Our large panel illustrates one of the mythological subjects recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses, The Rape of Europe.
Europe is the daughter of the rulers of Tire in Phenicia, present-day Lebanon. Of great beauty, she is coveted by Zeus. The king of the gods dresses up as a white bull to approach her on a beach where she is walking. When Europe approaches to pet him the bull lies down inviting him to ride on his back. Zeus kidnaps Europe and flees across the sea to Crete.
Our painter interprets the subject like most artists of the early 17th century, with an emphasis on beautiful, largely naked women and the lush landscape.
On the left of the painting we observe the following and the companions of beautiful Europe on the edge of a grove, grouped on the shore. A few of her nymphs raise their arms in surprise while others seem to ignore the event and enjoy the rest.
While on the right the princess, mounted on the back of the white bull adorned with garlands of flowers brought by the nymphs, walks away towards the sea.
The real interest of our panel is the combination of different genres so dear to Antwerp masters, the landscape made up of a terrestrial part with bushy trees and an aquatic part, dominated by several figures of young women and embellished with a profusion of details such as flowers, fruits and seashells. This association between land and sea offers here a beautiful contrast and is an asset for the composition.
Our artist is undeniably inspired by Jan Van Kessel for the figures of young women, but above all for this allegorical aspect of the land and the sea, not to mention the manifest influence in the landscape which occupies the entire right side, the trees with intertwined branches, laden with fruit, wild roses, as well as all the complaints that are executed by a fine and delicate brush. All its elements lead us to believe that our painter worked in the immediate entourage of the Antwerp master.
Very beautiful composition with a bright and colorful palette.
Cercle of Jan Van Kessel, mid 17th century
Oil on oak panel, dimensions: h. 65 cm, l. 90 cm
Beautiful old frame in ebonized wood and richly decorated with multiple moldings and ovens.
Framed dimensions: h. 85 cm, l. 112 cm
Jan Van Kessel (1626-1679)
Known for his still lifes, animal and flower compositions, Jan van Kessel I was inspired by the art of his grandfather Jan Brueghel de Velours (1568-1625) and that of his uncle, Jan Brueghel II (1601- 1678), where he probably formed. He was also a pupil of Simon Vos from 1634 to 1635, and became a freemaster in 1645-1646.
Jan van Kessel I nevertheless stands out for the originality of the subjects treated and the way in which they are represented. His compositions, often allegorical, take up the themes of the four natural elements or even of the four continents.