Bacchus Ceres and Cupid

size(cm): 40x27
Sale price£106 GBP


Born in the Rhineland but trained by a Dutch master in Cologne, Hans von Aachen was the most important court painter in Prague besides Bartholomäus Spranger.

Like his rival, Aachen had spent much time in Italy, Venice, Rome, and Florence. Both features are the combination of the Dutch surface treatment and the Mannerist proportions and postures of the figures, dating back to Parmigianino. Thus, both artists are considered exponents of one of the latest manifestations of European mannerism.

Explicitly courtly features are found in this painting, which were personally defended by Emperor Rudolf II. The clear preference for erotic themes is also a distinctive feature of Rudolphine court art.

Ceres, the Roman goddess of fertility, dominates the foreground of the painting in a striking rear view. His elongated limbs and the opposing movements of the torso and head are characteristic features of mannerism. Bacchus, the god of wine, has approached Ceres from behind. He touches her tenderly, looking at her with joyful anticipation, while she in turn fixes her gaze on the viewer. The boy on the bottom left presents them with a basket of fruits and vegetables.

Although the figure of the child has not been clearly identified as Love, this interpretation would make some sense: "Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus" - "Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus is cold" (or figuratively: "Without food or drink, love cools”).

This quote from the Roman playwright Terence has become a proverbial phrase and is probably the key to understanding this iconic painting.

Missing is the "frozen" Venus, who traditionally warms her hands by the fire. However, it is possible that the narrow strip of light in the upper left corner at the back, standing out against the stony background, is the reflection of this fire.

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