Prometheus being Chained by Vulcan by Baburen, Dirck van

Prometheus being Chained by Vulcan
Baburen, Dirck van
1623; Oil on canvas, 202 x 184 cm;
Rijksmuseum, AmsterdamOn the floor in a smithy lies Prometheus. The gods' smith, Vulcan, is
fastening handcuffs on him, chaining him to a rock.
Filled with pity, the messenger of the
gods, Mercury watches this happening.
The eagle which is to devour his liver
every day - Prometheus' punishment for stealing fire from the gods and
giving it to mankind - is hovering ominously in a corner.
Van Baburen has presented this
story from Greek mythology in all its dramatic power and
significance. Prometheus, his face creased in anguish, churns the air
with his arms. The treatment of light and the lifesize figures reflect
the influence of the Italian painter
Caravaggio,
with contrasts of light and shade, dramatic expressions
and unidealized people with sun-tanned hands and faces.PunishmentIn the struggle between the gods of Olympus and the Titans, the Titan
Prometheus supported the father of the gods, Jupiter. But when Jupiter
revealed his repressive tendencies, Prometheus (meaning 'he who thinks
ahead') chose for the side of humans. And against the wishes of
Jupiter, he gave humankind the gift of fire. Enraged at this, Jupiter
sentenced Prometheus to a terrible punishment. He was to be chained
for all eternity to a rock, and an eagle was to peck out his liver
every day. This torture would never cease, because during the night
the liver would grow back again. But finally the torture was brought
to an end by Hercules, Jupiter's own son, who unchained Prometheus.CaravaggistDirck van Baburen spent some time in Italy. Like several other
painters from Utrecht he came under the influence of the Italian
artist, Caravaggio. The latter's dramatic treatment of light greatly
appealed to Baburen, as did his tendency to use ordinary people as
models. In his Prometheus painting he has used working men and women
as lifesize models. The tanned hands and faces of Vulcan and
Prometheus stand out in sharp contrast to the white skin of their
bodies. The scene is dramatically illuminated with bright light. The
artist Gerard van Honthorst made a drawing after Caravaggio's painting
of the crucifixion of St Peter. Similar figures would have served as
examples for Baburen's painting of Prometheus.Painting styleEverything about this painting is huge and solid: both the figures and
the clothes they are wearing. Van Baburen has placed small areas of
paint side by side and made definite contours. Seen close-up, the
painting is not smoothly finished. Some details appear inaccurate,
such as the almost club-feet of the main character. However,
Prometheus' hanging head and the foreshortening of his body are
admirably presented. The double signature on the painting presents a
puzzle. There is a clear signature below the right-hand shoulder of
Prometheus. During a restoration of the painting a second signature
was discovered at the lower left by Prometheus' hand.There is a creation story connected with Prometheus. It relates how he
made people from clay and then stole fire (knowledge) in order to give
them life. At an auction in 1707 a painting by Baburen of
Adam and Eve
was sold together with the chained Prometheus. It is likely that the
two works formed a pair. Indeed, Adam and Eve are associated with the
Christian version of the creation story just as Prometheus is with the
classical version.Credits:
The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Prometheus being Chained by Vulcan Baburen, Dirck van 1623; Oil on canvas, 202 x 184 cm; Rijksmuseum, AmsterdamOn the floor in a smithy lies Prometheus. The gods' smith, Vulcan, is fastening handcuffs on him, chaining him to a rock. Filled with pity, the messenger of the gods, Mercury watches this happening. The eagle which is to devour his liver every day - Prometheus' punishment for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mankind - is hovering ominously in a corner. Van Baburen has presented this story from Greek mythology in all its dramatic power and significance. Prometheus, his face creased in anguish, churns the air with his arms. The treatment of light and the lifesize figures reflect the influence of the Italian painter Caravaggio, with contrasts of light and shade, dramatic expressions and unidealized people with sun-tanned hands and faces.PunishmentIn the struggle between the gods of Olympus and the Titans, the Titan Prometheus supported the father of the gods, Jupiter. But when Jupiter revealed his repressive tendencies, Prometheus (meaning 'he who thinks ahead') chose for the side of humans. And against the wishes of Jupiter, he gave humankind the gift of fire. Enraged at this, Jupiter sentenced Prometheus to a terrible punishment. He was to be chained for all eternity to a rock, and an eagle was to peck out his liver every day. This torture would never cease, because during the night the liver would grow back again. But finally the torture was brought to an end by Hercules, Jupiter's own son, who unchained Prometheus.CaravaggistDirck van Baburen spent some time in Italy. Like several other painters from Utrecht he came under the influence of the Italian artist, Caravaggio. The latter's dramatic treatment of light greatly appealed to Baburen, as did his tendency to use ordinary people as models. In his Prometheus painting he has used working men and women as lifesize models. The tanned hands and faces of Vulcan and Prometheus stand out in sharp contrast to the white skin of their bodies. The scene is dramatically illuminated with bright light. The artist Gerard van Honthorst made a drawing after Caravaggio's painting of the crucifixion of St Peter. Similar figures would have served as examples for Baburen's painting of Prometheus.Painting styleEverything about this painting is huge and solid: both the figures and the clothes they are wearing. Van Baburen has placed small areas of paint side by side and made definite contours. Seen close-up, the painting is not smoothly finished. Some details appear inaccurate, such as the almost club-feet of the main character. However, Prometheus' hanging head and the foreshortening of his body are admirably presented. The double signature on the painting presents a puzzle. There is a clear signature below the right-hand shoulder of Prometheus. During a restoration of the painting a second signature was discovered at the lower left by Prometheus' hand.There is a creation story connected with Prometheus. It relates how he made people from clay and then stole fire (knowledge) in order to give them life. At an auction in 1707 a painting by Baburen of Adam and Eve was sold together with the chained Prometheus. It is likely that the two works formed a pair. Indeed, Adam and Eve are associated with the Christian version of the creation story just as Prometheus is with the classical version.Credits: The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.