Gallery Text

When the new Jesuit church in Antwerp was consecrated in 1621, works by Rubens figured prominently in its sumptuous decoration. Among his contributions were 39 paintings on canvas installed on the ceilings over the aisles and galleries and beneath the organ loft. The contract obligated him to execute an oil sketch of each of the subjects prescribed for the ceilings by the church authorities, further stipulating that Anthony van Dyck and other workshop assistants would paint the full-scale versions of Rubens’s compositions. The study shown here records Rubens’s early ideas for one of these ceiling paintings, which depicted the violent subjugation of a demon by Gregory of Nazianzus, the fourth-century theologian and bishop of Constantinople, dramatically invoking the saint’s reputation as a vigorous opponent of heresy. The related painting was lost with the other ceiling paintings in a fire in 1718, but its composition is known from Rubens’s surviving oil sketch.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish (Siegen, Westphalia 1577 - 1640 Antwerp, Belgium)
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus Subduing Heresy
Work Type
c. 1620
Physical Descriptions
Black chalk on off-white antique laid paper
41.2 x 47.5 cm (16 1/4 x 18 11/16 in.)
framed: 59.2 x 66.5 x 3 cm (23 5/16 x 26 3/16 x 1 3/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: verso, left center, brown ink, upside down: gw : / 3 [underlined]
  • inscription: verso, upper right, brown ink: Ru [cut off]
  • inscription: former mount, graphite: Rubens (St. Dunstan) Sir T. Lawrence
  • inscription: former mount, brown ink: RPR [L. 2234] / Rubens / The legend of Saint Dunstan. / Sir T. Lawrence. (Robert Prioleau Roupell)
  • inscription: former mount, graphite: ("Roupell" - a collector [underlined]) / Lugt 2234 / St. Gregory
  • inscription: verso, upper right, red chalk: 7-8
  • inscription: verso, upper right, brown ink: no 155
  • watermark: none
Thomas Lawrence, London (L. 2445, without his mark). Samuel Woodburn, London (L. 2584, without his mark), sold; [Christie’s, London, 7 June 1860, lot 804 (as St. Dunstan Repulsing Satan)]; to Robert Prioleau Roupell, London (L. 2234, former mount), sold; [Christie’s, London, 12-14 July 1887, lot 1119 (as The Legend of St. Dunstan).] John Hay, Washington, by descent; to his son, Clarence L. Hay, New York; Bequest of Clarence L. Hay, 1969.168.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Clarence L. Hay
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Jakob Rosenberg, "Review: Rubens' Oil Sketches and Drawings in the Fogg Museum", Art Quarterly (Summer 1956), vol. 19, pp. 138-43, p. 142

Agnes Mongan, Drawings & Oil Sketches: Rubens from American Collections, exh. cat., President and Fellows of Harvard College (Cambridge, MA, 1956), cat. no. 20, p. 22

Leonard Slatkes and Carol Wishy, Great Master Drawings of Seven Centuries, exh. cat., ed. Julius S. Held, Columbia University (New York, 1959), cat. no. 43, p. 52, repr. pl. XXX

Julius S. Held, Rubens Selected Drawings, Phaidon Press (London, 1959), vol. 1, cat. no. 47, pp. 22, 73, 74 and 113, repr. vol. 2, pl. 49

John Rupert Martin, The Ceiling Paintings for the Jesuit Church in Antwerp, Phaidon (London and New York, 1968), cat. no. 25a, pp. 33, 36, 125, and 140-142, repr. p. 133

Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions, 1969-1970, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1971), pp. 6 and 125, repr. p. 84

John Rupert Martin, ed., Rubens before 1620, exh. cat., Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 1972), cat. no. 16, pp. 142 and 176-77, repr.

Mrs. Colles Baxter Larkin, "Rubens: A Variety of Interests" (unpublished manuscript, Fogg Art Museum, 1974). Typewritten brochure that accompanied the exhibition of the same title at the Fogg Art Museum, 23 May - 30 June 1974., no. 20, n.p.

Roxane Landers Althouse, ed., Rubenism, exh. cat., Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, 1975), cat. no. 18, pp. 62-63, repr.

John Rowlands, Rubens Drawings and Sketches, exh. cat., British Museum Publications Limited (London, 1977), cat. no. 148, p. 109, repr. p. 108, fig. 148

Steven Nash, Albright-Knox Art Gallery: Painting and Sculpture from Antiquity to 1942, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. (New York, 1979), p. 167, repr.

Julius S. Held, The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 1980), vol. 1, under cat. no. 36, p. 60

Julius S. Held, Rubens Selected Drawings, Moyer Bell Limited (Mt. Kisco, NY, 1986), cat. no. 147, pp. 28, 56, and 125-6, repr. pl. 146

Christopher White, Peter Paul Rubens: Man and Artist, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 1987), p. 152, repr. p. 155, fig. 178

Anne-Marie Logan, Flemish Drawings in the Age of Rubens: Selected Works from American Collections, exh. cat., University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA and London, England, 1993), cat. no. 53, pp. 197-98, repr. fig. 53

J. Douglas Stewart, "Dutch and Flemish Masters in the USA", Apollo (January 1994), vol. 89, no. 383, p. 63, p. 63

Philippa Hurd, ed., Peter Paul Rubens : A Touch of Brilliance. Oil sketches and related works from the State Hermitage Museum and the Courtauld Institute Gallery, exh. cat., Prestel Verlag (Munich and London, 2003), p. 75

Peter C. Sutton and Marjorie E. Wieseman, Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens, exh. cat., Yale University Press (New Haven/London, 2004), under cat. no. 9, pp. 26 and 120, repr. fig. 1

Klaus Albrecht Schröder, ed., Peter Paul Rubens, exh. cat., Albertina (Vienna, 2004), pp. 30 and 74

Anne-Marie Logan and Michiel C. Plomp, Peter Paul Rubens: The Drawings, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art / Yale University Press (New York/New Haven and London, 2004), pp. 8, 32, and 33 (n. 23)

Matthias Waschek, Marjorie B. Cohn, Judith Mann, and Stephan Wolohojian, Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, exh. cat., Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, 2008), cat. no. 30, pp. 6, 32, and 33, repr.

William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), pp. 22-23; cat. no. 76, pp. 257-259, repr. p. 258

Exhibition History

Drawings & Oil Sketches by P. P. Rubens from American Collections, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/14/1956 - 02/29/1956; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 03/20/1956 - 04/28/1956

Great Master Drawings from Seven Centuries, M. Knoedler & Co., Newport, 10/13/1959 - 11/07/1959

Rubens before 1620, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, 01/01/1972 - 12/31/1972

Rubens: A Variety of Interests, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 05/23/1974 - 06/30/1974

Rubenism, David Winton Bell Gallery, Providence, 01/30/1975 - 02/23/1975

Rubens Drawings and Sketches, British Museum, London, 01/01/1977 - 12/31/1977

Flemish Drawings in the Age of Rubens, Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, 10/15/1993 - 11/28/1993; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 01/04/1994 - 02/20/1994

Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 10/24/2008 - 10/03/2009

Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

Subjects and Contexts

Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

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