BALEN, Hendrick van
(b. 1575, Antwerpen, d. 1632, Antwerpen)
The Wedding of Thétis and Peleus-
Oil on panel, 54 x 76 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
The subject is taken from Homer's Iliad. Zeus was in love with Thetis, a sea nymph, but received a prophecy that Thetis's son would become greater than his father, just like Zeus had dethroned his father to lead the succeeding pantheon of gods. In order to avoid such an outcome Zeus arranged for her to marry a human, Peleus. Peleus was very much in favour of such an arrangement, however, Thetis refused him.
Proteus, an early sea-god, advised Peleus to find the sea nymph when she was asleep and bind her tightly to keep her from changing forms to escape. He did so, but she managed to shift shapes, becoming flame, water, a raging lioness, and a serpent. Peleus held fast and eventually the nymph was subdued and consented to marry him.