This painting depicts the interior of a room where four men are grouped around a table. They are painted as half-length figures, and their forms fill the foreground. They are painted in warm tones of brown, red and green and dressed in 16th century Netherlandish clothing. There is a king, wearing a pointed crown, who, with his right arm awkwardly crossed over his left, points to another man across the table. He has a furrowed brow and his mouth is partially open as if he is speaking. Next to him is a man looking downward, intently counting coins piled on the table. The third man pauses while writing in a book, his hand with the pen is stopped in mid-air, and looks back at the king. The fourth man, on the other side of the table, has his hands clasped in a pleading gesture and his eyes meet the gaze of the king. Items in the room and on the table such as books, scissors, a money bag, and an hourglass, are painted in great detail. In the upper right, a small outdoor scene, painted in tones of light green, shows an imaginary cityscape with a man being dragged into an underground chamber by some soldiers.
Jan van Hemessen has been credited with originating this type of moralizing genre painting. Here he paints a version of one of Christ's parables from the New Testament (Matthew 18:23-35). A king was settling his accounts and a servant was unable to pay his large debt of money. After the servant pleaded for mercy, the king took pity and released him from his debt. Later, this man saw a fellow servant who owed him money and demanded payment. The man could not repay him and the servant sent him to prison. When the king heard of this, he summoned the servant and punished him since he had not shown the same mercy that was given to him by the king.
The scene of a tax collector's office was a common subject in Flemish art in the 16th century, but Van Hemesson has added the narrative elements of the parable to relate the importance of forgiveness. He has chosen to show the moment in the story when the king denounces the servant, " You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me: and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" (Matthew 18: 32-33)
St. John the Evangelist sits in the foreground with a book open on his knee and quill pen poised over its pages. Two books rest next to him and an eagle has alighted on an adjacent rock. St. John looks up and to his right to see a standing figure of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Christ, who appear in a glowing mandorla hovering in the sky. A vast panoramic view of a bustling harbor and formidable mountains unfolds behind St. John and extends into the distance.
This painting depicts St. John the Evangelist writing the book of Revelation during his exile on the Greek island of Patmos. A pair of books, signifying the foundations of John's prophecy in the Old Testament, lie at his side, and an eagle, the symbol associated with John, has landed next to him. The saint fixes his attention upon the Virgin Mary who holds the infant Christ and hovers in the sky in a glowing mandorla as the "woman clothed with the sun" described in Revelation (12:1-6). The land falls away precipitously behind St. John and opens into a dramatic panorama of a bustling port and craggy mountains. Despite the great distance of the landscape we can discern, as if with telescopic eyes, myriad details that make the setting resemble sixteenth-century Flanders rather than a remote Mediterranean island.
A nude woman with long hair flowing down her back grasps a tree branch with her right hand and bends it downward in order to more easily pluck the green fruit dangling at its tip with her left hand. Her white body contrasts starkly with the darker tones of the surrounding landscape. The less conspicuous figure of a serpent with the head of a bearded man coils about the trunk of the tree next to the woman and fixes her with his stare.
This panel represents Eve in the Garden of Eden tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3). The serpent appears with the leering head of a bearded man to demonstrate his diabolical nature. This panel originally formed part of a piece of furniture, perhaps a type of marriage chest known as a cassone, where it would have been complemented by other painted decoration, including a companion image of Adam.
A nude man seen from behind raises a staff to ward off the blow of a standing female figure, also with a staff. The woman's swing is directed to two seated figures at the lower left: a nude woman and a satyr. In the distance is an elaborate gated city and landscape.
Dürer combines myth, in the figures of Hercules and the satyr, with allegory, the seated woman possibly a figure of Vice and the standing woman representing Virtue. The interpretation of the scene remains enigmatic.
This marble statue depicts a standing male figure, who holds a closed book in his left hand and makes what appears to be a gesture indicating speech with his right. The curls of his flowing beard and long hair are echoed in the gentle curving folds and undulating edges of his long robe and mantle. He turns his head downward and to his left
This standing apostle, produced in the Belgian city of Liege, formerly stood in the interior of a church, where he would have appeared in a niche above eye level as part of a larger sculptural ensemble that probably included the other apostles and religious figures.
