Ixion, Cornelisz van Haarlem. Oil on canvas, 192 x 152 cm, 1588, Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

In the late sixteenth century, painters saw the “Furias” as an outstanding vehicle for responding to two artistic concepts previously expressed by Titian: that of varietas (a range of poses and movements), and the depiction of the affetti or states of mind, in this case extreme pain. While Titian’s “Furias” were in Spain by 1558, it was in the Low Countries that they had their earliest impact, both among artists who could have studied them in situ, such as Michael Coxcie and Maarten van Heemskerck, or through prints, some executed by Dutch artists such as Cornelis Cort under Titian’s supervision. This awareness took shape in Haarlem in the 1580s in the context of its Academy, the principal promoters of which were Van Mander, Goltzius and Cornelisz. van Haarlem. The Academy’s aesthetic promoted an exaggerated interpretation of Michelangelo, consisting of hypertrophied bodies and improbable foreshortenings, with an interest in varietas.

The political and religious frontier did not prevent artistic contacts between Haarlem and Antwerp, as evident in the mutual influence between Goltzius and Rubens. The latter returned from Italy in 1608 with an artistic idiom that combined an interest in the antique with Michelangelo’s monumentality and Venetian colour, a synthesis that is admirably expressed in his Prometheus.


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