About This Artwork

Joachim Antonisz. Wtewael
Dutch, c. 1566-1638

The Battle between the Gods and the Giants, c. 1608

Oil on copper
6 1/8 x 8 in. (15.6 x 20.3 cm)

Through prior acquisition of the George F. Harding Fund, 1986.426

The subject of the victory of the gods of Olympus over the ancient race of giants provided Joachim Wtewael with the opportunity to depict exaggerated athletic poses and striking contrasts of space and light. From the clouds, the Olympian gods wield their attributes as weapons: Jupiter hurls thunderbolts; Neptune brandishes his triton; and Mercury uses his caduceus as a spear. The helmeted figure on the right is Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and war. The painting's gemlike effect results from the use of a copper support and from its small scale. The artist's self-conscious display of his skills was a hallmark of the international style known as Mannerism, which was fashionable in Holland around 1600.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

London, Matthiesen Fine Art, Around 1610: The Onset of the Baroque, 1985, no. 6.

Utrecht, Centraal Museum, Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael, February 21 - May 25, 2015, no. 27, traveled to Washington, National Gallery of Art and Houston, Museum of Fine Arts.

Publication History

Anne W. Lowenthal, Joachim Wtewael and Dutch Mannerism, Doornspijk, 1986, pp. 102-3, cat. no. A-23, pl. 8, fig. 35.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Annual Report 1986-1987, Chicago, 1987, pp. 5, 56, pl. 7.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Master Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1988, p. 24.

C.J.A. Wansink, review of Anne W. Lowenthal, Joachim Wtewael and Dutch Mannerism in Oud Holland 103 (1989), p. 177.

Peter C. Sutton, "Recent Patterns of Public and Private Collecting of Dutch Art" in Great Dutch Paintings in America, exhib. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1990, p. 107.

Christie's, New York, Important and Fine Old Master Paintings, May 21, 1992, under no. 92.

Sotheby's, New York, Important Old Master Paintings, January 30, 1997, under no. 24.

Lawrence W. Nichols, "Joachim Wtewael, Utrecht, Washington and Houston," Burlington Magazine 158 (2015), p. 502.

Ownership History

Possibly Adriaan Bout, sold, The Hague, August 11, 1733, no. 108, “De Reusen tegen de Goden Strydende, heel curieus en uytvoerig Geschildert, door Uytewael, h. 6 d. br. 8 d. (the giants fighting against thegods, very rare and minutely painted by Wtewael” for 275 fl. [Gerard Hoet, Catalogus of Naamlyst van Schilderyen…, The Hague, 1752, vol. 1, p. 392]. Possibly Count van Wassenaar Obdam, sold, De Hondt, The Hague, August 19, 1750, no. 115, “De Reusen Stryd, tegen de Gooden, door Jochem Uittewaal. h. 6 d., br. 8 d. “ for 300 fl. [Hoet, vol. 2, p. 298]. Probably Willem Lormier, The Hague; sold A. Franken, The Hague, July 4, 1763, no. 206, “De Stryd der Reusen, tegen de Goden. K[uiper]. Breet 7 3/4, Hoog, 6 (the battle of giants and gods, on copper” for 115 fl. Vosmaar” [annotated sale catalogue, Art Institute of Chicago]. Probably Jan Tak, Leiden, sold, Zoeterwoude, September 5, 1781, no. 64a as a pair to Delfos, “"Een weergae werbeeldende Jupiter zittende op de Wolken met den Blixem in zijn hand, verzeld van Goden, terwijl de Reuzen op de voorgrond staande den Hemel bestormen, waarvan men 'er een meenigte in 't verschiet ziet nedertuimelen.  Deeze twee stukjes zijn konstig geordonneert, fraai getekend, en zoo uitvoerig en kragtig of het Geëmailleert was, en met olijverf op koper geschildert, ieder is hoog 6, breed 7 duim." [annotated catalogue in the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague; this and the Lormier picture were sold with a Diana and Acteon by Wtewael of the same dimensions]. Possibly Van Leyden; sold, Paris, September 10, 1804,no. 113 [pendants of Jupiter defeating the titans and Diana and Acteon 8 x 6 pouces, but described as on panel]. Private collection, Russia, c. 1900 [Matthiesen 1985, p. 30, based on Russian newspaper used to mount picture]. Private collection, England [according to Matthiesen 1985, p. 30 and Lowenthal 1986, p. 102]; Matthiesen Fine Ltd, by 1985; sold to the Art Institute, 1986.

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