HEMESSEN, Jan Sanders van
(b. ca. 1500, Hemishem, d. 1556, Haarlem)

Allegorical Scene

c. 1550
Oil on panel, 159 x 189 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The influence of Italian art on Van Hemessen indicates that he visited Italy. It is assumed that he was in northern Italy around 1530 where he probably saw paintings by Moretto da Brescia, Romanino and Savoldo, from whom he borrowed his figure types. It is also likely that he visited Fontainebleau in the 1540s when Rosso Fiorentino and Primaticcio were working on the decoration of the King François I's castle.

This pastoral-like painting has an odd subject: a woman seated in a landscape sprinkles milk from her breast over the lira da braccio of the man opposite her; in the background is a flock of sheep, with a shepherd writing or drawing on the ground with his staff. The picture has been interpreted in several ways, among others as the musician's inspiration, as poetry and the poet, as an allegorical wedding portrait and as an allegory of marital harmony.

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