The 17th-century Flemish baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens is a great historical painter, not because of the scenes from ancient Roman history that he sometimes painted, but because, when we encounter his works, we find ourselves trying to understand what kind of society could possibly have produced art with such vivid iconography, lavish symbolism and sensual detail.

The exhibition of his work at Bunkamura: The Museum pushes visitors in this direction, as the only alternative would be to stand back in passive wonder and awe at the cosseting foliage, swirling hair and fabrics, and the expertly painted muscles and fat that seem to roll from his paintings as from a horn of plenty — something else that, by the way, often appears in Ruben's extravagant works.

For example, the exhibition's centerpiece is "The Finding of Romulus and Remus" (ca. 1612-13), a large canvas that takes the Roman historical theme back to its mythic roots. This complex composition includes birds and foliage, two chubby infants, the she-wolf that suckled them and a shepherd about to stumble upon them. Two Roman gods — naked — are thrown in for good measure.