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.