The Three Graces
11 1/2 in. x 8 in. (29.21 cm x 20.32 cm)
Medium and Support:
Engraving on paper
Gift of the Weil Print Endowment in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Sr.
The Greek goddesses known as The Three Graces (or The Three Charities) were daughters of Zeus and attendants of Aphrodite, goddess of love. The three were traditionally shown as they are in this engraving, arranged in a circle with their arms on each other’s shoulders. Their actions (crowning one another with laurel wreathes) reflected their association with benevolence and reciprocity—giving, receiving and returning.
The artist, Jacob Matham, was the stepson of Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617) and a member of his workshop. The design for “The Three Graces” was modeled on a sepia drawing by Goltzius, who was the most accomplished and admired designer, engraver, and publisher of the late-sixteenth century in Northern Europe. The exaggerated musculature of the curvaceous Graces is characteristic of Goltzius’ mannerist style influenced by drawings of his contemporary Bartholomeus Spranger (Flemish, 1546-1611) and others who conveyed Italian Renaissance design concepts to Northern Europe.
Note: The drawing is now in the collection of the Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett, in Berlin. See E. K. Reznicek, Die Zeichnungen von Hendrick Goltzius (2 vols.) (Utrecht: Haentjens Dekker & Gumbert, 1961), 289-90.