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Saint Ignatius of Loyola, c. 1620-22

Peter Paul Rubens

Flemish, 1577-1640
Oil on canvas
88 x 54-1/2 in. (223.5 x 138.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1975.03.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Among Rubens’ works devoted to religious subjects, the representation of saints plays an important role. Rubens created an artistic language fully adapted to the Counter-Reformation movement, which stressed the heroic, emotional and ascetic aspects of the saints’ lives. This depiction of St. Ignatius of Loyola was painted for the mother church of the Jesuit order in Rome, Il Gesù.

The founder of the Jesuits wears a brocaded chasuble and gazes ecstatically to the viewer’s right, where beams of heavenly light break through the clouds. His right hand is raised in a gesture of admonition; his left hand holds a copy of the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, with a page open to their famous motto: “To the greater glory of God.” Ignatius, painted to be seen from below, is presented as a Christian hero, full of Baroque sentiment designed to strengthen worshippers in their belief and spur them to emulation.

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