(b. 1617, Mechelen, d. 1697, Mechelen)

Jupiter Casting a Thunderbolt

Terracotta, 44,4 x 72,4 x 26,3 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Lucas Faydherbe is the sculptor frequently mentioned in the same breath as Rubens. This talented artist from Mechelen, who worked in Rubens' studio between 1636 and 1640, has been associated from the 17th century onwards with sculptures having a particularly strong pictorial character. One such creation is Jupiter Casting a Thunderbolt, which, though unsigned, can be ascribed to Faydherbe based on stylistic comparison with the documented sculpture of St Simon in Brussels cathedral.

The imposing haut-relief clearly reflects the dynamism of his genial teacher. Jupiter, wearing a crown and sitting on a wavy mass of clouds, clenches the heavenly fire that he flings down over the earth in sheets of lightning. The muscled body, the flowing beard and the angry expression, modelled fluidly in high relief, are typical of the high baroque period. Faydherbe has successfully reproduced the dominating force of the ruler of Olympus in this neutral material - baked clay - in a breathtaking manner reminiscent of Michelangelo. Particularly successful is the contrast between the wildly flattering folds and the tension of the muscled skin. Although outwardly we find little difference in the modelling of the material - details are lacking - Faydherbe succeeds remarkably in suggesting the difference between the material of the coat and the naked flesh.

Given Rubens' still overwhelming influence in this work, it can most probably be dated to around 1645-55, shortly after Faydherbe's time in his studio. Very likely it was part of a much larger composition, which perhaps was never executed, or has since been lost. Faydherbe, who received his initial training in Mechelen from his stepfather Maximiliaan Labbé, was involved in a number of very large projects, like the remodeling of the choir in Sint-Rombouts cathedral in his native city. He also carried out major works as an architect, among them the church of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Hanswijk. His influence was important for the blossoming of the Mechelen school that, although overshadowed by Antwerp, produced meritorious sculptors under his influence, including Jan van Delen and Nicolaas van der Veken.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 38 minutes):
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony in C Major (Jupiter-Symphony) K 551