Emperor Constantine and Pope Miltiades liberate the Christians after the Edici of Milan
Otto van Veen is perhaps best known as Rubens (most important) teacher. Rubens must have been active in his studio for several years: between 1592 and 1600 (?). Venius (as befits a real humanist, Van Veen liked to write his name in Latin) must have stimulated Rubens to travel to Italy in 1600, he stayed there himself for at least 4 years (1574-1578) and was strongly influenced by Italian Renaissance masters . Back in the Netherlands he became court painter of Allesandro Farnese.
This painting is a very typical work of the master: it depicts Pope Miltiades with Emperor Constantine. After the Edict of Millan, they gave the (sometimes persecuted and imprisoned) Christians religious and civil freedom. This somewhat illustrious and not-obvious subject is typical for Van Veens oeuvre Later in life he painted less and less and was mainly active as a writer and editor.
Very interesting are the original holes that can be seen at regular intervals around the panel. They come from nails that were connected with rope. This created a grid and thus it was easier to convert the painting into engraving (or in a larger format). Despite its smaller size, the composition is monumental and the painting combines classical elements with Antwerp Mannerism. It gives us a good idea of the kind of work that influenced the young Rubens.
We are grateful to Dr. Bert Schepers for having confirmed the attribution.