PROPERTY FROM THE SØR RUSCHE COLLECTION
Among the mass of papers, including an almanac, a songbook and a certificate in English, upon which Paulijn has signed his name in full, is a marble bust modelled on the Medici Venus (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence) – a 1st century BC marble copy of a late Hellenistic bronze sculpture, that was found in Rome in the early 17th century. The full-length sculpture was heralded almost immediately as one of the most beautiful examples of ancient statuary, and many replicas were made, along with painted, drawn and printed depictions.
Almost uniformly illuminated, the marble bust and the pale documents are highlighted by contrast with the Classical architecture and in particular the rich oriental carpet on which they are placed. The neutral background also serves to make the rather extraordinary, richly-feathered helmet stand out even more – the wispy fronds juxtaposed with the hard plasticity of the bust. This sort of elaborately-plumed helmet is found in two paintings by Juriaen van Streeck of a similar period of circa 1670.1
While its presence here, along with the busts and the sober Classical setting, grants the composition an air of noble connoisseurship, the still life is undoubtedly a vanitas – the luxurious objects in somewhat of a state of disarray a commentary on the transience of worldly goods, fame and learning. Alternatively, the bust of Venus, positioned centrally and turned away from these trifles, may also be interpreted as a kind of timeless ideal of beauty and purity triumphing over the more temporary trappings of vanity.
1 York Art Gallery, York, inv. no. YORAG:57; and Pushkin Museum, Moscow, inv. no. Ж-2533.
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