Joachim Antonisz Wtewael
The Marriage of Peleus and Thetis
Joachim Antonisz Wtewael, Dutch, The Marriage of Peleus and Thetis, 1610, Oil on panel; 109.5 x 166.4 cm (43 1/8 x 65 1/2 inches), Mary B. Jackson Fund 62.058
This depiction of the marriage of the Greek gods Peleus and Thetis presents their wedding feast as an exuberant outdoor festival. The happy couple is served by Mercury on the far side of the table. To the far left, an eagle representing Jupiter, who loved Thetis, oversees the festivities. To the right, Apollo strums his lyre to sing the deeds of the bride and bridegroom’s unborn son Achilles. Above the table, Eris, goddess of discord, throws a golden apple into the crowd, an act that would trigger the events leading up to the Trojan War. Like other Dutch Mannerists, Joachim Antonisz Wtewael preferred elegant poses and gleaming surfaces over naturalism. He placed figures in poses that echo, reverse, or slightly modify one another, creating rhythm over the surface of the painting. Although the marriage story was often cited to warn against excess and immorality, the profusion of nude forms invites the viewer to join in visual pleasures rather than abstain from them.