CLERCK, Hendrik de
(b. ca. 1570, Brussel, d. 1630, Brussel)
Landscape with Diana and Acteonc. 1608
Oil on panel, 70 x 105 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 representation of the subject, narrated by Ovid in Book III of the Metamorphoses, the figures are by Hendrik de Clerck and the forest is attributed to Denis van Alsloot.
The light enters from the bottom, by the only opening that the trees have left, and illuminates the narrated scene. As is usual in the woods of Van Alsloot, despite the drama of the story, the shapes of the trees are simple. Neither the branches twist nor the wind shake the leaves, so that the whole scene breathes calm, serenity. As for the characters, the pearly incarnations and the elegant elongated shapes and modeled with precision are characteristic of De Clerck's Mannerism. The figures of Diana and the nymph lying on their backs to the viewer are taken from the engraving done by Jan Saenredam after the Diana and Callisto by Hendrick Goltzius, inspired in turn by Titian. The model for the figure of Acteon is the Belvedere Apollo, one of the most popular sculptures since the beginning of the 17th century.