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Jan Both and Cornelis van Poelenburgh, A Landscape with the Judgement of Paris

Key facts
Full title A Landscape with the Judgement of Paris
Artist Jan Both and Cornelis van Poelenburgh
Artist dates about 1615 - 1652; 1594/5 - 1667
Date made about 1645-50
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 97 × 129 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Richard Simmons, 1847
Inventory number NG209
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Landscape with the Judgement of Paris
Jan Both and Cornelis van Poelenburgh

This appears to depict a moment of bliss: an idyllic landscape, painted in an Italianate style by Jan Both, is suffused with the warm glow of a summer’s evening. In the foreground a group of elegantly poised nudes, added by Both’s collaborator Cornelis van Poelenburgh, catches the sunlight.

But this is no idyll, and we are witnessing a tragic turning point in mythological history: the Judgement of Paris. Jupiter has asked Paris to judge which of three goddesses – Juno, Minerva and Venus – is the most beautiful. Paris chooses Venus by handing her a golden apple. As a reward she promises him Helen, the beautiful wife of a Greek king. Helen’s abduction leads to the Trojan wars and the destruction of Troy.

Van Poelenburgh and Both had studied in Italy before they returned to Utrecht and were part of a group of Dutch artists who created a taste among their patrons for Italianate landscape painting.

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