MOMPER, Joos de
(b. 1564, Antwerpen, d. 1634/35, Antwerpen)

Helicon or Minerva's Visit to the Muses

Oil on panel, 140 x 199 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

This painting is the result of a co-operation of three artists, Joos de Momper (landscape), Hendrik van Balen (figures) and Jan 'Velvet' Brueghel (flowers). It is an attractive work with a harmonious landscape. The foreground and background merge gradually with one another, forbidding rocks give way to a grand valley, in which the mythological scene forms a balanced component.

Ovid describes (Met. 5:250-268) how Minerva visited the Muses on Mt Helicon, their home, to listen to their song and story and to see the sacred spring, the Hippocrene, which flowed from a rock after it had been struck by the hoof of the winged horse, Pegasus. The scene is a wooded mountain-side where the company of Muses are playing their instruments. Pegasus is seen in the background leaping from a high rock from which water gushes. The association of Minerva and the Muses was in line with the tradition that made her patroness of the arts.