St Francis of Assisi was already a legendary figure not long after his death. The story of his stigmatisation was not only highly popular in Italy but north of the Alps as well. In 1224, two years before his death, St Francis had a vision on Mount La Verna near Arezzo, where he had retreated with brother Leo. The crucified Christ appeared to him as a seraph with six wings. At this moment he received the five wounds of Christ, which he retained until his death. The skull and the open prayer book in the right foreground refer to the life of meditation and detachment Francis had chosen. Rubens painted many versions of this subject. Here the Saint is portrayed from the front, looking straight at the viewer. The image of his face, full of pain and confusion, heightens the dramatic effect of the event and is typical of Rubens’ late work. This is also true of his use of soft tones of grey merging into one another. The altarpiece was originally an embellishment of a side altar in the church of the Recollects in Ghent, which no longer exists.