Peter Paul Rubens, drawing for The Fall of the Damned

Flanders, about AD 1620-30

This large sketch is one of a series of five drawings related to Rubens's painting, The Fall of the Damned (1621; Alte Pinakothek, Munich). At the moment of God's final judgement, those found guilty and sent to Hell plunge towards their doom in a tornado of whirling bodies. At the lower edges, a monk is pulled down, gnawed by demons. Above him, a huge woman is carried on the back of another devil, his tail wrapped around her legs. At all angles, twisting and turning, these unfortunate souls stare up in terror at their terrible fates, or cover their heads in shame.

The initial underdrawing is in black and red chalks, with a grey wash. This underdrawing is probably the work of a studio assistant. Then Rubens went over the drawing with brush and oil colour. The dramatic chiaroscuro (light and shade) of the forms and clouds reinforces the darkness into which these figures fall, far from the light of Heaven above.

Changes to the composition suggest that these five drawings were executed after the painting was completed. Perhaps Rubens intended to have engravings made of the composition, a practice which he carried out for a number of his major works, such as The 'Coup de Lance'. However, no such engravings were apparently made.

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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: 709.000 mm
Width: 474.000 mm

Museum number

PD Oo.3-9


Bequeathed by R. Payne Knight (1824)


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