This magnificent picture illustrates a story from the Metamorphoses of Ovid (1st century A.D.). Meleager has killed the wild boar that ravaged the countryside and presented the head to the virgin Atalanta, with whom he has fallen in love. In the background is a Fury—a reference to the subsequent events leading up to Meleager's death.
Although a splendid example of Rubens's work around 1615–17, the picture is not in uniformly good condition. Parts are abraded and the drapery over the right shoulder of Meleager has been reconstructed on the basis of a workshop copy in the Gemäldegalerie, Kassel.
The splendid French Régence frame dates to about 1720.
the Dukes of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (by 1777–1883; cat., 1861, p. 24); George Charles Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace (1883–86; his sale, Christie's, London, July 24 and 26, 1886, no. 61, for 520 gns., to Cavendish-Bentinck); Hon. George Augustus Frederick Cavendish–Bentinck, London and Brownsea Island (1886); [Sedelmeyer, Paris, 1886–at least 1887]; Rodolphe Kann, Paris (by 1892–d. 1905; his estate, 1905–7; cat., 1907, vol. 1, no. 23; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, Paris and New York, 1907–15; sold for $24,129 to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, New York, 1915–22; sold for $25,000 to Goldman]; Henry Goldman, New York (1922–d. 1937; cat., 1922, no. 11); his widow, Mrs. Henry Goldman, New York (1937–at least 1939); [Duveen, New York, until 1944; sold to MMA]
London. British Institution. June 1861, no. 67 (lent by the Duke of Marlborough).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Collection of Dutch and Flemish Paintings by Old Masters, Owned by Mr. Charles Sedelmeyer," Winter 1886–87, no. 15.
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Inaugural Exhibition," June 6–September 20, 1916, no. 18 (of Dutch and Spanish section, as "Meleager offering the Head of the Boar of Calydon to Atalanta," lent by Kleinberger Galleries).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 324 (lent by Mrs. Henry Goldman).
Art Gallery of Toronto. "The Classical Contribution to Western Civilization," December 15, 1948–January 31, 1949, unnumbered cat. (ill. p. 27) [possibly shown in Toronto only].
Detroit Institute of Arts. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 2–28, 1951, no catalogue.
Art Gallery of Toronto. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 14–December 12, 1951, no catalogue.
City Art Museum of St. Louis. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 6–February 4, 1952, no catalogue.
Seattle Art Museum. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," March 1–June 30, 1952, no catalogue.
The New Oxford Guide. 6th ed. Oxford, [1777?], p. 104, as in the collection of the Duke of Marlborough.
The Oxford University and City Guide. 2nd ed. Oxford, [1819?], p. 170.
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 2, London, 1830, p. 247, no. 841.
André van Hasselt. Histoire de P.-P. Rubens. Brussels, 1840, p. 298, no. 742.
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 9, Supplement. London, 1842, p. 321, no. 281, calls it the original of which the Kassel picture is a replica by Rubens.
Alfred Michiels. Catalogue des tableaux et dessins de Rubens. Paris, 1854, p. 26, no. 649.
George Scharf. Catalogue Raisonné; or, A List of the Pictures in Blenheim Palace. London, 1861, p. 24.
C. G. Voorhelm Schneevoogt. Catalogue des estampes gravées d'après P. P. Rubens. Haarlem, 1873, p. 129, under no. 88.
Fr[ie]dr[ich]. Goeler von Ravensburg. Rubens und die Antike. Jena, Germany, 1882, p. 215, no. 254.
Eugène Dutuit. Manuel de l'amateur d'estampes. Vol. 3, Paris, 1885, p. 142, under no. 21.
"Nouvelles des ventes." Bulletin-Rubens 3 (1888), p. 94, records its purchase by George Cavendish-Bentinck at the Marlborough sale.
Max Rooses. L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens. Vol. 3, Antwerp, 1890, p. 121, under no. 643, erroneously cites it as in the Marlborough collection; calls it a repetition of the Kassel picture by a pupil, retouched by Rubens, with the animals by Snyders; dates it about 1620.
Max Rooses. L'Oeuvre de P. P. Rubens. Vol. 5, Antwerp, 1892, p. 339, no. 643, as in the Rodolphe Kann collection, Paris.
Illustrated Catalogue of 300 Paintings by Old Masters of the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French, and English Schools. Paris, 1898, p. 176, no. 156, ill. p. 177.
Émile Michel. Rubens: His Life, His Work, and His Time. London, 1899, vol. 2, p. 313, as "The Boar of Calydon".
Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. V, pl. 61.
Gustav Glück. "Die Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris." Die Graphischen Künste 23 (1900), p. 92.
Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemälde-Sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, pp. XX–XXI, ill. p. XI (gallery photograph).
E[mile]. Michel. "La Galerie de M. Rodolphe Kann (2e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 25 (June 1901), p. 500, dates it about 1615–18.
M. G. Z[immermann]. "Die Galerie Rudolf Kann zu Paris." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 12, no. 6 (1901), p. 142, identifies it as by Rubens, calling the Kassel picture a workshop replica.
Auguste Marguillier. "La collection de M. Rodolphe Kann." Les arts 2 (January 1903), p. 5, as by Rubens; calls the Kassel picture a workshop replica.
Max Rooses. Rubens. London, 1904, vol. 1, pp. 190, 210, dates it about 1615, and suggests Snyders's collaboration.
W. Bode. "Kritik und Chronologie der Gemälde von Peter Paul Rubens." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 16, no. 7 (1905), p. 201, calls the Kassel picture a good school copy of the far finer picture in the Kann collection in Paris.
American Art News 4 (June 16, 1906), p. 4, as the original of which the Kassel picture is a replica.
Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection: Pictures. Paris, 1907, vol. 1, pp. XV, 24, no. 23, ill. opp. p. 24, as "Meleager Offering the Head of the Boar of Calydon to Atalanta".
Marcel Nicolle. "La Collection Rodolphe Kann." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 23 (January–June 1908), p. 200, states that it was probably painted about 1613 or 1614.
The Expert (March 1908), ill. p. 93.
Edward Dillon. Rubens. London, , p. 222.
Max Rooses. "Œuvre de Rubens: Addenda et corrigenda." Bulletin-Rubens 5 (1910), pp. 177, 179.
Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Cassel. Berlin, 1913, p. 58, under no. 88, describes it as better than the Kassel version.
Rudolf Oldenbourg. P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde. 4th ed. [1st ed. 1905]. Stuttgart, 1921, p. 458, as "almost better" than the version in Kassel.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Henry Goldman Collection. New York, 1922, unpaginated, no. 11, ill., dates it about 1613 or 1614 and calls the painting in Kassel a workshop copy.
Rudolf Oldenbourg. "Abraham Janssens." Belgische Kunstdenkmäler. Ed. Paul Clemen. Munich, 1922, vol. 2, p. 253, accepts it as a painting by Rubens, of about 1614–16, which influenced Janssens.
Georg Gronau. "Die Sammlung Henry Goldman." Kunstwanderer 5 (August 1924), p. 345, as the original of which the Kassel version is an excellent workshop replica.
W. R. Valentiner. "The Henry Goldman Collection." Art News 25 (May 14, 1927), p. 14, ill.
Franz Voigt. Die Gemäldegalerie Kassel. Kassel, 1938, p. 13, under no. 88, identifies it as the original work of about 1615, calling the Kassel version an excellent repetition by a pupil.
Margaret Breuning. "Metropolitan Re-Installs Its Treasures in Attractive Settings." Art Digest 18 (June 1, 1944), p. 6.
Margaretta [M.] Salinger. "Rubens's 'Atalanta and Meleager'." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 3 (Summer 1944), pp. 8–13, ill. (overall and details), dates it about 1612.
Edward Alden Jewell. "Activities in the Art World: Up to Metropolitan, And Then Into Deep Water." New York Times (August 20, 1944), p. 2X, ill., as painted about 1612.
"The Reopened Metropolitan Shows its Riches Anew." Art News 43 (June 1–30, 1944), pp. 16–17, ill.
Marion S. Davis. "Brief Studies in Myths and Legends: Metropolitan 'Atalanta and Meleager'." Classical Weekly 38 (October 9, 1944), pp. 13–14.
W. R. Valentiner. "Rubens' Paintings in America." Art Quarterly 9 (Spring 1946), p. 159, no. 41, dates it about 1613–15, and calls the Kassel version a repetition of almost equal quality.
Harry B. Wehle. "The Feast of Acheloüs by Rubens." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (March 1946), p. 179.
Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, p. 37, no. 74, pls. 61–63, 65, 68 (overall and details), date it about 1615, and cite a replica in Braga, Portugal.
Erik Larsen. P. P. Rubens. Antwerp, 1952, p. 215, no. 27, dates it about 1613–15.
