Frans Wouters

A satyr spying on a sleeping nymph

Frans Wouters was born in Lier in 1612. After studying with Pieter van Avont, he worked for some time in the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens. He became a master of the guild of St Luke in 1635, but shortly afterwards he left Antwerp for Prague, where he worked for Ferdinand II, and later on London, where he was employed by the Prince of Wales. Besides painting, he also dabbled in art dealing. In 1641 he returned to Antwerp, shortly after Rubens’ death. He was responsible for inventorizing the contents of the Steen, Rubens’ castle at Elewijt, near Mechelen.

Stylistically, he was greatly influenced by Rubens and van Dyck (who he had probably collaborated with during his stay in London); the figures of the satyr and the nymph clearly reflect this. In most of his paintings, the trees and the landscape were of lesser importance to Wouters, who considered them more as a stage setting for biblical or mythological protagonists. In the present work the dark sky and trees form a strong contrast with the bright incarnate of the figures.

The motif of the present painting, a satyr spying on a nymph – or its variant, Jupiter and Antiope – was a popular motif which originated in the Italian renaissance, inspired by a Roman antique marble which had been excavated in 1512 and placed in the gardens of the Vatican. This kind of painting – with its rather obvious erotic undertone – was intended for a collector’s cabinet, for his private enjoyment.

Artist: Frans Wouters
Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: 36 x 40,5 cm