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The Metamorphosis of Hermaphrodite and Salmacis

The Metamorphosis of Hermaphrodite and Salmacis

Jan Gossart (in circa 1520)

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  • Benjamin Rowles asked

    How and why did Gossaert come up with this unusual subject?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Benjamin,
    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.
    Kind regards,


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More information

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.

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Collection book

Collection book Order


Title The Metamorphosis of Hermaphrodite and Salmacis
Material and technique Oil on panel
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is travelling
Dimensions Width Error: 21,5 is not a valid BCD value cm
Height Error: 32,8 is not a valid BCD value cm
Artists Painter: Jan Gossart
Accession number 2451 (OK)
Credits Verworven met de verzameling van / Acquired with the collection of: D.G. van Beuningen 1958
Department Old Masters
Acquisition date 1958
Creation date in circa 1520
Collector Collector / D.G. van Beuningen
Internal exhibitions Van Eyck tot Bruegel (1994)
The Collection Enriched (2011)
De collectie als tijdmachine (2017)
External exhibitions Nederlandsche Kunst van de XVde en XVIde eeuw (1945)
Jan Gossaert's Renaissance (venue) (2011)
Jan Gossaert's Renaissance (2010)
Geographical origin Southern Netherlands > The Netherlands > Western Europe > Europe

All about the artist

Jan Gossart

Maubeuge circa 1478 - Middelburg 1532

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