The traditional subject of Christ carrying the cross to the hill of Calvary here combines the emotional pathos of the exhausted
Christ with the heroic dynamism of a triumphal procession.
The gray and brown tones of this ornately theatrical work would ordinarily suggest that it was a grisaille preparatory study.
In such a study, Rubens quickly brushed in his first ideas in brown tones with white highlights. His studio assistants then
transferred these sketches to the full-scale decorative programs.
The Berkeley grisaille, however, shows a level of detail usually found only in Rubens's completed altarpieces. It seems that
Rubens, working alone, executed the grisaille for the use of an engraver, who then copied the composition onto a metal plate
for printing. The Road to Calvary thus lets us see the artist's hand at work on an intimate scale, full of painterly vitality
in expression and movement.