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Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640),
Decius Mus Consulting the Soothsayers (The Interpretation of the Victim)
, 1617–18
oil on panel, 28 ¾ x 42 ½ in.; 73.03 x 107.95 cm
Museum purchase, 1946.127

Although he was from northern Europe, Rubens’ art exemplifies the sensuality characteristic of Italian Baroque painting. He employs energetic diagonals, vivid coloring, painterly brushwork, and theatrical poses as powerful vehicles for dramatic, emotional subject matter. His colorism and fluid brushstrokes are a legacy of Venetian painting.

This freely brushed sketch is a modello (model) for one of a series of tapestries illustrating the story of the Roman commander Decius Mus. It shows the head priest, after reading the entrails of a sacrificial ox, announcing that the stricken but resolved commander will die in battle and thus secure a Roman victory.

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