The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

about 1626
Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640)


70.5 x 87.6 cm (27 3/4 x 34 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on panel

On View

Leo and Phyllis Beranek Gallery (Gallery 243)





This oil sketch is the design for one tapestry in a cycle known as The Triumph of the Eucharist. The Old Testament sacrifice of a lamb was presented as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ, commemorated in the sacrament of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. Rubens depicted the scene as if on a tapestry suspended from the surrounding architecture; the illusion in the final woven version would be of one tapestry within another.


Elector Palatine (?) [see note 1]. Robert Spencer (b. 1611 - d. 1702), 2nd Earl of Sunderland, Althorp, Brington, Northamptonshire; by descent within the family to Albert Edward John Spencer (b. 1892 - d. 1975), 7th Earl of Spencer, Althorp; sold by Spencer to Thomas Agnew and Sons, London; 1961, sold by Agnew to William A. Coolidge (b. 1901 - d. 1992), Topsfield and Cambridge, MA; 1985, gift of William A. Coolidge to the MFA. (Accession Date: November 27, 1985)

[1] Nora de Poorter, "The Eucharist Series," vol. 1, Corpus Rubenianum series (London and Philadelphia, 1978), p. 318, notes that the provenance can be securely traced back to Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland, "who bought many paintings on the continent to adorn his home at Althorp," and that while it is said to have come from the collection of the Elector Palatine, this has never been verified. See, for example, "Exhibition of Pictures from the Althorp Collection" (exh. cat. Agnew, London, February-March, 1947), cat. no. 15.

Credit Line

Gift of William A. Coolidge