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Hendrick Goltzius “Jupiter and Antiope” Highlights Sotheby’s Sale

A monumental masterpiece (48 x 70 in. (122 x 178 cm)) by the great 17th century Dutch artist Hendrick Goltzius will be offered early next year in Sotheby’s sale of Important Old Master Paintings in New York on 28 January 2010.

Hendrick GoltziusGoltzius’ paintings are extremely rare and Jupiter and Antiope is the most important by the artist to appear at auction in more than 25 years (est. $8/12 million, £4.8/7.3 million). Executed in 1612, the painting was formerly in the collection of Abraham Adelsberger (1863-1940), a German Jew who was one of the most successful toy manufacturers of the early 20th century. In the year following Adelsberger’s death, his son-in-law was forced to sell the painting to the Nazi leader Hermann Göring to ensure the safety of his family. The painting was recovered by the Allied forces in 1945 and sent to the Dutch Government. Over the course of the next 64 years, the painting was loaned to three institutions in the Netherlands, including the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, where it hung from 1985 until this year. In March 2009, the painting was restituted to the heirs of its original owner, Abraham Adelsberger. Prior to exhibition and sale in New York in January, the painting will be exhibited at Sotheby’s London from 4 –9 December 2009.

George Wachter, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department Worldwide said, “As Goltzius only started painting in 1600 and died seventeen years later, only a limited number of significant oils were executed by this great master and the present work ranks among his greatest. It evokes an enormous reaction due to its size and subject matter, and the impact of its eroticism speaks for itself.”

Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617)
In 1600, when he abandoned printmaking and began painting, Goltzius was the most famous engraver in the Netherlands and perhaps all of Europe. His style had evolved from the extreme contortions of Haarlem Mannerism toward the more classicizing influence of Italy, where he had lived from 1590 to 1591. However, it was painting, not printmaking, that was considered the highest art form, and at the dawn of the new century Goltzius decided to take up the challenge of working in a new medium. In the seventeen years before his death he painted more than 50 pictures and was soon recognized as the premiere painter in Haarlem, surpassing his rival Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem. Paintings by Goltzius can be found in major museum collections including the Rijksmuseum, The Los Angeles County Museum, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, among others. The first major retrospective of the artist’s work was organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Toledo Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum in 2003.

Jupiter and Antiope
Jupiter and Antiope is one of a number of large-scale paintings of nudes that Goltzuis executed between 1600 and 1617. In the present mythological scene, Goltzius captures the moment before Antiope, the beautiful daughter of Nycteus and Thebes, was seduced by Jupiter in the form of a satyr. The highly charged scene depicts Antiope asleep on her bed, propped up by a stack of gorgeously-colored cushions. She is naked apart from her earrings, a pearl necklace and a tiny strip of fabric that accentuates rather than hides her nudity. At her feet kneels Jupiter in the form of a satyr, his look and attitude that of a half-wild creature consumed by lust. He stares fixedly at Antiope, his mouth in a rigid grin and his arms and back tensed, literally ready to pounce. In his right hand he holds an apple and some pears – an offering to Antiope – which, like the grapes in the foreground, are symbols of fertility. Scattered throughout the composition are other references to the event that is about to occur, including the inverted slippers beside Jupiter’s knee and the overturned chamber pot, both of which represent female sexual organs. In the background of the painting is a somewhat ambiguous figure – a young satyr – who holds his left index finger to his lip while lightly pinching Antiope’s nipple. Scholars have debated the meaning of the gesture – possibly communicating caution to Jupiter to be quiet, or perhaps he is pointing at his mouth symbolizing Jupiter’s intent to devour Antiope.

Abraham Adelsberger was born on 23 April 1863 in Hockenheim, Germany. He established himself as one of the most successful manufacturers of tin-plate toys in the early 20th century, while at the same time nurturing a passion for art and building an impressive gallery at his home in Nuremberg. As fears for his safety increased, he fled Germany in 1938 and joined his daughter and her family in Amsterdam – managing to take several of his paintings with him, including Jupiter and Antiope. Following his death two years later, his son-in-law was forced to sell the painting to Hermann Göring to ensure the safety of his family. His family went into hiding from 1943 onwards and all survived. Adelsberger’s wife, Clothilde, was deported to Bergen-Belsen, but also survived the concentration camp and the war. Göring, who assembled one of the most important collections of Old Masters in Europe at the time, had at least four works by or attributed to Goltzius in his collection, of which the present work was the most important. He took the painting to Carinhall, his country retreat in the north of Brandenburg, and in early 1945, he ordered the evacuation of his entire art collection to protect it from the advancing Russian forces. The following year, the painting was recovered by the Allied forces and taken to the Central Collecting Point in Munich. From there, as was the common practice, the painting was returned to the country from which it has been stolen – the Netherlands. Over the course of the next several decades, the painting was loaned to several Dutch institutions including the Kunsthistorisch Institute, Utrecht (1952-78), the Groningen Museum, Groningen (1979-85) and the Frans Hals Museum (1985-2009), which was particularly apt given that Goltzius lived much of his adult life in Haarlem. In March 2009, the painting was restituted to the heirs of Abraham Adelsberger by the Dutch government.

Image: Hendrick Goltzius, “Jupiter and Antiope”, 1612. (122 x 178 cm.), 48 x 70 inches. Est. $8/12 million. Photo: Sotheby’s