Joachim Wtewael (Netherlandish, 1566–1638)
Oil on copper
8 7/8 x 12 in. (22.5 x 30.5 cm)
Purchase, The Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection, Edward J. Gallagher Jr. Bequest; Lila Acheson Wallace Gift; special funds; and Gift of George Blumenthal, Bequest of Lillian S. Timken, The Collection of Giovanni P. Morosini, presented by his daughter Giulia, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Spear Jr., Gift of Mrs. William M. Haupt, from the collection of Mrs. James B. Haggin, special funds, gifts, and bequests, by exchange, 1993 (1993.333)
The Utrecht painter Joachim Wtewael was among the most sophisticated of Netherlandish Mannerists, as is evident from this exquisite cabinet picture on copper, dated 1605. The subject is taken from the opening pages of Ovid's Metamorphoses (Book I:89ff), which describe a time before the ages of silver, bronze, and iron when "spring was everlasting . . . streams of sweet nectar flowed," and mankind, "without a law," lived in harmony with all creation.
It is likely that, shortly after it was completed, this painting was purchased by the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II in Prague.