Coincidences ? (# 2)

March 27th, 2013

Queen Artemisia
Domenico Fiasella, il Sarzana
oil on canvas
39 7/8 x 30 in. (101.2 x 76.1 cm.)
Private collection

A number of years ago, the conservator and Vermeer expert Jørgen Wadum—click here to read an E.V. interview with Mr. Wadum—proposed Dominic Fiasella’s Queen Atermisia as a possible model for Vermeer’s iconic Milkmaid.

True, the statuary pose of the two figures are striking, but where could Vermeer have seen the picture? Is it just a coincidence?

I have not even the vaguest idea.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. published a small black and white reproduction of the somewhat inelegant work in the Johannes Vermeer catalogue (p. 111) of the legendary Washington/The Hague exhibition. Other than the pose, Wheelock found the “enormous moral authority” of both pictures striking. To be perfectly truthful, the queen looks more angry than morally authoritative but the connection remains fascinating..

I had all but forgot the picture until recently I stumbled on the painting at the Christie’s website and though the color reproduction might be of interest. To my knowledge no one else took up the Artemis lead. BTW, it sold for $14,626.

Domenico Fiasella (called “il Sarzana” after his birthplace, 1589-1669) was mainly active in Genova. For those interested in the picture here’s Christie’s catalogue notes:

Artemisia was the wife of Mausolus, the satrap of Caria in Asia Minor. She succeeded her husband on his death in 353 B.C., and was responsible for the erection of a great monument to his memory (although construction probably began in his lifetime). Known to posterity as the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, it was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was said that she mixed the ashes of Mausolus in liquid that she then drank, thereby, as observed by Valerius Maximus, making of herself a living, breathing tomb. In consequence, Artemisia was understood in the Renaissance as symbolizing a wife’s devotion to her husband.

One Response to “Coincidences ? (# 2)”

  1. Martin Murphy

    I have this picture and am equally intrigued by the speculative influence on Vermeer. Personally, I don’t see how Vermeer could have encountered it, unless it found its way to Delft before 1665 (it’s dated to ca 1645). Unfortunately, the picture has no known provenance, so, who knows? I like it because of the way that it suggests that Vermeer transferred the regal pose and demeanor of a queen to a lowly servant. By the way, I don’t find Artemisia’s expression to appear angry; I think it is serene and devoted to her immediate task, which is the veneration of her late husband.

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