A storm of thunder and lightning, rain, wind and floods threaten an ancient town on the sea-coast

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A storm of thunder and lightning, rain, wind and floods threaten an ancient town on the sea-coast; representing conflict. Engraving by S à Bolswert after Sir PP Rubens. Described thus by Adler (with left and right reversed in the engraving): "A cloudburst is falling on a rocky mountain coast, with flat land in the foreground. The imposing scene, with rocky mountains in the centre and right background and the sea on the left, is in twilight illuminated by flashes of lightning from behind a dark cloud. The cloud, from which heavy rain falls vertically, overshadows the sea and coast on the left, behind the flat-topped conical mountain in the centre. At the foot of the mountain, lit by a flash of lightning, is a city in a bay, with walls, towers and ships at anchor. On this side of it the sea, driven by the storm, is invading the flat country, on which the spectator looks down from a height, as in the foreground another rocky mountain overlooks the coastal plain; the highest part, on which trees are growing, is in the right corner close to the spectator's vantage-point. Immediately below, along a sunken path between crags, a peasant couple are fleeing out of the picture to the right. The woman has thrown her sea-green skirt over her head as a protection against the wind and rain driving from behind her on the left. The man crouches as he walks and holds both hands in front of his face, pressing a stick to his side with his right arm. The couple are passing beneath a large pollard willow, the twisted trunk of which leans over the path. The forest behind is lit by a lightning flash. Sheep are grazing at its edge; the shepherd has taken refuge under a tall tree, is leaning against the trunk and supporting himself with a stick. In the flat country far below, groves of trees are already lapped by the invading sea; two churches are as yet out of danger. The clefts and chasms of the huge mountains in the background, cut off by the edge of the picture on the extreme right, are dimly and eerily illuminated by the lightning. The unexpectedly opposed planes of the high foreground on the right and the remote background, the precipitous view of the middle ground with churches, trees, the seething waters and the port beyond, the sharp contrasts of light and the sky rent by the storm — all give the work an imaginative power, visible even in the copy, which shows that the original must have been one of Rubens’s finest compositions of the period 1625–28." – Adler loc. cit. Created between ca 1620 and 1659. Storms. Floods. Civil war. Social conflict. Contributors: Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640); Schelte Bolswert (approximately 1586–1659). Work ID: nty2ztbx.

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