oil on copper plate unframed 16.3 x 21.4 cm (6.42 x 8.43 inches) framed 26 x 31 cm (10.24 x 12.20 inches)
Provenance: An important private collection, Sweden.
Condition: Professionally restored in Italy 1995.
Expertise: Dr. Mari Pietrogiovanna (Report included)
Essay: This small yet captivating painting, crafted on a copper plate, dates back to the mid-1600s and was created by a Flemish artist.
Subject Matter: The central figure in the artwork is Mercury, easily identified by his symbolic attributes like winged sandals, petasus, and caduceus. Beside him is a likely female figure, characterized by her attire and absence of weaponry.
The depicted scene could represent two mythological tales:
Mercury and Calypso: This interpretation suggests the artwork shows the moment Zeus sends Mercury to Calypso's island, Ogygia. Mercury is there to order Calypso to release Ulysses, whom she saved from a shipwreck but kept captive. The lush, wooded background and the three distant figures could hint at Ulysses' farewell to Calypso.
Mercury and Herses: Another interpretation could be a scene from the love story of Mercury and Herses. The background figures might symbolize the sisters returning from a procession, while the forefront could be the initial meeting between Mercury and the most beautiful sister, Erse.
Artistic Inspiration: The painting's landscape and setting are heavily influenced by the early 17th century Northern European art trends, especially the works of Jan Brueghel the Elder. However, the artwork stands apart with its unique luminescence in detailing and a distinctive approach to depicting figures.
While the exact origin and artist remain somewhat mysterious, the style and treatment of light hint towards works close to Josse de Momper. There's a suggestion that it might have been influenced or created by artists like Adriaen van Stalbemt, known for his biblical subjects and detailed landscapes, around the first thirty years of the 1600s. In conclusion, while we haven't been able to figure out the artist, it's essential to remember that the allure of a painting isn't solely tied to its creator's identity. Sometimes, the beauty and intrigue of the piece stand on their own, and a touch of mystery can only enhance its charm.
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