About 1560 Bruxelles - 1630
Oil on panel
103 x 136 cm
Hendrick de Clerck received his formation in Martin de Vos' studio and was the greatest historical painter of his generation. In 1594 -1595 Archduke Ernest employed him as court painter. His fame was at such a height that, on the death of Ernest, Rudolf II recommended him to Ernest‘s brother, Archduke Albert of Austria the new governor of the Spanish Netherlands, to keep him on in this position. After having participated in 1599 in the ornamentation of the "Joyeuse entrée" in Brussels for Archduke Albert and his new wife Isabella (the daughter of Philip II of Spain), he wa assigned as their court painter in 1606. In this function, he painted in 1609 the ceiling of the oratory of Archduke Albert in the Palace of Coudenberg in Brussels.
As the last representative of Mannerism before the breakthrough of Baroque, Hendrick de Clerck was a scholar and a humanist of the Renaissance. When he painted this Judgement of Paris, de Clerck saw the Holy Roman Empire as a new Roman Empire: Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, entered Milan in 1541 as a new „Jason“ in his quest for the Golden Fleece. Philip II is here compared to Apollo and, in his wake, the archdukes Albert and Isabella enter the world of the gods. However, they must also not forget that they are the guarantors of the Pax Hispanica in the northern territories. The painting can be interpreted as a political message: Albert has brought peace to Brussels, but the Archdukes must not forget that they are the guarantors of the "Pax Hispanica" in the northern territories. In the painting, Albert gives his features to Paris, son of Priam, who was raised among the shepherds so that the oracle predicting that it would cause the fall of Troy, the kingdom of his father, is not realised. Isabella, the Infanta of Spain, embodies councel and prudence, two of the main virtues of a monarch, personified here by Minerva, who must protect peace.
This allegory refers to Ovid's story of Thetis and Peleus. Eris, Goddess of Discord, takes revenge on their wedding guests. Because she wasn’t invited to the wedding, she throws into their midst the Golden Apple of Discord as a prize of beauty, on which is inscribed the words „For The Most Beautiful One,“ thus sparking a vanity- fueled dispute. One must choose between Venus, represented here as Cupid; Juno, accompanied by the Peacock; and Minerva, who is wearing the helmet. Jupiter does not risk it himself, but sends Mercury to carry the apple to Paris. To claim the title, Juno's promises land and riches; Minerva, military glory; Venus, the love of any desired woman; and Mercury, who praises the charms of Helen, daughter of the King of Sparta. Paris tricks Minerva and Juno, who conspire, and provoke the conflict that will lead to the domination of Troy by Sparta.
Two other versions of our painting are known, one at the Universalmuseum Joanneum in Graz (Fig.1) and a sketch (Fig.2) at the Library of the University in Erlangen - Nürnberg, registered as B 1501, as well as a version in the Fondation Phoebus, (Fig. 3, panel, 71 x 104 cm).
Hendrick de Clerck: Study of Diana in the bath surrounded by nymphs and dogs (brown ink, wash, heightened with chalk ... put in the square, 271 x 400 mm, location unknown, see: Sabine van Sprang: Denijs van Alsloot (c.1568 - 1625/26), landscape painter at the service of the archduke Albert and Isabelle TI fig. 12 (253)
Hendrick de Clerck: The judgment of Paris (brown ink and wash, 366 x 217 mm, Nuremberg, library of Erlangen University, Inv.B 1501)
Private Collection, Spain