This pair of finely carved bust-length figures depicts two men in ecclesiastical garb. On the right appears an older figure who wears elaborate vestments and a papal tiara with a book in his left hand. His deeply lined and wrinkled face conveys a patient wisdom and authority as he stares directly ahead. His more youthful companion, dressed in a simpler collared robe and brimless cap, glances introspectively aside. He grasps an unfurled scroll in his left hand and a diminutive lion stares out from its perch on his left shoulder.
This pair of bust-length figures represents an aged Saint Gregory the Great crowned with a papal tiara and a younger Saint Jerome with a miniature lion, his usual attribute, resting on his shoulder. Due to the fundamental importance of their writings in Catholicism they came to be known as Doctors of the Church, and these two busts probably appeared alongside busts of the other two doctors, Saints Ambrose and Augustine, in the base of an elaborate carved altarpiece.
A bearded man, wearing majestic red robes with a large ermine collar and a green turban surmounted by a crown, sits on a throne at left. He leans forward, holding a long thin scepter in his right hand while touching his chest with his left. Before him stand two women supporting a third, who has fainted. This third woman wears a splendid blue robe ornamented with a row of opulent clasps, a luxurious golden cloak lined with pink fabric, and a crown that seems to tilt precariously on the back of her head. The man looks intently into the face of the fainted woman, while the two women, in turn, watch his expression closely.
On this grand canvas the painter Guercino has depicted the dramatic intervention of Esther, the biblical heroine, with King Ahasuerus to save her people. Compelled to rescue the Jews from a royal decree ordering their destruction, Esther appears before the king to present a petition without having been summoned, an act that was punishable by death. Esther, wearing her crown, has fainted, and Ahasuerus rather than condemning her, feels compassion, eloquently expressed by the gesture of his left hand, and extends his scepter toward her as a sign of favor.
A seated king, at the left, holds the hand of a swooning woman who is supported by another woman. The supporting woman looks back at the king.
Derived from the Old Testament story of the Jewish heroine, Esther, Guercino depicts the dramatic moment when Esther enters the king's presence unbidden and faints in distress. Although she is his queen, no one may approach the king without his permission.
The Museum of Art is fortunate to have two preparatory drawings for the Guercino painting of "Esther Before Ahasuerus" (the other is 2008/1.161). In this work, Guercino is exploring the psychological relationships between the principal figures: Ahasuerus, his queen Esther, and one of two attendants who support the queen. Between these two studies, it is possible to examine Guercino's process of arriving at his final composition. This sheet carefully explores the responses of the three figures, concentrating on the gesture of clemency as Ahasuerus reaches out to Esther with both his scepter and, in more personal concern, with his hand.
A standing, bearded figure of St. Christopher, broken off at the knees, holds the Christ child on his right shoulder while leaning upon a staff in his left hand. The child, whose head is encircled by a halo, wears a long cloak over his robe and rests his left hand upon an orb in his lap. The red and brown polychromy is a later addition.
This alabaster sculpture represents St. Christopher transporting the Christ child on his right shoulder across a river, although the waters that once swirled around the saint's legs were lost when the figure was broken at the knees. The relatively large size of this sculpture indicates that it probably served as the principle devotional figure in a small altarpiece.
In an ominous landscape a crowd of nude men, women and children, their bodies silhouetted against the descending gloom, struggle frantically to escape rising floodwaters. The figures gesture wildly and strenuously twist their long athletic bodies into a seemingly infinite variety of contortions as they clamber up the last hilltops and trees. A city stands on a hill and appears through the trees in the background.
This painting offers a dark and chaotic vision of the last remnants of humanity struggling against the rising waters of the flood described in the book of Genesis. The writhing mass of bodies offered van Mander the opportunity to display his skill in rendering human form, but also creates a sense of panicked desperation as humanity and civilization, suggested by the city in the background, is swallowed by the waters.
