Inventory number
Rubens, Peter Paul (and Workshop)
Tereus' Banquet
1636 - 1637
195,5 cm x 266 cm
On display
Colección Real (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid, Quarto Bajo. Pieza Segunda, 1701, s.n.; Torre de la Parada, Quarto vajo. Pieza segunda, 1747, nº110; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, cuarto del infante don Javier, 1772, nº 1002; Palacio Nuevo, antecámara de las señoras infantas-pieza encarnada a la derecha, 1794, s.n.; Palacio Nuevo, dormitorio de príncipes-pieza primera, 1814-1818, s.n; Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Madrid, Salon 2º Escuela Flamenca, 1834, nº341)

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 vengeance, she kills Tereus' son, serving it to him in a macabre banquet.

The story is based on Ovid's Metamorphoses (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 vengeance, 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.

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