CLERCK, Hendrik de
(b. ca. 1570, Brussel, d. 1630, Brussel)

The Contest between Apollo and Pan

c. 1620
Oil on copper, 43 x 62 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Alternative title for the painting: Contest of Apollo and Marsyas in which Midas gives judgement.

This painting reveals a precise knowledge of literary sources. His epic manner of illustration makes it possible to follow the entire story. The radiant figure of Apollo is emphasized, with Pallas Athene as a patroness standing next to him. Tmolos, who was asked to be the judge, is seated in the centre; he turns toward the divine musician and waves silence to the wildly dancing Pan.

Moving towards the front, between the two of them, is the foolish king of Lydia, Midas, who in contradiction with the wise judgment, voted for the victory of Pan's instrument. He is already wearing the ass's ears he received from Apollo for this. In some catalogues this painting is also known as "Apollo and Marsyas", although the artist was consistent in identifying Pan, who can be easily recognized by the goat hooves and the syrinx held in his hand. In this picture Apollo's stringed instrument is a Renaissance lira da braccio which is played with a bow. The female figures framing the composition on the left are Muses; the water jugs are usually the attributes of Poesia. On the right we can see Pan's escorts: satyrs and nymphs. The woman holding a trumpet is probably not Fama, the personification of fame, rather, she is simply introducing another type of wind instrument which has been scorned.

The Northern European painter placed the events of classical mythology into a romantic, mountainous setting.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.