The Old Testament tells of how King Sennacherib of Assyria besieged the city of Jerusalem in 701 BC when suddenly an angel was sent by God. Rubens conveys this dramatic climax through
the painting’s compact composition and a differentiated use of light. It highlights the dead already lying on the ground, those fleeing on the far right of the picture, and in particular Sennacherib himself and his horrified facial features. The magnificent rearing grey horse was based on a work by Leonardo da Vinci.