The Wrath of the Gods makes a striking first impression, greeting the visitor with Rubens' imposing Prometheus Bound from the PMA's collection framed by the gallery's vivid blood-red walls. But curator Christopher Atkins clearly took pains to tell the story with a manageable scale and numerous nods to the work's place in history. "Prometheus and Tityus were often confused," he'll reassure the brow-furrowing visitor. "Big strong men being attacked by birds." Didactic copy celebrates the work by tracing the paths of inspiration that led to its creation as well as its legacy—the mythology of this theme makes its way through Christianity and contemporary art, and the accompanying comic book (that's right) retells the story of Rubens and his work through the work of a variety of artists operating in different styles, all of whom take liberties in shifting him in and out of historic contexts to make the story accessible and relevant to new audiences.
The Wrath of the Gods: Masterpieces by Rubens, Michelangelo, and Titian is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through December 6, 2015.