nude woman L side with many sea creatures; hills in the background with many flying birds

Day Five, from "Creation of the World", 1589


Gift of funds from Nivin MacMillanexpand_more  2013.44.2.6

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Hendrik Goltzius, the leading artist of Holland’s Mannerist Age collaborated with a talented young engraver, Jan Muller, to produce this extraordinary and highly original interpretation of the opening story of the Bible. Many artists had already depicted the Creation, but Goltzius gave it a new look. He chose a circular format for the plates, thus echoing representations of the cosmos and of Earth itself. God the Father appears in only the first and last plates, leaving angelic minions to perform the hard work of the days in between. The elements needed to create the world—light, dark, land, water—are represented by allegorical figures whose exaggerated physiques, sensuousness, and suggestive attributes body forth the carnality of the Origin with both humor and sophistication.

If Goltzius’s approach calls to mind Roman mythology rather than Sunday school class, it is no coincidence. At the time that he was designing this series, he was also working on an extended cycle of illustrations to Ovid’s "Metamorphoses."

Day Five, from "Creation of the World"
Artist Life
Accession Number
German art market; [C.G. Boerner, New York, 2012-13]; sold to MIA
Curator Approved

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nude woman L side with many sea creatures; hills in the background with many flying birds