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The Kunstkamera of Willem van Hacht: How an art gallery and the plot of an ancient Greek legend fit into one canvas
The Kunstkamera of Willem van Hacht: How an art gallery and the plot of an ancient Greek legend fit into one canvas
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"Apelles paints Campaspa (Alexander the Great in Apelles' studio)." (about 1630). Mauritshuis Royal Gallery. Hague. Author: Willem van Hacht

The legend about how the Macedonian Tsar Alexander the Great gave his mistress to the artist in exchange for her portrait is well known and for many centuries was a favorite theme of many Western European painters. And the most stunning in its size, concept and compositional solution dedicated to this topic for about four centuries is the unique creation of the Flemish Willem van Hachta.

The creative heritage of the Flemish artist Willem van Hacht is familiar to art lovers from just a few canvases, which depict collections of paintings, sculptures and other works of art, that is, the so-called "Kunstkamera".

Pictures of this kind were very popular in the 17th century in Antwerp, and today they are of historical value as a visual chronicle of the history of Western European art.

An indelible impression is made by the fact that the paintings and sculptural works are depicted real, having their authors, and all the characters are concrete historical figures.

"Alexander the Great in the Apelles workshop." (about 1630). Fragment. Author: Willem van Hacht

For the main storyline, the artist took the ancient Greek legend, according to which the antique artist Apelles painted the portrait of Alexander the Great's mistress so excellently that he left his mistress to the artist in admiration, and took her image for himself, having fallen in love with the portrait more than nature.

"Alexander the Great in the Apelles workshop." (about 1630). Fragment. Author

By the way, Apelles (370 - 306 BC) was one of the most famous Greek painters of antiquity and also a friend of Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, not a single work of the master has survived to this day. His work is known only from the testimony of ancient historians.

"Alexander the Great in the Apelles workshop." (about 1630). Fragment. Author: Willem van Hacht

The artist Willem van Hacht placed the heroes of his genius creation in the 17th century of his day and dressed them up in oriental outfits corresponding to his era. The whole action takes place around the key figure - Apelles, who enthusiastically paints a portrait of the beautiful Campaspa, the mistress of Alexander the Great, who follows the process with delight.

"Alexander the Great in the Apelles workshop." (about 1630). Fragment. Author: Willem van Hacht

The main characters are surrounded by many contemplators, guards, warriors, servants. However, an incredible impression on the viewer is caused by the so-called workshop of Apelles, which contains a huge collection of works by artists and sculptors - a kind of art gallery.

"Alexander the Great in the Apelles workshop." (about 1630). Fragment. Author: Willem van Hacht

The huge room is hung and filled with an incredible number of paintings and sculptures, each of which is actually created by Flemish, German and Italian artists of the 16-17 century. The canvas by Willem van Hacht, as it were, combined different eras into one temporal space.

"Alexander the Great in the Apelles workshop." (about 1630). Fragment. Author: Willem van Hacht "Alexander the Great in the Apelles workshop." (about 1630). Fragment. Author: Willem van Hacht

Pictures in a picture

Willem van Hacht recreated on his canvas more than a hundred real-life works of art, including the most famous masterpieces of world art by famous masters. Fans of riddles are still trying to guess the name and authors of several more unidentified paintings and sculptures.

"Apelles paints Campaspa (Alexander the Great in Apelles' studio)." (about 1630). Mauritshuis Royal Gallery. Hague. Author: Willem van Hacht

Among the masterpieces, one can see, for example, "The Death of Cleopatra" by Guido Reni, "The Battle of the Greeks with the Amazons", "Tarquinia and Lucretia" by Peter Paul Rubens, "The Money Changer with His Wife" by Quentin Masseis, "Apollo and Daphne" by Francesco Albani, "The Abduction Europe "Jan Brueghel the Elder," The Flood "by Raphael Santi and many other brilliant canvases. These masterpieces of famous artists are adorned with the most famous museums in the world to this day.

"Battle of the Greeks with the Amazons." (1618). Old Pinakothek. Munich. Author: Peter Paul Rubens "Death of Cleopatra". 1625. New Palace, Potsdam. Author: Reni Guido "I changed with my wife." (1514). Louvre, Paris.Posted by Quentin Massys "Still life with a parrot." Author: Frans Snyders Pilgrims at Emmaus. (1617). Louvre. Paris. Author: Paul Bril Apollo and Daphne. Louvre. Paris. Author: Francesco Albani "Drunken Silenus, supported by satyrs." (1620). Rubens workshop "Venus blindfolding Cupid." Borghese Gallery, Rome. Author: Titian Vecellio Samson and Delilah. Museum of Art History. Vein. Author: Anthony van Dyck "Diana's Hunt". Borghese Gallery. Rome. Author: Domenico Zampieri "Fight of a peacock with a rooster." Calouste Gyulbenkian Museum. Lisbon. Author: Paul de Vos "Diana and the Nymphs Going to Hunt". Hunting and Nature Museum. Paris. Author: Jan Brueghel the Elder "Portrait of Ferry Carondelet with his secretaries." Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid. Author: Sebastiano del Piembo "Global flood". fresco Vatican Museums. Vatican. Author: Rafael Santi Cyclops Polyphemus. Fresco of the Palazzo Farnese. Rome. Author: Annibale Carracci "The Abduction of Europa". Museum of Art History. Vein. Author: Jan Brueghel the Elder "Tarquinius and Lucretia". State Hermitage. Author: Peter Paul Rubens "Portrait of Cornelis van der Geest". (1620). British National Gallery. Author: Anthony Van Dyck "Portrait of a Scientist". Frankfurt City Museum. Posted by Quentin Massys

And this is a list of only a small part of the paintings depicted on the canvas. And we must pay tribute to the artist who created such a grandiose creation, which united a whole art gallery.

The unique manner of the Flemish artists of the Middle Ages to reflect on their canvases the events of ancient times in the present time, can also be seen in the work of the famous Dutch artist David Gerard. "Court of Cambyses" - an edifying picture that makes the servants of Themis shudder to this day.

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