Two women accompanied by a pair of putti appear seated in the foreground of this painting. On the left sits a winged woman crowned with a laurel wreath and wearing a long white robe and a vivid ocher-colored mantle. She leans on a globe while cradling a large book in her right arm to which she points with her left hand. In her right hand she holds a compass. A putto peeks from beneath her mantle, and a viol is visible beneath the globe. The other woman sits on a cloud. She wears a golden crown and a richly colored blue mantle. She grasps a lyre with her left hand and leans toward the woman seated next to her, gesturing in the direction of the book with her right hand. A second putto stands near her left shoulder holding a gold circlet in his left hand. The background is filled with glimpses of neoclassical architecture, including fluted columns and a facade with a row of Ionic columns supporting an entablature.
This painting shows the interior of a large prison room. There is a thick stone wall and iron grating. Three figures are the focal point of this composition. One man, in a dark blue cloak, is standing and faces two other men who stare intently at his face. One of them is seated with a leg iron, on a stone bench and the other leans on a stone ledge. They are are dressed in simple brown cloaks. The standing figure has a raised left arm and is gesturing with his hand outstretched toward the other figures.
This history painting depicts a scene from the Old Testament (Genesis, Chapter 40) in which Joseph tells the Pharoah's servants what their dreams foretell. The Bible story relates that while in prison, the chief butler and chief baker to the Pharoah were troubled by their recent dreams. Joseph interpreted the butler 's dream to mean that he would be released and returned to the Pharoah's service in three days. Joseph asks the butler to remember him when that happens so that he might be released from prison. Joseph then interprets the baker's dream to mean that he will be put to death by the Pharoah in three days time. The events happened as Joseph predicted, but the chief butler forgets him and he remains imprisoned.
The setting for this painting is the interior of a prison where Joseph, standing on the left, is shown gesturing toward the baker and butler who stare intently at his face.
This remarkable still life depicts a table crowded with, among other things, a gilded covered goblet, a wide saucer-shaped silver tazza, a celestial globe painted with images of the constellations, a skull wearing a laurel wreath, and an extinguished candle, all rendered in exquisite detail with careful attention paid to the effects of light and texture. While the arrangement of objects may appear casual, the composition is artfully balanced along two diagonal axes centered on the two cups that lie crossed on the table. The repetition of ovoid shapes throughout the painting and the monochrome tonality with its restricted range of hues and values, a hallmark of Heda's style, assures the seamless integration of the sundry objects into a unified whole.
Many of the objects crowded on the tabletop in this masterful painting--the empty cups laying on their sides, the globe with figures of the zodiac, the skull, the extinguished candle--evoke the passage of time and the transience of human life. This type of painting, known as a vanitas still life, became popular in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century, and Heda, who worked in the city of Haarlem, was one of its most renowned practitioners. The admonition against finding security in life and its comforts, however, is counterbalanced in the painting by the delight in the objects tantalizingly arranged along the edge of the table and Heda's skill in rendering their sensuous qualities such as the glint of precious metal and the cool weight of the chain against the velvety tablecover.
verso: on outer frame l. c., inscribed in black magic marker, upside-down: Z 616; u.c., handwritten and underlined in graphite: 163; r., u. area, handwritten in graphite, slanted downward: LIS; label: on outer frame, l.r., surrounded by two reddish brown ink lines, inscribed in blue ink: GASPARE TRAVERSI/Naples 1722-1770./ Salomé with the Head of J the Baptist./ see SSM. cat. no 10, pp. 41-43./ May 1996./ [in reddish brown letterpress]: MATTHIESEN FINE ART LIMITED [underlined]/ ST. JAMES’S, LONDON SW1Y 6BU
The half-length figure of a woman looks directly out of the painting and holds the bearded head of a man on a platter in her hands. She wears a fine robe with large white sleeves and collar, a soft hat with a small white feather, and a bejeweled pin on her left shoulder. The face of an older woman with deeply wrinkled skin appears in the shadows behind her.
This painting by the eighteenth-century Neapolitan artist Gaspare Traversi is a sensitive character study, straddling the line between religious narrative and portrait. Shown here is a beautiful woman dressed in finery, who cradles the head of a decapitated man on a charger, or platter. Emerging from the darkness behind her appears the head of an old woman, her wrinkled visage a foil to the younger woman’s youth and allure. The painter’s indications of subject matter are bare to the extreme, playing on the slipperiness of the related manners of representing two biblical characters, Judith and Salome, both of whom have been suggested as the subject of this work.
