Peter Paul Rubens, Study for a crucified Man, a drawing

Flanders, around AD 1614-15

This is clearly a study for a crucified figure, most probably that of Christ, but possibly the 'Good Thief' crucified next to Him. However, it cannot be linked to any of the known paintings of Christ on the Cross which Rubens and his studio painted.

The drawing is drawn in black chalk and heightened with white. Some brown wash was used to reinforce the outlines of the arm on the right. Two much lighter studies of details are also just visible, the weak outline of an arm above, and another at the right edge showing a right hand.

The strong black chalk confidently marks out the figure's outline and muscles. Some brown wash, but mostly smudged black chalk, shows the stronger shading on the right side of the chest. Gentler shadows pick out the ribs and muscles and the right side of his face. White heightening, however, strengthens the white of the paper to suggest the fall of light. This is most visible on the nostrils and eyebrows on the face and the further touches on the arms. The light is shining from above, perhaps to suggest a divine light falling upon the crucified figure below.

Although not used, figure studies of this type were fundamental in preparing finished paintings for most artists working in the tradition of western art from around 1450 until the nineteenth century.

Find in the collection online

More information


J. Rowlands, Rubens: drawings and sketches (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)

C. White, Peter Paul Rubens: man and art (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1987)


Height: 527.000 mm
Width: 370.000 mm

Museum number

PD Oo.9-26


Bequeathed by R. Payne Knight (1824)


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore