Meleager and Atalanta, Jordaens

Meleager and Atalanta, Jordaens
Meleager and Atalanta, Jordaens

During the Baroque era Spanish painting experienced one of its moments of greatest splendor, the hegemony of the Austrians would soon come to an end, however, the precarious financial and social situation was not visible in the world of art where the productions of the Peninsula were praised throughout Europe. In this context, it seems curious to point out how religious-themed paintings were rarely commissioned from local painters, rather their production was almost always focused on foreign artists, as in the case we are analyzing here.


This canvas is titled Meleandro and Atalanta and was represented by the artist Jacob Jordaens between 1640 and 1650. Actually, the first time we have evidence of this piece is as part of the collection of Isabel de Farnesio; then, the oil was thought to be a representation of Venus and Adonis made by Rubens to decorate the Palacio de la Granja. Later the canvas remained in the Palace of Aranjuez until in the 20th century it became part of the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid, where it is currently exhibited.

Actually, it is not surprising that the canvas was considered to be a work by Rubens since Jordaens made the composition at two different times: at first, when his painting was very influenced by Rubens, he painted the part on the right with figures very much to the liking of the Flemish painter and years later,placed an addition on the fabric to the left to make the composition bigger.

We find ourselves before a mythological scene, this time taken from The Metamorphoses of Pluvio Ovid, in which it is narrated how the goddess Diana had sent a boar that was destroying the region of Calidonia. The monarch's son, Meleager, summoned the best hunters to kill the beast and the call was answered by Atalanta, an experienced hunter. She was the first to wound the animal and so Meleager was able to finish him off. As a reward, the prince gave her the boar's head, raising the envy of the other hunters, who, wanting to snatch the trophy from Atalanta, would trigger a fight.

Jordaens has chosen the climax of the scene,when one of the hunters removes Atalanta's head and Meleager stands up to defend the young woman while she tries to reassure him by holding him by the arm.

The painter places the characters in the foreground, so close to the viewer that it seems that the latter is embedded in the imminent battle. The gloomy court light affects the protagonists of the scene to leave other areas in shadow.

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