This is a typical Renaissance subject: a story from Metamorphoses by the classical Roman poet Ovid. The fountain nymph Salmacis falls in love with the son of Venus and Hermes, but he rejects her. She begs the gods to unite their two bodies for eternity. They fuse to form the hermaphrodite seen on the left.
Benjamin Rowles asked
How and why did Gossaert come up with this unusual subject?
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered
Gossaert’s choice of this classical subject was chiefly caused by the renewed interest in the classical antiquity that prevailed in his time (the Renaissance). The story of Hermaphroditus is part of the narrative poem ‘Metamorphoses’ by the Roman writer Ovid, which was highly popular during this period. However, representations of this particular story were somewhat less popular. Possibly the depiction was influenced by Gossaert’s artistic patron.
‘The Metamorphosis of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis’ was commissioned by Gossaert’s patron Philip of Burgundy (1465-1524). Philip, a bastard son of Philip the Good, was a highly educated man with varied interests.
When Philip was send to Rome as an envoy, he took Gossaert with him in his retinue and ordered the artist to draw the classical Greek and Roman architecture that surrounded him. In all likelihood, one of the sketches Gossaert made in Rome - presumably a drawing after a sculpture of Apollo, which was interpreted as a representation of a Hermaphrodite at the time - formed the base for his later painting.
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|Title||The Metamorphosis of Hermaphrodite and Salmacis|
|Material and technique||Oil on panel|
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
|Location||This object is in storage|
Width 21.5 cm
Height 32.8 cm
|Accession number||2451 (OK)|
|Credits||Verworven met de verzameling van / Acquired with the collection of: D.G. van Beuningen 1958|
|Age artist||Between 37 and 47 years old|
|Collector||Collector / D.G. van Beuningen|
Van Eyck tot Bruegel (1994)
The Collection Enriched (2011)
De collectie als tijdmachine (2017)
Nederlandsche Kunst van de XVde en XVIde eeuw (1945)
Jan Gossaert's Renaissance (2010)
Jan Gossaert's Renaissance (venue) (2011)
Panel > Worked wood > Wood > Vegetable material > Organic material > Material > Material and technique
|Geographical origin||Southern Netherlands > The Netherlands > Western Europe > Europe|