Thursday, April 5, 2012

Patinir, Joachim

Crossing the River Styx (Voyage to the Underworld)
oil on panel
64 × 103 cm (25.2 × 40.6 in)
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Joachim Patinir, also called de Patiner (c. 1480 - 1524), was a Flemish Northern Renaissance history and landscape painter.
He ia a pioneer of landscape as an independent genre. Nothing is known of his early life, but in 1515 he became registered as a member of Antwerp's painters’ guild Guild of Saint Luke, where he spent the rest of his life. He was a friend of Albrecht Dürer, and Dürer called Patinir "der gute Landschaftmaler" ("a good painter of landscapes").

Although landscape never constitutes the subject of his pictures, he was the first Netherlandish artist to let it dwarf his figures in religious and mythological scenes. His style combines naturalistic observation of detail with a marvellous sense of fantasy, forming a link between Bosch and Bruegel. There are only five paintings signed by Patinir.

In this painting, the ferryman Charon rows a departed soul down the River Styx. Charon ferries a human soul who must decide between heaven and hell. You can see the landscape of Eden on the left (including the Fountain of Paradise) and the frightening Hell on the right side. Heaven is populated by swans, peacocks, small deers and figures of angels, one of which tries to draw the attention of the soul that travels in the boat. Hell is full of grotesque creatures, and is accessed through a door guarded by Cerberus, the mythical three-headed dog. The tiny wavering spirit must choose - but see how his eyes dart towards Hell and away from the beckoning angel.