Willem van Mieris

Willem van Mieris - Perseus rescuing Andromeda

Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus

Willem van Mieris was born in Leiden in 1662. He was taught by Frans van Mieris, his father, who was a well-known genre and portrait painter. His brother, Jan van Mieris, also became an artist. Besides spending some time in Amsterdam (in 1693), van Mieris spent his entire career in Leiden. Willem became a member of the local guild of St Luke, and went on to become one of the founding members of the Leiden drawing academy, which opened in 1694. He taught several pupils, such as Catharina Backer and Hieronymus van der Mij. Van Mieris retired in 1736, as he had become partially blind. He died in Leiden in 1747.

Van Mieris was a prolific artist, producing genre, mythological and history pieces, as well as landscapes, portraits and even the occasional still life. Like his father, he became known as a so-called “Leidse fijnschilder”, a name given to a Dutch group of artists – including painters like Gerrit Dou – who strived to create highly natural reproductions of reality in finely executed, often small-scale works.

The current work, executed on vellum, is a beautiful example of the art of these “fijnschilders” and of Willem van Mieris in particular. Small in scale but very rich in details, it recounts a story from Greek mythology, as described by Ovid in his Metamorphoses (book IV). Andromeda, daughter of the Aethiopian king Cepheus, is chained to a rock, stripped naked, as a sacrifice to the sea monster Cetus, which was sent by Poseidon to ravage Aethiopia. When Perseus, having just defeated Medusa (her head can be seen on his shield, where it was placed by Athena), happens upon the scene (seated on the winged horse Pegasus), he slays Cetus and goes on to marry Andromeda.

Artist: Willem van Mieris (Leiden 1662 - 1747)
Medium: gouache on vellum, gold framing lines
Dimensions: 131 x 153 mm
Signed: 'W. Van Mieris F. An° 1691'
Literature: A.J. Elen, '"Ongemeen uitvoerig op Perkament met sapverven behandeld". De gekleurde tekeningen van Willem van Mieris uit de collectie Jonas Witsen', Delineavit et Sculpsit 15, may 1995, 1-22, cat. nr. 10, ill.