Bartholomäus Spranger painted such themes for the emperor Rudolf II. In Haarlem, Hendrik Goltzius widely distributes these images by his engravings and adds new themes in his own paintings. The Mannerist style brings strength to the muscular bodies of men and a charming lasciviousness in the elongated bodies of women. Cupid excites everyone.
A contemporary of Goltzius, Joachim Wtewael makes his whole career in Utrecht where he is a founding member of the local guild of Saint Luke. He is also a rich merchant of flax fiber and does not need to operate a full workshop. The rarer spelling Uytewael better helps to pronounce his name.
Wtewael painted on canvas, panel or copper according to the desired formats. Curiously, he uses copper for the most complex themes, with a host of characters in various positions. These mythological scenes thus become an anthology of his little stories in which he displays a free life, sometimes even up to the carnal relation. As for pictural style, he however does not influence his countrymen the truculent Caravaggisti of Utrecht.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells a Banquet of the Gods, oil on copper 16 x 20 cm, lot 53 estimated $ 5M. On this very small format Wtewael has staged about fifty characters in gradual registers from earth to clouds, with the high precision in details allowed by the metallic polishing.
In the foreground Mars and Venus occupy the place of honor. The groups interact subtly : Cupid's arrow and Minerva's spear are directed outside their own groups. Some of these characters complacently offer their nudity to their partner. Bright blue spots of clothing bring an interesting chromatic balance in the forefront. Vulcan was not invited.
This work is similar to several opus on the theme of the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis. By the clarity of the composition, it is later than the version of 1602. It precedes a better version painted in 1612.
The Banquet of the Gods is directly inspired from an engraving by Goltzius based on a drawing by Spranger. Also after Goltzius, Mars and Venus surprised by Vulcan, oil on copper 18 x 14 cm painted by Wtewael in 1610, was sold for £ 4.6M including premium by Christie's on July 3, 2012 over a lower estimate of £ 2M.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's : a detailed view of this painting, including the straight path of Cupid's arrow up to a naked female breast !
SOLD for $ 6M including premium