Cimone and Efigenia
Cornelis van Poelenburgh (1593-1667)

Cimone and Efigenia, Ca. 1650.

Oil on wooden panel., H. 0.26 m; W. 0.33 m

Monogram on the rock in the middle: C P.

Provenance: Collection Lucien Solanet, Paris.

Cornelis van Poelenburgh was a founder of the Dutch Italian landscape painting. He studied under the Utrecht Mannerist Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651), but his years in Rome, from 1617 to 1625, were more decisive for his development. An early member of the schildersbent, the club for Rome’s Netherlandish painters, he was nicknamed “Satyr.” Poelenburgh copied German artist Adam Elsheimer’s Italian landscapes. In addition to his years in Rome, Poelenburgh spent time in Florence working for the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

After returning from Italy, he became one of Utrecht’s leading artists. At the king’s invitation, Poelenburgh worked in England from 1638 to 1641. He almost certainly remained in Utrecht from that point onward. The present painting was probably painted after his return to Holland where Poelenburgh maintained a very successful workshop.

Poelenburgh painted some historical paintings, but his fame rests on the enamel-smooth landscapes, often depicting romantic ruins and statuary fragments, that he created after 1620. He was among the first artists to render Italian sunlight and atmosphere convincingly. His highly detailed figures were so admired that he was hired to paint them in other artists’ works. The careers of Poelenburgh’s many followers stretched into the 1700s.

The present painting shows Cimone and Efigenia, an improved story from Boccaccio’s Decameron (V, 1). Galeso was a handsome youth but he was so coarse and uneducated that the people of Cyprus called him Cimone, which means Brute. Cimone’s stupidity embarrassed his father until the old man sent the boy to the country to live. There, Cimone was contented until one day he came upon a sleeping girl, Efigenia (or Iphigenia), whose beauty completely changed him. The effects of love were beneficial and turned him into an educated and graceful man, and in the end he managed to marry her.