Lot 67
  • 67

Dutch Follower of Caravaggio, 17th Century

30,000 - 40,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Tantalus
  • oil on canvas
  • 42 3/4  by 34 in.; 108.6 by 86.4 cm. 

Catalogue Note

In Greek mythology, Tantalus was the son the Zeus and the nymph Plouto. On Earth he was the king of Sipylus in Lydia, yet also maintained close friendships with the Gods. So close was his relationship with the rulers on Olympus that he was welcomed to their dinner table. His downfall began upon his decision to steal nectar and ambrosia and give it to his mortal subjects in hope of providing to them immortality and divine wisdom. For his misdeeds Tantalus was swiftly ejected from Olympus, and upon his death was condemned to eternal punishment. Depicted here is that penalty, that he was forced to stand in a pool of water, directly beneath the branches of a fruit tree. Such was the sentence that when Tantalus stretched to pick a fruit, the branches would immediately grow out of reach. Conversely when he lowered his neck to drink, the waters of the pool receded also out of reach. This story provides us the origin of the word tantalizing, when something is tortuously just out of reach.  The execution of this work coincided with one of the most artistically diverse and dynamic moments of art history within Europe. At the end of the first decade of the 17th century, and coinciding with Caravaggio's career, there was a community of Northern artists who settled in Rome and developed their own brand of the intensely naturalistic style that Caravaggio had unleashed upon the art world only a couple of years prior. Characterized by dramatic tenebrism and compositional intensity, these first generation followers of Caravaggio would ultimately disseminate this new approach throughout the Low Countries and beyond. This particular picture appears particularly informed by Jusepe di Ribera, whose own brand of Caravaggism would have a particular impact on the Northern practitioners of the style. The close attention to the rendering of skin and the male form are testaments to this observation.