James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, 1647, aged 17.
Portrait by Daniel Mytens the Elder.

Andrea Sacchi: Marc’Antonio Crowned by Apollo (1641)

The castrato Marc’Antonio Pasqualini was the leading male soprano of his day. He joined the choir of the Sistine Chapel in 1630, and from 1632 was a protagonist of many operas produced at the Palazzo Barberini. His right hand rests on the keys of an upright harpsichord, which is decorated with a figure of Daphne and a bound satyr.

The figure of Apollo in the center is loosely based on the Apollo Belvedere. Behind him is a figure of Marsyas tied to a tree with his bagpipes beside him. It was widely accepted in antiquity that the sound of a kithara was more “intellectual” and therefore superior to that of the pipe, and in the present picture the wreath of laurels over Pasqualini’s head is probably intended to celebrate not only his triumphs, but the triumph of the nuova musica, with its emphasis on the accompanied voice. The painting is therefore both a portrait and an allegory of music.

Andrea Sacchi was the leading classical painter in Rome at the time. He was on terms of intimacy with Nicolas Poussin, whose style the present work recalls. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Robert Herrick: Eternitie

O YEARES! and Age! Farewell
Behold I go,
Where I do know
Infinitie to dwell.

And these mine eyes shall see
All times, how they
Are lost i’ th’ Sea
Of vast Eternitie.

Where never Moone shall sway
The Starres; but she,
And Night, shall be
Drown’d in one endlesse Day.

William II, Prince of Orange, married Mary Henrietta, the daughter of Charles I of England, on May 2, 1641 at the Chapel Royal of Whitehall. He was not quite sixteen, she was nine and a half. The painting was possibly done before the marriage, earlier in the year.

This was one of the last pictures Anthony van Dyck painted, maybe even the last. In January, or in summer, of that year, he traveled to Paris, where he fell seriously ill. In November, he returned hurriedly to London, where he died soon after in his house at Blackfriars. He was forty-two years old.

New Trinity Baroque performs Claudio Monteverdi’s Beatus Vir for 6 voices, 2 violins and continuo, from his collection Selva Morale e Spirituale (1641). Directed from the chamber organ by Predrag Gosta. The text is Psalm 112 in the Latin translation of the Vulgate.

The bull looks definitely lecherous in Simon Vouet’s Rape of Europa. The look on Europa’s face is quite remarkable too.

Richard Lovelace: To Lucasta, Going to the Warres

TELL me not (Sweet) I am unkinde,
That from the Nunnerie
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet minde,
To Warre and Armes I flie.

True; a new Mistresse now I serve,
The first Foe in the Field;
And with a sterner Faith embrace
A Sword, a Horse, a Shield.

Yet this Inconstancy is such,
As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee (Deare) so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.


Written 1640, first published 1649.
Lovelace served first as a senior ensign and later as a captain in the Bishops’ Wars, in the regiment of Lord Goring.

Claude Gellée was born in the Duchy of Lorrain and is thus usually known as Claude Lorrain, but he lived and worked most of his life in Rome. He was far more a landscape than a history painter, he often hired other painters to add the figures and told his customers that he was selling them only the landscape, the figures were complimentary. As a landscape painter, he was often considered unmatched.

The subject of this 1645 painting is rather obscure, it has been done a few times, always as an excuse for a landscape: Apollo Guarding the Herds of Admetus and Mercury Stealing them. Apollo was once sentenced to a year of servitude to a mortal by the other gods, and he chose to become the herdsman of Admetus, King of Pherae in Thessaly, renowned for his hospitality and justice.

Where the side story of Mercury stealing the herds and later returning them (a drawing by Claude Lorrain of Mercury returning the herds was auctioned at Christie’s in 2003) comes from I have no idea. It seems to belong to the story of Apollo and Daphne rather, not to the Admetus story. At the time, mythology was maybe taken a bit too serious.

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.