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Work Allegory of Abundance (design for a fountain)

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

Allégorie de l'Abondance (projet de fontaine)

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Author(s):
Chabod Christine

The imagination and ingenuity of the decoration displayed in this drawing by Hendrick Goltzius draw on various demonstrations of the mannerist school in Italy and in central and northern Europe. The free-flowing lines and the refined use of colors make this an outstanding example of the work of an artist who was a leading proponent of the international mannerist school.

An Allegory of Abundance or a river-nymph?

A generously proportioned woman is standing on a turtle flanked by two dolphins. She is carrying a horn of plenty filled with flowers and fruit, and has therefore been identified as an allegory of Abundance. However, this identification remains doubtful because the theme of water is also very much present: slender fountains gush from her diadem and her breast, which she is pressing with her left hand. A transparent gauze enveloping her legs falls in cascades to the ground. The sketch on the left, reproducing the figure in profile, accentuates her tall, slender form and the jut of her hip.

An unfinished project or a work in its own right?

According to some authors, this work is a preparatory drawing for a monument, clearly a fountain, although no such monument has been identified. The motif of designs for fountains was very popular among mannerist painters of the late 16th century, as testified by engravings by Wendel Dietterlin (1550-1599) and Hans Vredeman de Vries (1526-1609). In most cases, these designs were nothing more than an opportunity to let the imagination run free, with no real intention of building a fountain to the finished design. Such was the fashion for these designs that in the mid-17th century, a collector like Michel de Marolles was able to put together an album of 412 engravings of gardens and fountains.

A delicate art

The drawing is initialed and dated 1598 on the plinth. The style is a fine example of one of the most characteristic aspects of Hendrick Goltzius's drawings. The use of colors to highlight certain features, the tall, slender figure, the jut of her hip, the imaginativeness of the allegory, and the predominance of decorative elements are all typical of mannerism at that time. Goltzius's witty draftsmanship and his exquisitely delicate use of color testify to the refinement of his art and reveal the influence of the Flemish painter Bartholomaeus Spranger (1546-1611). Spranger was introduced to Goltzius by the theoretician of mannerism, Carel van Mander (1548-1606). Goltzius played a major role in making Spranger's works more widely known and the two both participated in the foundation of the Haarlem Academy.

Bibliography

Bacou Roseline, Dessins du Louvre : écoles allemande, flamande, hollandaise, Paris, Flammarion, 1968, notice 73.
Bonnefoit Régine, in Largesse, Exposition, Paris, musée du Louvre, 20 janvier-18 avril 1994, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, coll. "Parti pris", 1994, notice 26.
Duclaux Lise, in Le XVIe siècle européen, dessins du Louvre, Exposition, Paris, musée du Louvre, octobre-décembre 1965, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, notice 181.
Leeflang Huigen, in Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617). Drawings, Prints and Paintings, Exposition, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, mars-mai 2003, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, juin-septembre 2003, Toledo (Ohio), The Toledo Museum of Art, octobre 2003-janvier 2004, n 88.
Monnier Geneviève, in Rembrandt et son temps : dessins des collections publiques et privées conservées en France, Exposition, Paris, musée du Louvre, 3 février-27 avril 1970, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1970, notice 4.
Reznicek Emil Karel Josef, Die Zeichnungen von Hendrick Goltzius mit einem beschreibenden Katalog, Utrecht, Haentjens Dekker & Gumbert, 1961, pp. 114-117, n 158, pp. 300-301.

Technical description

  • Hendrick Goltzius (Mühlbrecht, 1558 - Haarlem, 1617)

    Allegory of Abundance (design for a fountain)

    1598

  • Pen and brown ink, brown wash, white heightening and touches of watercolor

    H. 32.7 cm; W. 19.5 cm

  • J. Tonneman Collection; sold at auction beginning October 21, 1754, Amsterdam, album N, lot 45, purchased by Fokke; Saint-Morys Collection; seizure of émigrés' possessions, 1793; handed over to the museum, 1796-1797.

    3922598

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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Additional information about the work

Signed and dated in pen and brown ink on the plinth: "A H.G. 98"