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Meleager and Atalanta
Jordaens, Jacques
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Jordaens, Jacques

Antwerp, 1593 - Antwerp, 1678

Jordaens, Jacques See author's file

Meleager and Atalanta

1620 - 1623. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

This mythological scene is drawn from the Metamorphoses of Roman poet Publio Ovidio Nason, one of the texts on ancient mythology that had the greatest intellectual impact on 17th-century Flemish artists. According to Ovid, Diana had sent an enormous wild boar to ravage the region of Calydon as punishment after the king failed to make the promised sacrifices to her. The king’s son, Meleager, was an experienced hunter and he gathered his most skilled colleagues to kill the beast. One of them was Atalanta, a brave huntress who was the first to wound it, making it easier for Meleager to kill it. As thanks, he gave her the bore’s head, which provoked grumbling and envy among the other hunters. Meleager’s uncles were offended and, considering themselves more deserving of the trophy, they took it away from Atalanta. This infuriated Meleager who fought and killed his uncles, thus angering his mother. Her intervention led to his sudden death, fulfilling an ancient prophecy.

Jordaens chose to depict the fable’s culminating moment. On the right, Meleager’s uncles snatch the trophy from Atalanta. Angered, the hero brandishes his sword to kill them. In a tender gesture of fear, Atalanta attempts to halt Meleager’s vengeful fury. The scene is completed by the group of hunters on the left. The position of their weapons and arms, and the movement of their dogs, mark the composition’s rhythm and lead the viewer’s gaze to the main event.

The two parts of the composition were painted in separate stages. First, around 1620, Jordaens painted the group on the right, whose characteristics coincide with his early period, when his paintings were dominated by powerful and monumental figures influenced by Rubens. His deep and skillful use of light is appreciable here, as he combines strongly contrasted chiaroscuros to imbue the scene with a merited sense of tragedy. The figures on the left were painted on a separate piece of canvas and correspond to the artist’s late style, probably around 1640-1650. This is visible in the softer and sweeter use of light. The overall effect, with figures close to the foreground in a horizontal format, recalls the sculptural representations on friezes from classical Antiquity.

Jordaens explored the same subject on other occasions. In the Museo del Prado’s version, the story is softened in a poetic manner. The fateful outcome is barely suggested by the protagonists’ gestures, which are sweeter and more evocative than in other versions. The Prado’s canvas is well adapted to the Baroque understanding of this subject, which interprets the story of Meleager and Atalanta symbolically, as the gods’ punishment for the double murder caused by the hero’s infatuation.

The painting is first documented in Elizabeth of Farnesio’s collection in 1746, where it is listed as a depiction of the story of Venus and Adonis by Rubens and assigned to the monarchs’ bedroom at the palace in La Granja. From there, it passed to Aranjuez Palace, where it was documented in 1794. It remained there until it entered the Museo del Prado in the early 19th century (Text drawn from Pérez Preciado, J. J.: El Prado en el Ermitage, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2011, pp. 116-117).

Technical data

Related artworks

Museo del Prado, sala de la reina Isabel II
Gelatin / Collodion on photographic paper, Ca. 1899
Laurent y Minier, Juan
Inventory number
Jordaens, Jacques
Meleager and Atalanta
1620 - 1623; 1640 - 1650
Height: 152.3 cm; Width: 240.5 cm
Royal Collection (Collection of Felipe V, Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, Segovia, “dormitorio de sus Majestades”, 1746, n. 2; La Granja Palace, “dormitorio”, 1766, n. 2; Royal Palace of Aranjuez, Madrid, “pieza de música”, 1794, n. 2)

Bibliography +

Dayot, Armand, Le Prado de Madrid, I, Editions Pierre Lafitte, Paris, 1914, pp. 135.

Tüngel, Richard, 400 Jahre Kunst, Kultur, und Geschichte im Prado, Schweizer Verlagshaus, Zurich, 1964, pp. 214/ lám.124.

Onieva, A. J., La Mitologia en el Museo del Prado, Offo, Madrid, 1972, pp. 28.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Bermejo de la Rica, A., La Mitologia en el Museo del Prado, Editora Nacional, Madrid, 1974, pp. 63.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de pinturas. Escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado; Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 162.

