KEIRINCKX, Alexander
(b. 1600, Antwerpen, d. 1652, Amsterdam)

Landscape with Cephalus and Procris

c. 1620
Oil on panel, 48 x 81 cm
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond

Alexander Keirinckx was a pupil of Abraham Govaerts, and like Govaerts he specialized in decorative forest landscapes. His earliest production owes much to the work of his teacher and to Mannerist landscape painting in general. His earliest known dated works of c. 1620, such as the Landscape with Cephalus and Procris, are marked by stylised coulisses of trees decoratively framing the composition. His three-coloured perspective, the unnatural panoramic effect and the contrived contrast between a group of trees seen from close-to and a vista through to a distant background, are explicitly features of Mannerist landscapes.

The present painting with its brilliant colours, fantastic tangle of trees, and mythological figures shows the exotic, imaginary character of many Flemish landscapes of the early 1600s.

The tragic story of Cephalus and Procris comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Procris gave her new husband, Cephalus, a splendid spear and hunting dogs. Unjustly suspecting him of being unfaithful, she followed him through the woods. He mistook her for an animal in the brush and killed her with the spear. Here Keirincx shows the moment when Procris gives Cephalus the fateful spear. The story ends happily, though, when Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, takes pity on her subjects, restores Procris to life, and reunites her with her husband.

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