Investigation finds Rubens painting ‘comfortable’ in Cologne church

dpatop - Andreas Hoppmann, restorer, works on the painting "The Crucifixion of Peter" by Peter Paul Rubens. Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa


A huge painting by Peter Paul Rubens that has hung in a Cologne church for 380 years is in the right location, those working on a restoration of the late work “The Crucifixion of Saint Peter” in the church of St Peter in the city centre have concluded. “It has been questioned from time to time in the past whether such a prominent painting should be allowed to hang in a church at all,” painting restorer Andreas Hoppmann said of the work by Rubens, considered the main master of Flemish Baroque painting. “We therefore scanned it square centimetre by square centimetre for loosening of the painting layer and found that there was loosening only in very few places.” These were consolidated again, he said.

In addition, the dirty surface was cleaned and the protective layer, the varnish, was regenerated. “As a result, we can say that the painting is in very good hands at this location,” Hoppmann said. The painting is the only Rubens still hanging in a church in Germany, said Anna Pawlik, curator of the archdiocese of Cologne. Meanwhile, a museum climate would be a risk difficult to assess for the painting, which is used to the more fluctuating temperatures in the church. “You could say that it feels comfortable here. Apart from that, the connection with this church is precisely what makes it special,” Pawlik said.

Rubens was born in Siegen in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia in 1577 to Dutch war refugees and grew up in Cologne before his family moved back to Antwerp. His father was buried in the church of St Peter. Europe’s most famous Baroque painter, Rubens created the “Crucifixion of Saint Peter” shortly before his death in 1640 as a commission for the Cologne church. “I have a great love for the city of Cologne, where I was educated until I was 10 years old,” he wrote in a letter.

To this day, the church congregation organizes the supervisory service for the precious work of art on a voluntary basis. Shortly before Easter next year, it is to be hung back in its place next to the chancel after the restoration is completed.


Text and photos: Courtesy © dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH