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Bacchanal - The judgment of Paride

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Bacchanal - The judgment of Paride
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Detailed Description

Peter Mulier (1637 - 1701)
Bacchanal; The judgment of Paride
Oil on canvas, 91 x 68 cm

The pair of ovals analyzed are to be referred to the hand of Peter Mulier (1637-1701), Dutch painter who came to Italy from Harleem in 1656. Influenced by the painting of Gaspard Dughet, who he was inspired by his brother-in-law, Nicolas Poussin, who first stayed in Rome (1566-1570), where he worked for the Dukes of Bracciano, Prince Colonna, Cardinal Gilberto Borromeo, Aloisio Omodei and the Doria Pamphilj family. Splendid frescoes in Palazzo Colonna are still preserved today. His presence is also attested in Piacenza and Venice. From 1659 he was enrolled in the Guild of Dutch painters with the nickname of Tempesta, attributed to him for the numerous paintings depicting sailing ships in the grip of storm surges. From the terrible temperament, the accusation of his wife's murder was the cause of his incarceration. After the years of imprisonment he continued to work devoting himself mainly to painting pastoral and religious themes. The first painting proposes the mythological subject of the "judgment of Paris" at the center of a wooded landscape. During the nuptial banquet of the nereid Teti with Peleus, future parents of Achilles, the goddess of discord, Eris, decided to take revenge for the missed invitation. During the toast of the newlyweds, he brought down from above a golden apple on which it was written: "To the most beautiful", immediately claimed by Hera, Aphrodite and Athena. To avoid the furious quarrel between the three goddesses, Zeus ordered that the judge of the matter be the most beautiful of mortals, Paris. Hermes was instructed to bring the three goddesses to the young Trojan and each of them promised him a reward in exchange for the apple. Paride favored Aphrodite, who would grant the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, unleashing the wrath of the other two deities. The goddess of love then helped Paris to kidnap Elena, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, which was the trigger for the Trojan war. The painting portrays the moment of the choice of Paride, dressed as a shepherd, with the consequent delivery of the apple in the hand of Aphrodite. Each character is accompanied by a distinctive sign: Paride from a dog, It was from a peacock on the tree, Aphrodite from a small Eros and Athena from the lance and the shield. On a cloud meanwhile continues the divine banquet, preamble of the story. The work is wisely orchestrated and elegantly balanced in the arrangement of the characters, supported by a vivid color scheme. Reference should be made to the work preserved in the G. Stuart Pinacoteca di Parma (46 x 63 cm), depicting the same theme and attributed to the Tempesta. The compositional system is similar, it differs mainly in the format of the rectangular support. The second oval under examination represents a bucolic landscape in which a group of maenads, also known as Bacchae or Tiadi, act. Priestesses, are the women who together with the Satyrs and the Sileni constitute the cortege (??????) of Dionysus, participating in the sacred fury induced by the orgiastic cult of this god. The group of women in the foreground is characterized by a set of typical attributes. First of all the thyrsus or the ferula stick (Beazley, in Am. Journ. Arch., Xxxvii, 1933, p.400). It consists of a twig of ferula, with an ivy frond around it. According to their priestly function, there is a drum, sacrificial pottery and sacred branches arranged on the grass. On the left side of the painting opens the entrance to a cave. In the background, in front of a statue of Dionysus, a group of Baccanti is intent on the ritual dance among floating robes, holding a series of musical instruments and percussion like flutes, cymbals, rattles and tympani that come from the cult of Cybele. The various plant elements are united in a lively whole. Both works are of very refined quality and characterized by the use of lights, particularly intense and suggestive, which allow the Poussinian influence deriving from Dughet, a painter much appreciated by Mulier, to be clearly perceived. In many works of this master we recognize figures realized by one of his specialized students: Carlo Antonio Tavella. There are numerous works of four hands made by the two masters, being counted some paintings monogrammed by both. In addition to the aforementioned work of the Stuart Art Gallery in Parma, the paintings preserved in the Pinacoteca of the Civic Art and History Museums of Brescia, in particular "Figures of shepherds with the flock" (67.5 cm x 84, 3 cm, Inv. No. 210) and "Figures of washerwomen at a bridge" (30.1 cm x 42.3 cm, Inv. No 204): the structure of the plant and rock elements, the vivid blue of the skies, the degradation of landscapes with background scenes and the tonal contrasts used are widely found in the two ovals in question. The splendid workmanship of the characters, the chromatism and the details lead us to consider the only hand of Mulier in the execution of the two paintings.

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Ars Antiqua srl Milano, Via Carlo Pisacane, 55 (Milano - Italy)

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