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Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis

Accession Number
1995/2.30

Title
Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis

Artist(s)
Hendrik Goudt

Object Creation Date
1612

Medium & Support
engraving and etching on thin, slightly textured dark cream laid paper

Dimensions
8 9/16 in x 9 1/16 in (21.8 cm x 23.1 cm);18 1/8 in x 22 1/8 in (46 cm x 56.2 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by a gift from Helmut Stern

Label copy
Though he made only seven engravings, Hendrick Goudt was one of the most influential Dutch 17th-century printmakers. All of his magnificent prints copied and popularized designs by Adam Elsheimer. This German artist working in Rome specialized in small oil paintings on copper, which were astounding for their glowing colors and scintillating light effects. Goudt was born in The Hague, where he first trained. He settled in Rome in 1604, where he became Elsheimer's patron and pupil, living for a while in the painter's house.
Elsheimer became inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses, in which gods assume the shape of ordinary people, and human and natural forms merge. This print reproduces, in reverse, Elsheimer's rendering of the story of the visit of Jupiter and Mercury to the old couple Philemon and Baucis, who welcomed them to their poor cottage after others had refused the wanering deities. At dinner the pious hosts were amazed to see the wine replenished. When the gods revealed their identities, they led the elderly pair up the mountainside to show them that their house, now transformed into a temple, was the only one spared from a flood. Granted one wish, the couple chose to become priests of the temple; when they died they were changed into an oak and a lime tree.
Elsheimer's unusual setting of the story inside rather than outside allowed him to concentrate on the hospitality shown by the old couple and the imminent tranformation of their lives by the gods. Artificial light sources—two lamps and a candle—illuminate, and dignify, homey details such as the still life of poor man's food, vegetables, and herring, and the bed linen that Baucis will change for the gods. The light more fully illuminates the forms of the deities than those of the mortals. The old couple perform their tasks with godlike calm, while the two gods loll on their seats like prosaic humans.
Goudt's dextrous handling fo the burin and the etching needle superbly captured and translated these nocturnal effects. The Museum's sheet is a superb impression with a great range of chiaroscuro effects, suggesting crisp forms and layers of depth.
Goudt's skill in calligraphy is evident in the florid inscription explaining the story below the image. As an esteemed mark of refinement, calligraphy called attention to the printmaker's social status. Intriguingly, Goudt, who himself acquired the plate from Elsheimer, did not credit the painter in the inscription.
Annette Dixon, Curator of Western Art
Elsheimer was drawn to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which gods assume the shape of ordinary people, and human and natural forms merge. This print reproduces, in reverse, Elsheimer’s rendering of the story of the visit of Jupiter and Mercury to an elderly couple, Philemon and Baucis, who welcomed the deities to their poor cottage after others had refused them entry.
Elsheimer’s unusual setting of the story inside rather than outside allowed him to concentrate on the hospitality shown by the old couple and the imminent transformation of their lives by the grateful gods. Artificial light sources—two lamps and a candle— illuminate, and dignify, homey details such as the still life of poor man’s food, vegetables and herring, and the bed linen. The light more fully illuminates the forms of the deities than those of the mortals. Goudt’s dextrous handling of the engraver’s tools superbly captured and translated these nocturnal effects.
Gallery label text, collections gallery, by Curator Annette Dixon, February, 2000
Gallery Rotation Fall 2011
Hendrik Goudt
Netherlands, 1585–1630
(after Adam Elsheimer, Germany, 1574–1620)
Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis
1612
Engraving and etching
Museum purchase made possible by a gift from Helmut Stern, 1995/2.30
An interest in ancient writers is apparent again in this image based on the Metamorphoses by the ancient Roman poet Ovid (43 bce–17/18 ce). In this story the elderly couple Philemon and Baucis gives food and shelter to the Roman gods Jupiter and Mercury disguised as beggars. In a town where they had met no kindness, Philemon and Baucis’s generosity and hospitality so touched the gods that when the town was punished by a flood, the couple was saved. The gods also granted their wish to die together when the time came, and at their death the pair were transformed into an oak and a linden tree with trunks intertwined.
As with the Tobias with the Angel Dragging the Fish, this print is an engraving based on a painting by Elsheimer. In the oil painting on copper from which Goudt was working, Elsheimer had created a luminous nocturnal scene inside the couple’s humble cottage. Goudt perfectly translates this effect into a print with crisp, descriptive engraved lines.

Subject matter
This print is based on a painting by Adam Elsheimer and depicts the story of Philemon and Baucis from Ovid's "Metamorphoses." The elderly couple unknowingly offers hospitality to Jupiter and Mercury, who are disguised as beggars. In gratitute for their generosity, the gods granted their wish that neither outlive the other but die together; they were changed into an oak tree and a linden tree, their trunks intertwined. Rather then focusing on the moment of miraculous transformation, this composition portrays the humble, but richly described, interior as Baucis speaks to her divine visitors.

Physical Description
Two lamps provide the only source of light in this nighttime interior and the scene is full of dark shadows and areas highlighted by white. Two men are seated at a table- one is a bearded man wearing long robes and the other has a staff and a hat with wings. They are looking at a woman, wearing a cloth headdress and a long dress, who stands before them. On the left is a man entering through a doorway. The features of the room are shown in great detail including the assortment of food, hanging vegetables and baskets, a wall tapestry, the rough wood planking and decorative designs on the bedding. There is a printed Latin inscription below this scene.

Primary Object Classification
Print

Primary Object Type
intaglio print

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Jupiter
interiors
night
still lifes

2 Related Resources

Greco-Roman Mythology
(Part of 7 Learning Collections)
Greek Cultural Influence
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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