(b. 1622, Amsterdam, d. 1678, Venezia)

The Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths at Hippodamia's Wedding

Oil on canvas, 177 x 139 cm
Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam

The theme of the painting is taken from Ovid. The Lapiths, a peace-loving people of Thessaly, were celebrating the wedding of their king Pirithous to Hippodamia. The Centaurs were invited but they quickly began to misbehave. One of them, Eurytus, full of liquor, tried to carry off the bride and soon a battle raged in which drinking vessels, table legs, antlers, in fact anything to hand, served as weapons. Blood and brains were scattered everywhere. Finally, thanks chiefly for Theseus, the friend of Pirithous, who was among the guests, the Centaurs were driven off. To the ancients and to the Renaissance the theme symbolized the victory of civilization over barbarism. It was used to decorate Greek temples, notably the metopes of the Parthenon (the 'Elgin marbles'), and was popular with baroque painters.

Although the themes are not related, this painting seems to be in many respects a variant of the Conversion of Paul executed five years earlier. The two even look like pendants, although they were not made as such. They are roughly the same size, and the figure are on the same scale and in a similar type of landscape. The foreground of both pictures is dominated by a galloping horse mounted by a figure turning to look back with a large drapery fluttering overhead. And in both these tumultuous scenes a horse tramples a man on the ground. Dujardin employed the same means in both pictures, but he envisaged and achieved different results. The later painting is more reminiscent of a classical relief, its colour contrasts and chiaroscuro are less pronounced and dramatic, it is more subdued and 'classicist'.

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