Fritz Neugass. "Joseph Duveen: die Sage einer phantastischen Karriere." Weltkunst 22 (June 1, 1952), ill. p. 6.
Hella Voss. Die große Jagd. Munich, , p. 95, ill.
Boris Lossky. "Musées de Tours et de Touraine: Nouvelles acquisitions." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 14, nos. 4–5 (1964), p. 191.
Svetlana L. Alpers. "Manner and Meaning in Some Rubens Mythologies." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 30 (1967), p. 278.
Justus Müller Hofstede. "Rubens und Jan Brueghel: Diana und ihre Nymphen." Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen 10 (1968), p. 228.
A. Pigler. Barockthemen: Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. 2nd ed. [first ed. 1956]. Budapest, 1974, vol. 2, p. 174.
R[oger].-A. d'Hulst. Jordaens Drawings. London, 1974, vol. 1, p. 155, under no. A62, states that the Jordaens painting in Antwerp of the same subject, dated about 1618, is based on a composition by Rubens of about 1617, of which the MMA and Kassel pictures are versions.
Didier Bodart. Rubens e l'incisione nelle collezioni del Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe. Exh. cat., Villa della Farnesina. Rome, 1977, p. 99, under no. 204.
Marc Vandenven, ed. Jordaens in Belgisch bezit. Exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen. [Antwerp], 1978, p. 27, under no. 4, dates it about 1617.
Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum—I: Rubens." Tableau 6 (November/December 1983), pp. 85, 87, fig. 10.
Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 164–68; vol. 2, pl. 63, dates it about 1616.
Michael Jaffé. Rubens: catalogo completo. Milan, 1989, pp. 200–201, no. 278, ill., dates it 1614–15.
Didier Bodart. Rubens e la pittura fiamminga del '600. Exh. cat., Cittadella dei Musei. Cagliari, 1990, p. 28, under no. 10.
Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke inFlemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, p. 362, no. 412, ill.
Justus Müller Hofstede inVan Bruegel tot Rubens: De Antwerpse schilderschool 1550–1650. Exh. cat., Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne. Antwerp, [1992?], p. 92, under no. 27.
Justus Müller Hofstede inVon Bruegel bis Rubens: Das goldene Jahrhundert der flämischen Malerei. Exh. cat., Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Cologne, 1992, p. 331, under no. 38.3.
R[oger].-A. d'Hulst et al. inJacob Jordaens (1593–1678). Ed. Hans Devisscher and Nora de Poorter. Exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp. Vol. 1, "Paintings and Tapestries."Brussels, 1993, p. 116, under no. A29.
Marc Vandenven inJacob Jordaens (1593–1678). Ed. Hans Devisscher and Nora de Poorter. Exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp. Vol. 1, "Paintings and Tapestries."Brussels, 1993, p. 84, under no. A16, ill.
Erik Larsen. "'Meleager und Atalanta' in der Konzeption von Abraham Janssens, Rubens und Jordaens." Jaarboek van het Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (1995), pp. 185–87, 189, fig. 3.
Sander Paarlberg inGreek Gods and Heroes in the Age of Rubens and Rembrandt. Ed. Peter Schoon and Sander Paarlberg. Exh. cat., National Gallery/Alexandros Soutzos Museum. Athens, , p. 238, under no. 41, p. 367 n. 3.
Konrad Renger with Claudia Denk. Flämische Malerei des Barock in der Alten Pinakothek. Munich, 2002, pp. 362, 365 n. 2.
The subject of this picture is taken from Ovid's "Metamorphoses," VIII, lines 298–425, although Rubens would have known the story from other ancient sources. Having slain the wild boar sent by Artemis to ravage the plains of Calydon in his father's territory, Meleager, son of Oeneus, gives the boar's head and skin to Atalanta, daughter of the king of Arcadia.
A painting by Jordaens (Koninklijk Museum, Antwerp) is generally recognized as a work influenced by Rubens's composition. Janssens's lost Atalanta and Meleager, which has been dated between about 1609 and 1623, probably precedes this picture; Rubens has transformed Janssens's composition into something entirely new.
A good replica of the MMA painting is in the Gemäldegalerie, Kassel. Among other known versions of this composition are a copy in the Musée de Tours, and a picture cited by Ref. Goris and Held 1947 as in the Museum of Braga, Portugal. Four figures derived from those of Rubens appear in a landscape in an etching by Willem Panneels [published in F. W. H. Hollstein, "Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts . . . ," Amsterdam, n.d., vol. 15, p. 122, no. 26, ill.].