Five oils on panels. Dutch school circa 1600, attributed to Hendrick Goltzius.
In this series, bantering couples indulge in sensory experimentation: one old man brushes a young woman's cleavage, another hands his partner a fragrant flower, a third approaches his companion's lips with a sugar stick, the next invites his lady to observe her reflection in the mirror he hands her, and finally, the last whispers in his lady's ear. Strawberries, pourpoints, brocaded dresses, jewelled ornaments, toques and felt hats make up a veritable catalog of the fashions in vogue at the end of the 16th century, stimulating the viewer's eye through a rich palette and making him imagine the sensations of textures. In this way, these characters experience both their senses and the joys of courtly love. This represents a break with the classical iconography of the five senses, which, inspired by the writings of Pliny the Elder, symbolized each of them with an animal (the cat embodying sight, the bird embodying touch, etc.).
Hendrick Goltzius was the first to break with this semiology in a series of drawings engraved by Jan Saenderam around 1595. In this first series, animals were relegated to the background in favor of pairs similar to our own. However, our work goes a step further, abandoning all animal representations and focusing instead on the expression of feelings and pleasures through subtle exchanges of glances and hand games. In this case, the delicate drawing of the figures is closer to Goltzius' original design than to the more mannerist engravings by his pupil Saenderam. The pinkish complexions, voluptuous bodies (without muscular excess) and powerful coloring all point to a proto-Baroque style, inherited from the Venetian Renaissance and adopted by Goltzius in the 1600s, as evidenced by his Danae and the Golden Rain of 1603 (Los Angeles County Museum). This stylistic consideration, combined with this iconographic milestone heightened by a certain originality, leads us to believe that this is an autograph work by Hendrick Goltzius.
Our five panels are sublimated by delicate Louis XIV frames.
Dimensions: 39 x 33.5 with frames
Goltzius (Mülbracht 1558 - Haarlem, Jan. 1, 1617) was born into a family of painters, but began his career as an artist by apprenticing with the engraver Dirck Volkertsz. Coornhert in 1574. He followed his master to Haarlem in 1577, where he worked for the rest of his life, with the exception of a stay in Italy in 1591, which had a considerable impact on his art. His friend, Karel van Mander, recounts the influence on him of Raphael's "gentle paintings", but above all of Correggio's "naturalistic skins", Titian's "great contrasts of shadows" and Veronese's "superb materials and fabrics". These discoveries prompted him to abandon the late Mannerism of his early career in favor of a more classicizing approach based on the late Renaissance, and to take up oil painting, a medium he had not previously practiced. In 1582, Goltzius opened his own printing house, enabling him to distribute his engravings and make considerable wealth. Having been in poor health all his life, he died in 1617, the town of Haarlem having celebrated his funeral by ringing the bells for half an hour.
- DACOSTA KAUFMANN, Thomas, L'école de Prague : la peinture à la cour de Rodolphe II, Flammarion, 1984.
- NICHOLS, Lawrence W., The Paintings of Hendrick Goltzius, 1558-1617, A Monograph and Catalogue Raisonné, Davaco Publishers, 2013,
- VELDMAN, Ilja M., Images for the eye and soul: function and meaning in Netherlandish prints (1450-1650), Primavera Pers, Leiden, 2006