradition. Saint Andrew and Saint Philip carry their respective martyr's crosses, the first of which is x-shaped. Saint James the Minor, who was a fuller, holds the tool with which he was killed, and Saint Bartholomew carries the knife with which he was flayed. In that same sense, Saints Mathias, Thomas and Matthew carry diverse weapons alluding to their respective suffering. The series is completed with the representations of Saint Simon and Saint Paul, who carries the sword and Holy Scriptures, symbolizing his battle for the Faith and his work spreading the Gospel.
This series was lost during the early seventeenth century, but reappeared in 1746 as part of the collection of Queen Isabel Farnesio at the La Granja Palace.