Hendrick van Balen (Antwerp 1575-1632) The wedding of Peleus and Thetis, signed lower left: V BAL, oil on copper, 29.5 x 41.3 cm, framed Überlanger Text!
Private Collection, UK;
Johannes Ruppert, Freiburg im Breisgau;
with Galerie Müllenmeister, Solingen, 1991;
with Galerie Klaus Edel, London/Cologne;
Private collection, Germany, 1996;
by descent to the present owner
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 22 September 1993 – 2 January 1994, The Age of Rubens, 1993/4;
Toledo, Ohio, Museum of Fine Arts, The Age of Rubens, 1994;
Cremona, Museo Civico Ala Ponzone, Pieter Brueghel Il Giovane- Jan Brueghel il Vecchio, 1998
P. Sutton, The Age of Rubens, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Toledo, Ohio, Museum of Fine Arts, 1993/94, p. 20, illustrated, as Hendrick van Balen and Jan Brueghel I;
K. Ertz, C. Nitze-Ertz, Pieter Breughel il Giovane – Jan Brueghel il Vecchio, Tradizione e progresso: una famiglia di pittori fiamminghi tra Cinque e Seicento, Cremona, Museo Civico Ala Ponzone, 1998, no. 57;
K. Ertz, C. Nitze-Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere, vol. II, Lingen 2008-2010, p. 811, no. 405, illustrated, p. 812 (as Jan Brueghel I and Hendrick van Balen, The Feast of the Gods);
B. Werche, Hendrick van Balen – ein Antwerpener Kabinettbildmaler der Rubenszeit, Turnhout 2004, p. 182, no. A 117, illustrated
The present lot is accompanied with a certificate of authenticity, dated 8 October 1996, stating the authorship as by Hendrick van Balen and Jan Brueghel I.
The present composition, with its gleaming nude forms arranged contraposto around a sumptuous banquet, their lustre enhanced by the copper support, is a prime example of the vibrant and classical manner of the Antwerp painter and stained glass designer Hendrick van Balen the Elder. The crowned figure seated at the centre is Peleus, the hero of Thessaly, while around him are arrayed sea nymphs and goddesses come to attend his marriage to Thetis, herself a beautiful Nereid. In the foreground, meticulous still-lifes of vessels brimming with figs, artichokes profligately discarded upon the earth, wicker baskets with sparkling bunches of black grapes, melons sliced open beside them, with a cherub bearing a silver ewer laden with apricots complement the scene of Arcadian abundance.
However, follow the gaze of Peleus, in conversation with a turbaned servant beneath the flying putti bearing bouquets, and past the goddess with her back to the picture plane, above in the heavens to the left a half obscured golden light can be seen poking through the clouds. This would be understood by the erudite view to represent the malign presence of Eris, the one goddess not invited to the feast. The present copper is a so-called cabinet piece, suggesting it would be viewed in refined company who would contemplate its implied narrative. Soon after the scene here depicted, the erudite would know that Eris threw an apple of discord into the company with an inscription To the Fairest. The resulting jealousy between the goddesses, along with the subsequent judgement of a young shepherd Paris, and the squabbling gods support of their different champions ultimately led to the Trojan war and all its inherent destruction. Ultimately then, the richness of the delights here, whether fruit, or flesh, offer a reminder of vanitas, oblivious of the looming destruction heralded by the devious Eris hidden by the cloudy skies.
Van Balen was instrumental in the renewal of Flemish painting in the 17th century, bridging the generations between his tutor Marten de Vos, and van Balen’s own prodigious pupil, Anthony van Dyck. Van Balen served as Dean of the Antwerp Romanists, a fraternity of artists who had studied in Rome, and the current copper exudes this formation among the antique statuary and renaissance frescos of the Eternal City, while having a brilliant Northern sense of light, flesh and texture.
Lieu et date de la vente Maîtres Anciens chez Dorotheum GmbH & Co KG
Palais Dorotheum, Dorotheergasse 17 1010 Vienne
10 novembre 2021
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