A fragment of Jupiter as a Satyr, from a version of Jupiter and Antiope

Sir Anthony van Dyck
(1599 - 1641)

A fragment of Jupiter as a Satyr, from a version of Jupiter and Antiope

Painted circa 1620

Oil on canvas: 21 ½ x 17 ½ in. (54.6 x 44.5 cm.)

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Provenance

Possibly in the studio of Peter Paul Rubens;[1]

then possibly in his sale, his house, May 1641, either lot 228 as ‘Jupiter and Antiope’ or lot 317 as, ‘A number of Studies of Heads after Nature, on panel and canvas, by Rubens and Van Dyck;’[2]

Private collection, France;

Private collection, USA.

Exhibitions

Temporary loan to the Rubenshuis, Antwerp, in 2016.

This newly discovered fragment has been confirmed by experts at the Rubenshuis Museum in Antwerp as the prime original version of the subject by the young Van Dyck, on the basis of quality and handling. There are two other known (complete) autograph versions of the composition by Van Dyck – one in Cologne, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Foundation Corboud, Leihgabe der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, and the other in the Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Ghent – somewhat larger, and with some minor variations. Interestingly, the Cologne version was earmarked for Adolf Hitler’s personal Fuhrersmuseum when it was in the collection of the Earl of Coventry.[1] Notably, another fragment of Antiope (B.W.F. Riemsdijk, Amsterdam, from 1912 – 1920), measuring 50 x 56 cm., is likely from the same painting as our fragment, catalogued as ‘original’ by Horst Vey, no. 278f, in Niederländische Gemälde 1550 – 1800, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, 1967, p.17.

 

It would appear that the young and impressionable Van Dyck was directly inspired by his master Rubens, under whom he was still working, and who had painted a similar composition in his Jupiter and Callisto of 1613 (Staatliche Museum, Kassel). Van Dyck’s efforts obviously impressed Rubens in turn, who owned a version of the composition that remained in his collection until his death in 1640. Indeed, this fragment is very likely part of the painting referred to in Rubens’ estate sale. Teresa Posada Kubissa observes in The Young Van Dyck (exh. cat. Prado, 2012), that ‘that picture must already have been in the Rubens house in 1628, since there is an extant drawing of the torso of Antiope by William Panneels, the assistant whom Rubens left in charge of his workshop when he had to leave Antwerp on diplomatic missions, and who was entrusted with the task of drawing and engraving the works to be found there.[2] She also notes that Rubens must have owned the painting (before 1628) either because Van Dyck made a present of it to him,[3] or because he sold it to him – and that he certainly wouldn’t have given, let alone sold, a workshop copy to his master and mentor.[4]

 

Jupiter and Antiope is one of the few mythological scenes painted by Van Dyck. The artist has used his virtuoso technique to paint with great speed and economy to achieve the effects he requires, noticeable in the brilliant brushwork he uses to depict Jupiter’s torso. Jupiter, here under the guise of a curious satyr, is shown lurching towards the subject of his amorous desires, namely the beautiful Antiope. As well as representing a lurid scene of the gods’ depravity and lusts, Van Dyck has emphasised the musculature and anatomical powers that his mythological subjects wield. Antiope’s curves are classically Rubenesque in form whilst Jupiter’s sinewy arms are typical of the Renaissance ideal. Jupiter’s muscular arms are aimed confidently towards the scantily clad goddess’s groin, in an act of pure unrelenting eagerness. This story, taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, is captured the moment when Jupiter stumbles upon the sultry Antiope – much in the same way Titian portrays Acteon in his series of Diana and Acteon (National Gallery, London).

 

 

 

[2] The Young Van Dyck, (op. cit.), p. 111.

[3] He is known to have given Rubens his portrait of Isabella Brant (Washington, National Gallery of Art), The Betrayal of Christ (Museo del Prado, Madrid), and Christ Crowned with Thorns (Museo del Prado, Madrid).

[4] Ibid., p. 112.

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