Sacrifice of Mosaic Law (Sacrificio de la Ley Mosaica)
Among the four tapestries of the series foretelling the Eucharist – ‘Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek’, ‘Harvesting manna’ and ‘Elijah and the angel’ – this is the only episode showing a gory sacrifice. The composition is set through a clear diagonal, starting in the lower left side and climbing up to the other end. It shows a procession of many characters bringing presents and animals to the altar where the priest, holding a knife, has just sacrificed a calf, blood still gushing from its neck.
A sacrifice typical of the Old Testament
Rubens makes it clear that this sacrifice is typical of the Old Testament, with elements such as the Ark of the Covenant and the explicit introduction of Jewish characters in the upper part. Although it foretells the Eucharist, they are not equivalent. This may explain why Rubens wanted to conceal this procedure common among Israelites and therefore made this scene the less theatrical of all. The many characters hinder a clear reading, and he places great importance in the architecture, taking the focus away from the story. Furthermore, the location of the Ark of Covenant on the opposite end to the sacrifice altar introduces two visual focuses which make the attention of the spectator swing, avoiding focusing on just the immolation.
Series Apotheosis of the Eucharist
Model Cartoon copied from an original by Rubens
Manufacture Brussels. Manufacture by Frans van den Hecke. Mid-17th century
Fabric Silk and wool, 7/8 warps per cm
Size 405 x 650 cm
Location Church of San Millán de la Cogolla, Oncala (Soria)
Origin A donation by Bishop Juan Francisco Ximénez del Río, c. 1800
On display Hangs from the church’s nave, opposite the entrance door