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Joachim Wtewael: A Closer Look

Whether large scenes on canvas or small pictures on copperplates, the paintings of Joachim Wtewael demand close, sustained looking. This mannerist artist filled his intricate compositions with figures in convoluted poses and enlivened the scenes with charming details that are not always evident at first glance. Indeed, Karel van Mander, who included Wtewael in his influential 1604 book on painters, praised the artist for his “excellent judgment and intellect” and for his ability to conceive paintings “from his mind or imagination.”  Wtewael depicted dozens of biblical and mythological stories, but many of these subjects—though well known during his day—are no longer familiar to a broad audience. And some of his narratives are so complex that even the main characters can be difficult to locate. This feature takes a close look at four paintings that represent the engaging and witty approach of this masterful storyteller.

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan
1604–1608
oil on copper
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Digital Image Courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

BPK 17.734


Kitchen Scene with the Parable of the Great Supper
1605
oil on canvas
Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Bpk, Berlin / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen / Jörg P. Anders / Art Resource, NY

sm-01-peleus-thetis

The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis
1612
oil on copper
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA / Michael Agee

sm-01-moses-striking-rock

Moses Striking the Rock
1624
oil on panel
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund

Banner image: Joachim Wtewael, Moses Striking the Rock (detail), 1624, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund