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The Path of Nature: Collecting Off the Beaten Path

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The Disillusioned Medea ("The Enchantress")

Paulus Bor (Dutch, Amersfoort ca. 1601–1669 Amersfoort)

Date:
ca. 1640
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
61 1/4 x 44 1/4 in. (155.6 x 112.4 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of Ben Heller, 1972
Accession Number:
1972.261
  • Gallery Label

    The moody Medea of Greek mythology, with her magic wand, slumps at the altar in a Temple of Diana. A similar work by Bor in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, depicts the obscure Cydippe and is probably this picture’s pendant. In his Heroides the Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.–17/18 A.D.) tells the tales of Medea jilted by Jason, and of Cydippe and Acontius finding true love. Most likely a patron, proud of his classical learning, commissioned the artist to treat what is essentially the popular Dutch theme of good and bad marriages.

  • Catalogue Entry

    Forthcoming

  • Provenance

    principi Chigi, Castelfusano, Rome (by 1824–1941; as by Salvator Rosa; sold through Steno Cecconi to Busiri Vici); Andrea Busiri Vici, Rome (1941–at least 1955); Ben Heller, New York (until 1972)

  • Exhibition History

    Utrecht. Centraal Museum. "Caravaggio en de Nederlanden," June 15–August 3, 1952, no. 17 (as "Sibylle," lent by N. U. l'Architetto Andrea Busiri-Vici, Rome).

    Antwerp. Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. "Caravaggio en de Nederlanden," August 10–September 28, 1952, no. 17 (as "Sibylle," lent by N. U. l'Architetto Andrea Busiri-Vici, Rome).

    Rome. Palazzo delle Esposizioni. "Mostra di pittura olandese del Seicento," January 4–February 14, 1954, no. 15 (as "La sibilla," lent by Arch. A. Busiri-Vici, Rome).

    Milan. Palazzo Reale. "Mostra di pittura olandese del Seicento," February 25–April 25, 1954, no. 13 (as "La sibilla," lent by Arch. A. Busiri-Vici, Rome).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dutch Painting: The Golden Age," October 28–December 19, 1954, unnumbered cat. (ill. p. 10, as "Sibyl," lent by Andrea Busiri Vici, Rome).

    Toledo Museum of Art. "Dutch Painting: The Golden Age," January 2–February 13, 1955, unnumbered cat. (ill. p. 10, as "Sibyl," lent by Andrea Busiri Vici, Rome).

    Art Gallery of Toronto. "Dutch Painting: The Golden Age," February 18–?, 1955, unnumbered cat. (ill. p. 10, as "Sibyl," lent by Andrea Busiri Vici, Rome).

    London. Wildenstein. "Artists in 17th Century Rome," June 1–July 16, 1955, no. 9 (as "The Enchantress ['The Sibyl']," lent by N. U. L'Architetto Andrea Busiri Vici, Rome).

    Raleigh. North Carolina Museum of Art. "Sinners & Saints, Darkness and Light: Caravaggio and His Dutch and Flemish Followers," September 27–December 13, 1998, no. 9.

    Milwaukee Art Museum. "Sinners & Saints, Darkness and Light: Caravaggio and His Dutch and Flemish Followers," January 29–April 18, 1999, no. 9.

    Dayton Art Institute. "Sinners & Saints, Darkness and Light: Caravaggio and His Dutch and Flemish Followers," May 8–July 18, 1999, no. 9.

    Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Melancholie: Genie und Wahnsinn in der Kunst," February 17–May 7, 2006, not in catalogue.

    Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 12.

    Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 9.

    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.

  • References

    Lady [Sydney] Morgan. The Life and Times of Salvator Rosa. London, 1824, vol. 2, p. 373, lists it as "A Sorceress" by Salvator Rosa in the Ghigi [sic] Palace, Rome.

    Roberto Longhi. "Ultimi studi sul Caravaggio e la sua cerchia." Proporzioni 1 (1943), p. 29, fig. 66, as in the collection of Andrea Busiri-Vici, Rome; attributes it to Paulus Bor and dates it about 1620–30.

    Vitale Bloch. "Orlando." Oud-Holland 64 (1949), pp. 107–8, figs. 3 and 4 (overall and detail), identifies an Enchantress in a private collection, Zürich (now Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), as the pendant to this work.

    J[ohan]. Q[uirijn]. van Regteren Altena. "Paulus Bor of Jacques de Gheyn Junior?" Oud-Holland 64 (1949), pp. 108–9, notes a strong resemblance between the MMA painting and its companion published by Bloch [see Ref. 1949] and the works of Jacques de Gheyn the Younger, suggesting that a close relationship may have existed between Bor and de Gheyn.

    Vitale Bloch. "I Caravaggeschi a Utrecht e Anversa." Paragone 33 (September 1952), p. 19, believes that it probably dates from the same period as the artist's "Soothsayer" (Centraal Museum, Utrecht), which is dated 1641.

    G[offredo]. J. Hoogewerff. De Bentvueghels. The Hague, 1952, p. 151, pl. 13.

    Roberto Longhi. "Caravaggio en de Nederlanden." Paragone 33 (September 1952), pp. 57–58.

    Benedict Nicolson. "Caravaggio and the Netherlands." Burlington Magazine 94 (September 1952), p. 252, dates it "very shortly before" the Utrecht "Soothsayer" of 1641.

    Denis Mahon and Denys Sutton. Artists in 17th Century Rome. Exh. cat., Wildenstein. London, 1955, pp. 11–12, no. 9, ill., suggest that the subject may be Circe, relating it to Dosso Dossi's painting of the same subject (Galleria Borghese, Rome); note that the figure's shoulder and arm echo those of Caravaggio's "Saint Catherine" (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid); observe that similar decorative motifs occur in the 1642 title page for a set of eight etchings of dogs by Jan Fyt (Bartsch IV, nos. 9–16), considering that Bor and Fyt may have contributed to Piranesi's style.

    Denis [sic] Sutton. "Artisti nella Roma seicentesca." Paragone 6 (November 1955), p. 25.

    E[llis]. K. Waterhouse. "Artists in Seventeenth-Century Rome." Burlington Magazine 97 (July 1955), p. 222, calls it "Après-midi d'une sorcière".

    Günter Bandmann. Melancholie und Musik: Ikonographische Studien. Cologne, 1960, p. 76, pl. 29, dates it about 1620–30.

    Jakob Rosenberg and Seymour Slive in Dutch Art and Architecture: 1600 to 1800. Baltimore, 1966, p. 170, pl. 151A, tentatively date it about 1640; call the figure characteristic of draped women in Bor's work: "plump, neckless, and rather lethargic".

    Malarstwo Obce z zasobów magazynowych: Katalog Wystawy. Poznan, Poland, 1972, p. 10, under no. 6.

    Jakob Rosenberg and Seymour Slive in Dutch Art and Architecture: 1600 to 1800. rev. ed. Harmondsworth, England, 1972, p. 298, fig. 237.

    John Walsh Jr. "New Dutch Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 99 (May 1974), pp. 346, 348–49 n. 17, fig. 11 and ill. on cover (color), suggests that "Bor may well have intended her as a nameless member of the species enchantress, traditionally melancholic"; does not believe that the Amsterdam picture is a pendant to this work.

    Anthony M. Clark in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 93, ill.

    Joachim Wolfgang von Moltke. "Die Gemälde des Paulus Bor von Amersfoort." Westfalen 55 (1977), pp. 150–51, 157, 159, no. 9, fig. 102, considers it the pendant to the Amsterdam painting; notes that the same brocade material is seen in Bor's "Magdalen" (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) and "Jesus in the Temple" (Centraal Museum, Utrecht).

    Benedict Nicolson. The International Caravaggesque Movement. Oxford, 1979, p. 24 [2nd ed., rev. and enl. by Luisa Vertova, "Caravaggism in Europe," Turin, 1989, vol. 1, p. 66; vol. 3, pl. 1639], as "Sorceress (?Circe)" and possibly the pendant to "Mythological Figure (?Pomona)" in Amsterdam.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 322, 333, fig. 579 (color).

    H. E. C. Mazur-Contamine. "Twee 'tovenaressen' van Paulus Bor." Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 29, no. 1 (1981), pp. 6–8 nn. 7, 10, fig. 2, identifies the subject as the disillusioned Medea and dates the work about 1640; considers it the pendant to the Amsterdam painting, which he identifies as depicting another subject from Ovid's "Heroides": "Cydippe with Acontius's Apple".

    Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 180.

    Cornelia Moiso-Diekamp Universität Köln. Das Pendant in der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts. Frankfurt, 1987, pp. 307–8, no. B1, tentatively adopts Mazur-Contamine's [see Ref. 1981] identification of the subjects of the MMA and Amsterdam pictures and agrees that they are probably pendants.

    Ad Bercht. "Paulus Bor: De Schilderijen." Master's thesis, Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht, 1991, pp. 27, 29, 31–33, 35–40, no. 12, fig. 16.

    Peter van den Brink in Het Gedroomde Land: Pastorale Schilderkunst in de Gouden Eeuw. Exh. cat., Centraal Museum, Utrecht. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1993, pp. 132, 135 n. 7, fig. 16.1, under no. 16, agrees with Mazur-Contamine's [see Ref. 1981] identification of the subject as the disillusioned Medea and dating of about 1640.

    Quentin Buvelot in Jacob van Campen: Het klassieke ideaal in de Gouden Eeuw. Amsterdam, 1995, p. 252 n. 47, calls it the disillusioned Medea and notes J. G. van Gelder's unpublished attribution of the picture to Jacob van Campen.

    Seymour Slive. Dutch Painting 1600–1800. New Haven, 1995, p. 230, fig. 310.

    Dennis P. Weller. Sinners & Saints, Darkness and Light: Caravaggio and His Dutch and Flemish Followers. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 1998, pp. 90–92, 212, no. 9, ill. (in color and black and white), rejects the identification of the figure as Medea as well as the idea of the work as pendant to the Amsterdam picture; dates it to the late 1630s.

    Jeroen Giltaij in Dutch Classicism in Seventeenth-Century Painting. Exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Rotterdam, 1999, pp. 144, 146, fig. 20b, under no. 20, calls it "The Disillusioned Medea" but questions the idea of the MMA and Amsterdam pictures as pendants.

    Old Master Paintings. Sotheby's, Amsterdam. May 14, 2002, p. 70, under no. 48, calls it "Medea Mourning over the Desertion of Jason" and notes that it includes the same pedestal seen in Bor's "The Annunciation" (no. 48).

    Görel Cavalli-Björkman. "Dutch Paintings c. 1600–c. 1800." Dutch and Flemish Paintings. 2, Stockholm, 2005, p. 101, fig. 2.

    Walter Liedtke in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 76–80, no. 12, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 46–49, no. 9, ill. (color, overall and details)].

    Pierre Rosenberg. Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. Milan, 2006, pp. 13, 102–3, 228, ill. (color).

    Jonathan Bikker in "Artists Born Between 1570 and 1600." Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. 1, Amsterdam, 2007, pp. 72–73, fig. 24a, supports the possibility that the MMA and Amsterdam works are pendants, suggesting that "Bor, whose iconography and figure style are so idiosyncratic, was not overly concerned about producing mirror-image pairs"; states that both works "could be from as late as the end of the 1640s or the beginning of the 1650s".

    Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. xi, 54–61, no. 12, colorpl. 12, calls it "The Disillusioned Medea ('The Enchantress')" and concludes that it is a pendant to the "Cydippe with Acontius's Apple" in Amsterdam.

    Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 59, fig. 67 (color).

    Frans Grijzenhout. "Ferdinand Bol's 'portrait historié' in the Hermitage: Identification and Interpretation." Simiolus 34, no. 1 (2009/2010), p. 46, fig. 10.



  • Notes

    This work and Bor's "Cydippe with Acontius's Apple" (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) were probably painted as pendants.

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