Hoping in Heaven… Not Earth

Sometimes, the history behind an artwork is just as fascinating as the actual artwork! Take this sketch that Peter Paul Rubens did:

The Coronation of the Virgin, by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1632-33. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.

A lovely picture of the Coronation of Mary, in which the Trinity crowns Mary while the glory of Heaven surrounds them!

This was only an oil sketch for a bigger canvas with more detail that was probably commissioned for a church — something that Rubens did quite often. Many times if you look up a work by Rubens, you’ll find several versions, including a sketch like this! For an example, take a look at this oil sketch of the Scourging at the Pillar compared to its final product.

So… where is the final draft of this particular painting of the Coronation?

Good question… the Metropolitan Museum of Art writes this in its description of this oil sketch:

Rubens made this oil sketch in preparation for a large canvas formerly in Berlin (destroyed in 1945). The final composition was proportionately taller, with God the Father moved closer to the Virgin, who seems to more strongly ascend. In earlier works by Rubens and in Coronations going back to the late Middle Ages, Christ’s role is even more dominant than here.

Yes, Rubens did a beautiful artwork depicting the glory of heaven! But, thanks to World War II, this little piece of heaven was destroyed as the Allied Forces did their best to combat the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Which just goes to show: we can and should do our best to make the world the best place it can be. But, ultimately, we need to turn our eyes toward Jesus and hope in Heaven.


Questions to Ponder:
  • Believe it or not, this is a rough draft! Look closely… what details do you notice that Rubens put in this draft?
  • How would you refine this draft, if you could?
  • Have you ever destroyed something beautiful that reminded you of heaven in order to do something that needed to be done?


Dear Jesus,

Let us always put our hope in You, not in the things of this Earth.



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