CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The Wrath of the Gods: Masterpieces by Rubens, Michelangelo, and Titian

Exhibition: 12 September - 6 December 2015

See how Peter Paul Rubens took inspiration from Michelangelo, Titian, and others to create his masterpiece, ‚ÄúPrometheus Bound.‚ÄĚ The Wrath of the Gods focuses on Peter Paul Rubens‚Äôs masterpiece, Prometheus Bound, a singular vision of pain, torment, and creative struggle. This unprecedented exhibition places the work‚ÄĒone of the most important and beloved in the Museum‚Äôs collection‚ÄĒin conversation with paintings, drawings, and prints that inspired it. Highlights include Michelangelo‚Äôs Tityus, perhaps the artist‚Äôs most famous drawing, and Titian‚Äôs Tityus, the largest nonreligious painting on canvas of the Renaissance. The Wrath of the Gods brings together these and other pivotal works, offering a fresh opportunity to delve into the creative process of one of art history‚Äôs most important figures. Despite the significance of Rubens‚Äôs masterpiece, described by the artist himself as ‚Äúthe flower of my stock,‚ÄĚ no exhibition has ever been devoted to it. The Wrath of the Gods shows how the artist‚Äôs talent for creating images bursting with physicality, movement, and color was profoundly shaped by the work of Italian Renaissance greats Michelangelo and Titian as well as antique sculpture, especially the Vatican‚Äôs famed Laoco√∂n. During his extensive travels, Rubens studied these compelling examples firsthand, analyzing their figures, subject matter, and compositions and merging them with own Baroque sensibilities. To further explore Rubens‚Äôs sources of inspiration, the exhibition also presents an 1805 full-scale cast of The Laoco√∂n, on loan from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and works by northern European artists Hendrik Goltzius and Michiel Coxcie, whose painting Cain and Abel debuts in Philadelphia as a newly rediscovered treasure after a recent cleaning by the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Other key works include Snyders‚Äôs sketch for Prometheus Bound‚Äôs menacing eagle and Jacob Jordaens‚Äôs Prometheus, one of the greatest artistic responses to Rubens‚Äôs masterpiece.


The exhibition is made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Kowitz Family Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and The Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions. It is supported by Dennis Alter, whose mother introduced him to Rubens’s Prometheus at age 8. Additional generous contributions were provided by Anthony L. Schaeffer, James and Susan Pagliaro, Lisa D. Kabnick and John McFadden, Paul K. Kania, Agnes M. Mulroney, and an anonymous donor, and by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The publication is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.