Satyrs and Nymphs

Artist: Joseph Heintz the Elder (Swiss, Basel 1564–1609 Prague)

Date: ca. 1599

Medium: Pen and black ink, brush and black washes, red chalk, heightened with white bodycolor, black chalk underdrawing

Dimensions: Sheet: 9 1/4 x 12 5/8 in. (23.5 x 32 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, 2006 Benefit Fund, 2007

Accession Number: 2007.174


This drawing is a rare and outstanding example of Joseph Heintz the Elder's mature and most elaborate drawing style. Related to one of Heintz's most important paintings, made in 1599, probably for Emperor Rudolf II (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), the sheet is typical of the work of artists active at Rudolf's Prague court, who favored complex compositions with many figures in distorted positions and mythological subjects, often of a slightly lascivious nature. Combining fluent yet expressive pen lines, carefully applied heightening with white body color, red chalk, and washes, Heintz masterfully succeeded in adapting his composition to an oval form. Although there seems to be no direct literary source for the subject of this drawing and the corresponding painting, it has been connected to the story of Pan and Syrinx in Ovid's Metamorphoses.