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Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery William Hunter Collections:
GLAHA 43827

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GLAHM 43827: 'Landscape with Mercury and Herse' c.1640-1645 - click to view larger image

"Landscape with Mercury and Herse" c.1640-1645

oil painting

CRE SWANEVELT, Herman van; (Dutch; c.1600-1655)

oil on canvas
89.4 x 108.3 35 x 42 in.
114.0 x 144.0 French frame of around 1750, heavily overgilded
The landscape in this unsigned and undated work is imaginary. It is inspired by the Roman Campagna, and includes a view of the Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli, which was an extremely popular subject. Here the round temple represents the Temple of Minerva in the story of Mercury and Herse from Ovid's Metamorphoses II. Herse was the most beautiful of the daughters of Cecrops, and Mercury fell in love with her as she was returning from a sacrifice in the Temple of Minerva, carrying with her sisters the flower-wreathed sacred baskets. The distinctive way in which the figures of Herse and her sisters are painted, relatively small in scale, is mentioned by Passeri in his life of Swanevelt. Swanevelt was recorded in Rome from 1629-1641. There he painted fresco landscapes in interiors as well as easel paintings inspired by the ancient sites. Clearly distinguishable by his 'Claudian' compositions from earlier Dutch landscape artists working in Italy, Swanevelt has an important place in the development of the Dutch classical landscape, and his pictures were much in demand, and expensive in Hunter's time. Similar large Swanevelt paintings were acquired for the Royal Collection by George III. By 1644 the artist settled in Paris. In 1653 Swanevelt became a member of the Academie Royale in Paris. This is an 'ideal landscape' painting by an Italianate Dutchman who was once known by his French sobriquet of Herman d'Italie. Possibly it can be placed in his French period, since the trees framing the composition to the left, with the distant view of the castle, also appear in Swanevelt's etching The Mule Driver (Hollstein 99) which was made after he had settled in Paris. Still famous in Hunter's time by association with Claude, to whose work he is very close, Swanevelt is now better known for his many etchings of Italian landscape subjects. The subject of Herse and Mercury was popular in Rome in the early 17th century, having been painted earlier by Elsheimer, Bril, Saraceni, Jacob Pynas, and Breenbergh. Swanevelt's style is thought to have influenced Claude, who lived in the same house from 1627-9, a period in which we know nothing of Claude's own work. This painting, not being signed, is difficult to date, and is felt by some to resemble works by Claude from the 1640s. Hunter's source for the painting has not yet been identified. Bequeathed by Dr William Hunter, 1783

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