FINSON, Louis
(b. ca. 1580, Brugge, d. 1617, Amsterdam)

Allegory of the Four Elements

1611
Oil on canvas, 179 x 170 cm
Private collection

Personifications of the Four Elements were conventionally depicted as four females distinguished only by their attributes. Louis Finson, however, used a different type of presentation; the elements as male and female, entangled in a fierce struggle. Fire (upper right) is depicted as a strong, young man surrounded by flames. He is in a firm grip with Water (lower left) and holding Air (upper left) down. Air, an almost floating woman, is literary pushed up in the air by water. She grabs fire by his hair and at the same time holding him back with her right leg. Water, a bearded, older but very strong man is seated with his knees up and surrounded by small waves. He tries to push the element of Earth away with his feet. Earth (lower right) is depicted as an older lady lying on her back and grabbing the chest of water. She is surrounded by brown earth and tries to grip Fire by his left leg, who carefully steps over her.

The present painting, made in April 1611, dates from Finson's Neapolitan period and clearly shows the dominant influence of Caravaggio, although he has not entirely abandoned the etiolated figural style of Giuseppe Cesari, called Cavaliere D'Arpino, whose work was also to be found in quantity in Naples, and whose influence can be noted in other works from his Neapolitan period,

The painting is signed and dated lower right: Lovs. Finsonsivs Fecit/ APRIL A^(o) 1611.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 28 minutes):
George Frideric Handel: Water Music, Suite No. 1