A Woman at a Fountain by a Ruined Temple, the Farnese Hercules in the Background

Johannes Antiquus Dutch

Not on view

Johannes Antiquus, a lesser known Dutch artist from the eighteenth century, was born in the Northern city of Groningen, where he was trained as a portrait painter. Around 1732 Antiquus travelled to Paris and then to Florence, where he was employed at the Medici court, before settling in Rome for five years. During his stay in Italy, the artist, like his fellow colleagues, would have made extensive study of classical and renaissance art and architecture.

We can be quite sure however, that the scene here depicted, was not based on observation from reality. In the center stands an antique sarcophagus which is being used as a basin. A peasant woman fills her bucket at the fountain, while to the lower right a scantily clad man, seated on the steps, looks up to her. The partially dilapidated alcove in which the fountain is installed discloses a view onto the famous statue of the Farnese Hercules

Antiquus carefully constructed this fantastic amalgam of architectural and artistic elements that in reality never existed together – a kind of composition also known as a capriccio. This genre became en vogue in the eighteenth century, with Gian Paolo Panini (1691–1756) and Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) as its most important precursors.

The romantic and arcadian aspects of the scene depicted here correspond to taste of the time. As for its references to classical antiquity, the subject matter would have appealed to an audience of intellectuals who had possibly themselves undertaken a ‘grand tour’ to the sights of Italy.

Only a hand full of drawings by Antiquus are known. A second drawing, of a Shepherd under a Ruined Arch (2003.97), also in the Museum’s collection, shows a similar capriccio, interestingly again featuring the Farnese Hercules.[1]

[1] The Groninger Museum is in possession of the third known capriccio by Antiquus (Capriccio with Classical Ruins, inv. no. 1965-95).

A Woman at a Fountain by a Ruined Temple, the Farnese Hercules in the Background, Johannes Antiquus (Dutch, Groningen, 1702–1750), Black chalk, pen and gray ink, with gray wash; framing line in black ink

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