CLERCK, Hendrik de
(b. ca. 1570, Brussel, d. 1630, Brussel)
The Paradise and the Four Elements1606-09
Oil on panel, 58 x 74 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
In 1606, Hendrik de Clerck became painter to the archducal court in Brussels. Until then he had almost exclusively produced monumental altarpieces and other devotional pictures, now he started to devote himself to painting cabinet pieces. He specialized in biblical scenes, and in particular mythological and allegorical representations for the landscapes of his fellow townsmen Jan Brueghel the Elder and Denis van Alsloot. Three of the compositions painted in collaboration with Van Alsloot bear dates between 1608 and 1611, and the landscapes in the pictures painted with Jan Brueghel the Elder can be securely dated to around 1606-09. With the minutely finished tree and forest scenes by Brueghel and Van Alsloot, De Clerck's enamel-like mythological nudes, graceful, and often revealing a restrained eroticism, made decorative pictures.
In this painting the figures are by Hendrik de Clerck and the landscape is by Denis van Alsloot. In the foreground the personifications of the Four Elements, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, are represented with their corresponding attributes. Behind them three key moments of the biblical story are depicted: Creation of Eve, Eve offering the apple to Adam and Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. In heaven the figure of God the Father is shown surrounded by angels. There is another version of the painting (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), signed by both painters.