Meleager and Atalanta

Peter Paul Rubens1635/1637

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

This painting, cleaned to reveal its delicate harmonies and vibrant colours, is a copy with slight variants of a large picture on canvas (now in Munich) which Rubens painted in about 1635. This copy was probably made in Rubens’ studio under his supervision. It was painted on two planks of wood, and the back was carved with the initials of Rubens’ favourite Antwerp panel-maker Michiel Vrient, who died in 1637.

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  • Title: Meleager and Atalanta
  • Creator: Peter Paul Rubens (studio of)
  • Date Created: 1635/1637
  • tag / style: Baroque; mythological; Rubens; studio; Meleager; Atlanta; Fates; dog; hound; boar
  • Physical Dimensions: w383 x h556 cm (Without frame)
  • Artwork History: The painting was presented to the Walker in 1932 by George Audley (1864-1932) who contributed to the cost of the extension of the Walker Art Gallery in 1930.
  • Artist biographical information: Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish painter who throughout his life engaged in a number of activities; he was a collector of art, a classical scholar and a diplomat. In 1629 Rubens arrived in London as the special envoy from the Spanish court to assist in the settlement of peace between England and Spain. Many of the paintings Rubens painted during his stay in London are in the National Gallery. The most well known work by Rubens in London is the decoration of the ceiling of the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall. The assignment of such a large-scale commission to Rubens by King Charles I is proof of the artist's high status and reputation amongst English patrons. Rubens was a painter of historical and mythological themes but he also completed several portraits and landscapes.
  • Additional artwork information: The tragic love story, from classical mythology, of Meleager and his love, the huntress Atalanta, frequently attracted Rubens. The couple set out to kill a wild boar that had been ravaging their country. Having slain it, Meleager gave its head to Atalanta, who was the first to wound it. The gift provoked a fight with his envious uncles, whom Meleager slew. He so enraged his mother that she fulfilled the death foretold for him by the Fates. Rubens has concentrated on the happy lovers. Atalanta tenderly accepts the gory token of Meleager’s affection whilst above one of the Fates warns of Meleager’s doomed future. This painting was the subject of an ‘Artwork Highlight’ talk at the Walker Art Gallery in 1999. To read the notes from this talk please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displayPicture.asp?id=6&venue=2
  • Type: Oil on wood
  • Rights: Bequeathed in 1932 by George Audley


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