Hans von Aachen (Cologne 1552-1615 Prague)
Pan and Selene
indistinctly signed and dated '16 [ACH] ...' (lower left), and with inventory number '34' (lower right)
oil on panel
15¾ x 19 3/8 in. (40 x 49.2 cm.)
Essen, Kulturstiftung Ruhr Villa Hügel, Prag um 1600: Kunst und Kultur am Hofe Rudolfs II, 10 June-30 October 1988, no. 101 (catalogue note by E. Fucíková).
R. van der Heiden, in G. Meissner, ed., Allgemeines Künstler-Lexicon, Leipzig, I, 1983.
T. DaCosta Kaufmann, The School of Prague: Painting at the Court of Rudolf II, Chicago and London, 1988, pp. 143-4, no. 1.32, illustrated. E. Fucíková, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Prague um 1600: Kunst und Kultur am Hofe Kaiser Rudolfs II, Freren, 1988, I, p. 218, no. 101, illustrated; and p. 199, pl. 15.
J. Jacoby, Hans von Aachen, Munich and Berlin, 2000, pp. 147-48, no. 43, illustrated.
T. Fusenig, ed., Hans von Aachen: Court Artist in Europe, Aachen, Prague and Vienna, 2010, pp. 27-8, fig. 27.
Painted for the Imperial collection of Rudolf II, Prague, where possibly recorded in an inventory of 1621 as Pan and Selene.
Sold to the art dealer Daniel de Briers in 1623 and recorded in an inventory dated 30 March 1623, no. 34, 'Buhlschaft Venus mit zwei satyri'.
London art market, circa 1984, where acquired by the present owner.
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The Property of a Private European Collector (lots 12, 32 & 33)
Painted around 1600-5 for the imperial collection of Rudolf II in Prague, Von Aachen's Pan and Selene has recently been acknowledged as one of the artist's most accomplished works along with a small group of paintings executed in the same period, that includes the Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid, Boy with grapes and the Tarquin and Lucretia (all Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum; see E. Fucíková, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Hans von Aachen. Court Artist in Europe, 2010, p. 28).
The last two digits of the date are undecipherable but both Fucíková and DaCosta Kauffman date the picture close to 1600 by virtue of its stylistic affinities with the Allegory of the Return of the Golden Age, from 1598 (Munich, Alte Pinakothek), and the Allegory of Peace, dated 1602 (St. Petersburg, Hermitage). The composition is closely related to a larger painting on canvas of Rape of Lucretia, (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), also datable to around 1600, showing Tarquin forcing himself on to a reclining Lucretia in much the same pose as that adopted by Pan and Selene. A related drawing is in the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.
Variously described in the past as Venus and a Satyr and Jupiter and Antiope, Fucíková was first to identify the subject as Pan and Selene, taken from Virgil's account of how the moon goddess Selene was seduced by the shepherd Endymion in the guise of Pan. The choice of subject reflects Rudolf II's taste for erotic mythological paintings and also reveals how von Aachen was influenced by the Italian paintings in his patron's collection: most obviously Correggio's Jupiter and Io and Titian's Danae.
Von Aachen's Pan and Selene is the most overtly erotic painting in his surviving oeuvre. The key to its survival may lie in the fact that the most sexual part of the picture was diguised by overpainting, perhaps added soon after its completion. The overpainted version is still visible in photographs of the picture from around 1980, but has since been removed in cleaning. By around 1620 erotic art such as this had been deemed offensive leading to the sale of a number of erotically themed pictures and drawings from the imperial collections in 1623 to the art dealer Daniel de Briers. The inventory number on the present work must refer to no. 34 on the list of works sold to de Briers: 'Bulschaft Venus mit zwei satyri'. The picture's subsequent history is unknown until its appearance on the London art market in the 1980s.