Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bacchus and Nymphs in a Landscape

Abraham van Cuylenborch (Dutch, Utrecht ca. 1620–1658 Utrecht)
probably 1640s
Oil on wood
22 7/8 x 28 3/8 in. (58.1 x 72.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Collis P. Huntington, 1900
Accession Number:
Not on view
This lighthearted mythological picture, probably dating from the 1640s, is typical of Cuylenborch, who specialized in arcadian landscapes with mythological and occasionally biblical figures, and in somewhat melodramatic grotto scenes. It was given to The Met as a Landscape by Cornelis van Poelenburch (1594/95–1667), and the monogram was misread as "CP." Curator Harry Wehle corrected these errors in 1948.

Apart from Bacchus, who enjoys a flute of red wine, none of the figures appear to be intended as a specific mythological personality. The naked nymphs in the foreground receive fruits and vegetables from two heavily laden putti, one posing like a little Atlas with a basket on his head. Five putti cavort overhead, pulling vine tendrils from the trees. In the right background, a nymph and satyr dance, another nymph with drapery around her hips plays a flute or some other instrument, and a satyr on his knees appears to hold a large jug (details are unclear due to abrasion). The dark green area of the foreground is attractively embellished by twigs and leaves.

The graceful woman seated on a rock occurs variously in the artist's work. In this case, she comes closer than usual to one of Raphael's Three Graces in the Sala di Psiche of the Villa Farnesina, Rome, which was widely known through engravings. However, there are many similar figures in Dutch art, as seen in the work of Joachim Wtewael, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1562–1638), Poelenburch, and others. There may be some Renaissance source for Bacchus as well, but Cuylenborch perused earlier material for useful ideas rather than familiar quotations. The chubby-cheeked type holding a modern glass is very much a Batavian Bacchus, like the one in the title print of Dirck Pers's book on the use and misuse of wine, Bacchus Wonder-wercken (Amsterdam, 1628).

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (lower left): AvC· [monogram] f
Collis P. Huntington, New York (until d. 1900; life interest to his widow, Arabella D. Huntington, later [from 1913] Mrs. Henry E. Huntington, 1900–d. 1924; life interest to their son, Archer Milton Huntington, 1924–terminated in 1925)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 68.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 134–35, 316, no. 30, colorpl. 30, fig. 26 (color detail), calls it "a typical Van Cuylenborch, probably from the 1640s".

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