So far the oldest standalone artistic rendering of the Antiochus and Stratonice story that I have found is this unsigned and undated painting (220×164 cm) supposed to be by Theodoor van Thulden from around the year 1640. (I emphasize the standalone because one of the lunettes in the sala dell’Venere in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence has the same topic.)

An interesting aspect of this painting is the prominence of the doctor in the composition. There is an intense highlight on his forhead, and the feeling of the pulse gets the center of attention (Erasistratus is known as the “father of the pulse” in classic history of medicine). In contrast, Seleucus is hidden in the shadows. It might be that the painting was commissioned by a doctor. Twenty, thirty years later Jan Steen would paint a number of doctor’s visits, but this picture here is far more capable to serve as a sort of advertising. The inscription Prudentia relevant amorem emphasizes the doctor’s role as well.

But this is of course mere speculation. Nothing is known about the first 150 years of this painting. In 1781, Sir Joshua Reynolds visited Antwerp on a tour through Flanders, and wrote:

At Mr. Dasch’s there is a great picture of Rubens; the story of Seleukos and Stratonice. The miserable attitude of the lying son on the bed is of unseen beauty; the composition of the ensemble is good.

It may be that this passage refers to our painting here, which was then attributed to Rubens. In 1792, it was catalogued in the collection of Freiherr von Brabeck, Schloß Söder, Hildesheim. In 1859 it was sold in Hannover and later turned up in the collection of Prince Stolberg, Schloß Wernigerode. On November 11, 2008, it was auctioned at Sotheby’s Amsterdam. Estimate was €100,000–150,000.

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