The Challenge of the Pierides, from Ovid's Metamorphosis (Book V: 294-678)

Karel van Mander I (Netherlandish, Meulebeke 1548–1606 Amsterdam)

16th–17th century
Pen and brown ink, brown wash. Framing line in pen and brown ink
sheet: 6 9/16 x 8 15/16 in. (16.7 x 22.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, 2005 Benefit Fund and Dodge Fund, 2007
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Karel Van Mander is best known as the author of the first collection of biographies of Netherlandish artists, Het Schilder-Boeck (The Book on Painting), but he was also a highly skilled and wonderfully imaginative draftsman. This recently discovered drawing depicts a story told in book V of Ovid's Metamorphoses (verses 294-678) in which the nine daughters of King Pierus are turned into magpies after losing the singing contest to which they challenged the nine Muses. The scene is set at one of the sacred sources on Mount Helicon or Mount Parnassus. Probably following the example of a print after Rosso Fiorentino, Van Mander seems to have cast Apollo as the final judge. This drawing and two similar sheets by Van Mander at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, may have been meant as the continuation
    of an elaborate but aborted series of print illustrations of the Metamorphoses by Van Mander's great contemporary and friend Hendrick Goltzius, for which one of the drawn models is shown at left. Goltzius in turn must have been incited to work on the series by Van Mander's interest in Ovid's book. Van Mander's commentary on the Metamorphoses is part of Het Schilder-Boeck; a first edition copy is shown in the vitrine nearby.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Marking: Verso: at lower left, the collector's mark of John McGowan (Lugt 1496). Watermark: Basel crozier with star (similar to Briquet 1305)

  • Provenance

    John MacGowan (British, died in 1803, Edinburgh); Thomas Philipe (British, 1740–1816), January 26 - Feb 2, 1804; Christie's, New York, 25 January 2007, lot 57(as by an artist from the cirlce of Goltzius); Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel , Munich

  • Exhibition History

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," October 20, 2008–January 11, 2009.

  • References

    Christie's, New York Old Master and 19th century Drawings. Sale cat. January 25, 2007, cat. 57 (as by an artist from the cirlce of Hendrick Goltzius), ill.

    Stijn Alsteens, Nadine Orenstein, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2007-2008." in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 66, no. 2, Fall 2008, pp. 18-19, ill.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History