Details & Cataloguing

Important Old Master Paintings and European Works of Art

New York

Attributed to Jan Swart van Groningen
Groningen circa 1500 - circa 1560 Antwerp


Frederick Richards Leyland, London, by 1884;
His sale, London, Christie's, May 28, 1892, lot 108 (as by Francesco Francia);
To Valentine Cameron Prinsep;
Alfred T. Bulkeley Gavin, Craigengillan, Dalmellington, Strathclyde, Scotland:
By whom sold, London, Christie's, June 11, 1971, lot 87 (as by Martin van Heemskerck), to French & Co.;
For the J. Paul Getty Museum.


London, The Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School..., Winter 1884,, no. 273, as 'Unknown after design by Michel Angelo';
London, The Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School..., Winter 1895, no. 108, 'Unknown after design by Michel Angelo'.


B.B. Fredericksen, Catalogue of the Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu 1972, pp. 62-63, no. 77, as attributed to Marten van Heemskerck;
D. Jaffé, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 1997, p. 123, reproduced;
P. Joannides, Michel-Ange, élèves et copistes, vol. VI of Inventaire général des dessin itatlen, Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts Graphiques, Paris 2003, p. 231.

Catalogue Note

The Abduction of Ganymede shows Zeus, in the guise of an eagle, carrying off Ganymede, a young Trojan prince known for his beauty.  The composition is based on a presentation drawing that Michelangelo made for his friend Tommaso de' Cavelieri in late 1532.  The work was immediately famous and inspired copies in all media -- painting, drawing, engraving and the decorative arts.  The copies break down into two types:  vertical compositions, which show Ganymede and the eagle above and a landscape with a dog below, and horizontal compositions, which show only the youth and the eagle.  It is generally agreed that the prime version of the composition is the drawing in the Fogg Museum, Harvard, which is from the former, vertical, group.

The present work is one of three extant painted versions of The Abduction of Ganymede; the other two are in Hampton Court and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.2  All three undoubtedly derive from an engraving by Nicolas Beatrizet dated 1542 or copies of it by Giulio Bonasone, published in Achille Bocchius’ Symbolicarum Quaestionum… Bologna, 1555, Book III, nos. lxxviii and lxxix. Beatrizet’s print reverses the composition and changes some of the elements of the landscape below, most notably including only one rather than two dogs and eliminating Ganymede’s bundle of clothing and shepherd’s crook from the ground below.  The paintings repeat these changes, but the specific elements of the landscapes – the buildings and trees – vary greatly.

The Abduction of Ganymede has been attributed to Francesco Francia, Maerten van Heemskerck and, most recently, Jan Swart van Groningen.  The treatment of the landscape and the coloring certainly suggest a northern artist, and the date on the print provides a terminus post quem for the painting. 

1  There is considerable debate about whether the Fogg drawing is by Michelangelo or a pupil.  There is also a question of whether Michelangelo himself made two versions of the original design, or whether the horizontal composition was an adaptation by a follower.  See P. Joannides, Op. cit., pp. 229-231.
2  A number of copies that may or may not correspond to these works cited in old sale catalogues include two from Cardinal Fesch, February 7, 1820, no. 3 and March 17-18, 1845, no. 521 and the Osmitz sale, March 11, 1913, no. 46.  G. Kempter, Ganymed.  Studien zur Typologie, Ikongraphie und Ikonologie, Cologne and Vienna, p. 196, nos. 151 and 153, also refers to paintings from the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden and in the Neues Palais, Potsdam.


Important Old Master Paintings and European Works of Art

New York