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Maerten de Vos, the elder (Antwerp 1532-1603)
Maerten de Vos, the elder (Antwerp 1532-1603)

The Garden of Eden, with the Fall of Man, the Creation of Eve, and the Expulsion from the Garden

Details
Maerten de Vos, the elder (Antwerp 1532-1603)
The Garden of Eden, with the Fall of Man, the Creation of Eve, and the Expulsion from the Garden
oil on panel
56½ x 82 in. (143.5 x 208.3 cm.)
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London 11 December 2003, lot 8.

Lot Essay

While the present work was most likely a collaboration with studio assistants, Maerten de Vos does not seem to have employed a specialist animal painter in any of his compositions, and therefore was most likely responsible for many of the animals in this work. They recall the large panels by de Vos, mostly signed, depicting individual animals - Leopard, Elephant, Unicorn, Dromedary, Lion, Stag - painted in 1572 for Herzog Johann Albrecht I von Mecklenburg, now in the collections of the Staatliches Museum in Schwerin and the Mittelrheinisches Landesmuseum, Mainz (see Zweite, op. cit., pp. 283-4, nos. 48-53, reproduced figs. 57-62). The Unicorn is particularly close to the one in the present painting, and the Mecklenburg panels feature similar brushy trees in the background. It would, therefore, seem reasonable to date this work to the 1570s. Consequently, it seems probable, though it is by no means certain, that de Vos was influenced by Frans Pourbus's several depictions of this subject, rather than vice versa (see for instance the panel formerly with Jean-Max Tassel, Paris; reproduced in color in J. Briels, Peintres flamands au berceau du Siècle d'Or hollandaise, 2nd ed., Antwerp, 1997, p. 145, fig. 215). Both artists may well have enjoyed a similar inspiration in the zoological watercolors of Hans Verhagen, executed in Antwerp around 1550. Verhagen's elephant is remarkably similar to the one seen grazing in the present painting (see Briels, op. cit., p. 144, reproduced fig. 213).

Maerten de Vos, the leading history painter in Antwerp in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, had a large and successful studio. He spent much of the 1550s traveling in Italy and presumably visited Rome, Florence and Venice, where, according to Carlo Ridolfi, he spent time working in the studio of Tintoretto. By 1558 he was back in Antwerp, where he was made a master in the guild of Saint Luke. The present work has much in common with the large cycle of paintings commissioned from de Vos by Herzog Wilhelm von Braunschweig-Lüneburg for his Lutheran Schlosskapelle, Celle, of which one panel is dated 1569, and that includes representations of the Fall and Expulsion (see A. Zweite, Marten de Vos als Maler, Berlin 1980, pp. 85-146 (chapters II & III), 270-8, nos. 18-38, especially nos. 33 and 35, reproduced figs. 39 and 44).

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