Master Paintings Evening Sale

Master Paintings Evening Sale

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 20. JOSEPH HEINTZ THE YOUNGER | PLUTO AND PROSERPINA.


Auction Closed

January 30, 12:05 AM GMT


200,000 - 300,000 USD

Lot Details



Augsburg circa 1600 - 1678 Venice


oil on canvas

37 by 52 in.; 94 by 132 cm.


Art market, Berlin, 1929 (as Teniers, according to Marlier 1959);

Anonymous sale, Amsterdam, Frederick Muller & Co., 11-13 July 1950, lot 656 (as Jan Mandijn, and as titled Triton in his chariot before hell);

Anonymous sale, Berlin, Rudolph Lepke, 16 October 1958, lot 182 (as Denys van Alsloot);

Private collection, Amsterdam, by 1985;

Private collection. 

G. Marlier, "Rembrandt erste Lehrmeister: Jacob Isaacsz. van Swanenburgh," in Weltkunst, 29,24, 1959, pp. 14-15, reproduced (as Jacob van Swanenburgh);

J. Bousqet, Malerei des Manierismus. Die Kunst Europas von 1520 bis 1620, Munich 1985, p. 103, reproduced fig. 53 (as Jacob van Swanenburgh);

A. Golahny, "Rembrandt's Abduction of Proserpina," in The age of Rembrandt: studies in seventeenth-century Dutch painting, University Park 1988, pp. pp. 30, 36, note 14, reproduced p. 43, fig. 2-6 (as attributed to Jacob van Swanenburgh);

C.S. Salerno, "Jacob Isaacsz Swanenburgh in Italia e alcune ‘stravaganze di scheletri’ di Filippo Angeli," in Fiamenghi che vanno e vengono non li si puol dar regola, Rome 1995, p. 80, note 19 (as Jacob van Swanenburgh);

M. Cannone and D.G. Cavallero,"Dipinti inediti e nuove attributzioni per Joseph Heintz il giovane," in Storia dell'arte, no. 139, 2014, p. 68, reproduced fig. 26 (as Attributed to Joseph Heintz, and dated after 1641).

Also known as a stregozzo, this extravagant and nocturnal scene of Pluto and Proserpina animated with countless comical and diabolical figures that steal attention away from the protagonists is emblematic of the versatile output that brought great success Joseph Heintz the Younger. Born in Augsburg around 1600, he was the son and pupil of the Prague painter Joseph Heintz the Elder; his long career that spanned nearly five decades was spent in Venice. Here, he distinguished himself from his contemporaries with his revolutionary paintings like the present, inspired by the printed and painted output of Hieronymous Bosch, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and Jacques Callot. For example, a detail from the latter’s Temptation of Saint Anthony is found repeated in the two monsters standing atop a rock near the right edge of the present composition as they overlook the extravagant scene that unfolds before them (fig. 1).

In this large canvas, Heintz illustrates the moment from the story of Pluto and Proserpine as recorded in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book V). Pluto sits here on his golden chariot at the entrance to his kingdom of the underworld about to be struck by cupid’s arrow. Once struck, he will fall in love with Proserpina, who cowers away from him in the lush grove at left with her escort, the nymph Cyane, nearby. The charm and beauty of the details surrounding Proserpine, including the playful putti in the lower left corner, serve to further contrast the amusing and bizarre figures that populate the right half of the composition.

It is of not much surprise that in the past this painting has been ascribed to other artists who explored similarly fantastical scenes, such as Jan Mandijn and Jacob van Swanenburgh. Its rightful reattribution to Heintz arose not only from a recognition of his distinct style and technique, but also in knowing that he explored this specific subject on at least three other occasions, one version of which is mentioned in the inventory of Francesco Querini a San Marziale’s collection dated 22 March 1708.1 In addition to a similar painting in a private collection,2 stylistically and visually the present work comes very close to another version by Heintz, today in the Municipal Museum Mariánské Lázně in the Czech Republic (fig. 2).

1.  Listed as Plutone con mostri d’Averno di quarte 7 et 8 di mano di Giuseppe Ens.  In early 18th century documents, the Italianized version of Heintz’s name was Giuseppe Ens, Einz, or Enz. See C.A. Levi, Le Collezioni Veneziane d’arte e d’antichità dal sec. XIV ai nostril giorni, Venice 1900, p. 152. 

2.  R. Pallucchini, La pittura veneziana del Seicento, Venice 1981, p. 153.