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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

The Origin of the Cornucopia

Photo: Paul Macapia

The Origin of the Cornucopia

ca. 1619

Abraham Janssens

Flemish, Antwerp, ca. 1575-1632

Moving in slow-motion, three river nymphs fill a cornucopia with harvest fruits and vegetables, a common custom denoting Autumn. The picture probably was one of a series of four seasons made to decorate a public building or wealthy residence.

Until Rubens came on the scene, Janssens was the leading painter in the prosperous city of Antwerp. He had been one of the first northern artists to travel to Italy, where he became familiar with the work of Caravaggio. Like that artist, Janssens wants to break down the barrier between viewer and painting, so that the figures almost reach into our space.

Oil on canvas
42 3/4 x 68 1/16 in. (108.6 x 172.8 cm)
PONCHO in honor of Dr. Richard E. Fuller's 75th Birthday
Provenance: (Said to come from an unnamed French provincial castle); Galerie Heim, Paris (founded 1954), to 1972; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryBrussels, Belgium, Musees Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, "A European Court In Brussels: Albert and Isabella 1598-1621", September 16, 1998 - January 1, 1999

Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, "The Age of Rubens", September 22, 1993 - April 24, 1994; Toledo Museum of Art, February 20 - April 24, 1994 (09/22/1993 - 04/24/1994)

Bellevue, Washington, Bellevue Art Museum, "17th, 18th, 19th Century Western Art", October 30, 1975 - November 24, 1975 (10/30/1975 - 11/24/1975)
Published ReferencesAdams, Henry. "Rubens was artist, scholar, diplomat - and a love of life," in Smithsonian (October 1993), p. 58-69.

Andreae, Christopher. "Learning to Speak the Language of Rubens," in The Christian Science Monitor (Dec 7, 1993), p. 20-21.

Brosens, Koenraad. "Jordanes and the Antique". Mercatorfonds, Brussels: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, 2012, fig. 75, page 171

De Clipper, Karolien. "Rubens's 'Nymphs and Satyrs' in the Prado: Observations on Its Genesis and Meaning," in The Burlington Magazine, Vol 149 No. 1247, Flemish and Dutch Arts (Feb 2007), p. 76-81.

Ishikawa, Chiyo. "The Samuel H. Kress Collection at the Seattle Art Museum" Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, 1997, fig. 6, pp. 18, 20

Nicolson, Benedict. "The International Caravaggessque Movement: Lists of Pictures by Caravaggio and his Followers throughout Europe from 1590 to 1650," Phaidon Press Limited (1979), 62-63.

"Public Art Museum Notes," in Art Journal, Vol. 32 No. 3 (Spring 1973), p. 328+330+332+334+336+338.

"Selected Works." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1991, p. 92

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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