Hulst, R. A. d'., Jacob Jordaens, Sotheby, Londres, 1982, pp. 103.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, La Escuela Flamenca del Siglo XVII, Ediciones Alfiz, Madrid, 1983, pp. 46.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 342.

Balis, A (dir.), La pintura flamenca en el Prado, Ibercaja Fonds Mercator, Amberes, 1989, pp. 214.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº1680.

Jacob Jordaens, 1593-1678, Gemeentekrediet, Antwerp, 1993, pp. 116.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado de pintura flamenca del siglo XVII, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1996, pp. 622.

El Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonso: retrato y escena del rey, Patrimonio Nacional; El Viso, Madrid, 2000, pp. 417.

Museo Nacional del Prado, La Almoneda del Siglo: relaciones artísticas entre España y Gran Bretaña, 1604-1655, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2002.

The Thrill of the Chase. Atalanta and Meleager by Jacob Jordaens on loan from The Prado, Madrid., Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford, 2002.

Aterido Fernández, Ángel; Martínez Cuesta, Juan; Pérez Preciado, José Juan, Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio. Inventarios Reales, II, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004, pp. 417.

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado., Tokio - Osaka, 2006.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Museo del Prado, 2011, pp. 116-117.

Shaudies, Irene, Jacob Jordaens 'Méleagre et Atalante' En:, Jordaens et l´antiquité, Fonds Mercator, 2012, pp. 104-105 n.39.

Vanoppen, Brecht, La concepción de las pinturas de Meleagro y Atalanta de Jacob Jordaens, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXV, 2017, pp. 83-91.

Vergara, A. Alba, L. Gayo, M.D. Jover, M, La elaboración en dos etapas del Meleagro y Atalanta de Jacob Jordaens en el Museo del Prado. Consideraciones técnicas, Boletín del Museo del Prado., XXXV, 2017, pp. 76-82 f.1,4-9.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Jacob Jordaens y España, Epiarte, Instituto Moll., Madrid, 2018, pp. 238-245 n.35.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Jacob Jordaens and Spain, Epiarte: Instituto Moll,, 2019, pp. N.35 p.233-245.

Rooses, Max, Jordaens. S. VIe et Ses Oeuvres, Ernest Flammarion, Paris, pp. 37.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1407.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1546.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1546.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1680.
Jordaens / 1680. Meleagro. / Presenta Atalanta los despojos del javali de calidonia, a quien dio la muerte, habiendo sido ella la primera que hirio al terrible animal. / Alto 5 pies, 5 pulg; ancho 8 pies, 7 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1680.

Inv. Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1746. Núm. 2.
Otra Pintura origl en Lienzo Apaysàda, de mano de Rubens, qe reptª Venus, y Adonis. Tiene cinco tercias, y media de alto; dos varas, y dos tercias y media de ancho. Marco como el antecedente [dorado con Targetas a las Esquinas]...1

Inv. Testamentaría Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1766. Núm. 2.
Dormitorio [...] 2 / Ôtro [quadro] de nuebe pies, y medio de largo, y seis de ancho, marco dorado, y con targetas, que representa una Caceria de Rubens, vale siete mil y quinientos rrs

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Aranjuez, 1794. Núm. 2.
Pieza de musica [...] [172] 2 / Ocho pies y medio de largo, cinco y seis dedos de alto. Meleagro presentá a Atlanta la Cabeza del Xabali que destruye los Campos de Calidonia. Rubens...8000

Exhibitions +

Mythological Passions: Tiziano, Veronese, Allori, Rubens, Ribera, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velázquez
02.03.2021 - 04.07.2021

Jordaens and the Antique
28.02.2013 - 23.06.2013

Jordaens and the Antique
12.10.2012 - 27.01.2013

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
14.07.2006 - 15.10.2006

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
24.03.2006 - 02.07.2006

Intercambio con Oxford
14.03.2002 - 02.06.2002

El Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonso. retrato y escena del rey
La Granja
15.06.2000 - 15.10.2000

Jacopo Jordaens
27.03.1993 - 27.06.1993

Update date: 12-07-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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