The Jewish heroine Judith of the Old Testament apocrypha was a virtuous widow who saved her besieged people by seducing the Assyrian general Holofernes, successfully repulsing his amorous advances until he fell asleep drunk. Seizing his sword, Judith chopped off her enemy’s head. The New Testament personage Salome danced so well for her stepfather Herod that he offered to give her anything she wanted. Upon the advice of her mother Herodias, the young woman demanded the head of St. John the Baptist, whereupon an executioner decapitated the saint. While both Judith and Salome may be shown holding the severed head on a charger, only Judith is shown with a sword. The absence of this instrument in the Museum’s image creates an ambiguity inducing us to tease out the meaning of this picture.
Rather than depicting a moment of action, Traversi chose to show the figure reacting to what has just happened. The complexity of feelings evoked by the subject’s face—a mixture of pride, ruefulness, and strength—argues in favor of Judith. Salome, who merely carried out her mother’s wishes, is usually portrayed as passive or pliant, and rarely with any depth of emotions. The narrative context allowed the artist to give to this portrait of an obviously charming model an intriguing psychosexual dimension.
Traversi settled in Rome in 1752, where he seems to have lived for the rest of his life, though he apparently worked for patrons in that city and in Naples. Our painting may have been commissioned by a Roman or Neapolitan patron who wished to be portrayed in the guise of Judith, in the tradition of the identification, or disguised, portrait, in which qualities associated with a biblical figure carry over to the contemporary person depicted. Or the woman portrayed may simply be a model whose compelling appearance made Traversi want to record her as a character study, much in the manner of his genre scenes featuring interesting people from a range of social classes. In any case, it must have been Judith’s combination of virtue, will, and eroticism that appealed both to the patron or model and to the artist.
This painting’s power to fascinate made it a most suitable gift to honor the Museum on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary.
Portrait of a young man seated in a chair wearing a dark jacket, white shirt with high collar and neck tie with red stick pin; holding a book in his right hand. Plain grayish-brown background; gold frame.
Phillips worked mainly in New England painting portraits commissioned by members of the wealthy new middle class that emerged after the American Revolution to celebrate their status and place in society.
“Portrait of a Man” illustrates Phillips attention to facial features, preserving the sitter’s likeness, while his fine clothing, and the copy of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” indicate his sophistication, education and affluence.
Painting of a young boy sitting in front of a fireplace reading a book in a dark interior setting.
Johnson shows Abraham Lincoln as a young boy seated before a glowing fire reading a book in a dark rustic interior setting. Painted just three years after Lincoln's assassination, this intimate genre scene reflects widely held conceptions of Lincoln’s commonness and modest upbringing while emphasizing his humanity and high moral character through the virtue of his dedication to hard work and to his intense commitment to learning.
Bronze sculpture of a standing male figure his right hand holding a shield which rests upon a stack of book while his left arm is outstretched hovering over the crouching figure of an African American male figure.
At the end of the Civil War (1861–65) there was an effort to promote an American Renaissance and to beautify cities with civic monuments and public sculpture. Sculptors, including Randolph Rogers, were commissioned to produce memorials that addressed themes of war and slavery and to commemorate military heroes, from the common soldier to President Abraham Lincoln himself. This work is a maquette for the Emancipation Memorial in Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Park, which depicts Abraham Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” freeing a slave, establishing a narrative of theoretical peace and unity.
A dark line drawing with white highlights on a tan colored background. It shows a standing male figure in profile, facing left. He has curly hair, a long beard and has classically style draped clothing. He has a vacant gaze and his face is turned downward. there is a partial drawing of draped fabric in the left margin of the work.
This is a figure drawing of Oedipus as an old man. Oedipus was the King of Thebes in Greek mythology who unknowingly fufilled the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. When the prophecy was fufilled, he gouged his eyes out and went into exile to wander the countryside until his death. The figure of Oedipus was part of a larger tempera painting that Moore designed for the proscenium of the New Queen's Theatre, in Long Acre, London, depicting an ancient Greek audience watching Sophocles' play, "Oedipus at Colonnus".