Johann Liss: The Satyr and the Peasant    (Frontpage) (Thumbnail Index)  (What's New)


Diego Velázquez   
(1599-1660) Spanish court painter 

John Singer Sargent 
Head of Aesop, Copy after Velázquez

The Satyr and the Peasant
Johann Liss, German (c. 1597-1631)
c. 1623/1626
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Oil on canvas
133.3 x 167.4 cm (52 1/2 x 65 7/8 in.)
Widener Collection

Jpg: NGA

From:  National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The unusual subject of this painting comes from one of Aesop's fables. In his Man and the Satyr, he related how a demigod helped a peasant who was lost on a wintry day. When the mortal put his chilled fingers to his mouth to breathe warmth onto them, the immortal satyr was astonished. Later, in thanks for the satyr's guidance, the peasant invited him to eat. The soup being hot, the man blew on his spoon to cool it. Johann Liss portrayed the tale's climax when the satyr jumps up in disgust, proclaiming, "From this moment I renounce your friendship, for I will have nothing to do with one who blows hot and cold with the same breath" -- the moral being that all humans are hypocrites because they inconsistently blow hot and cold.

Johann Liss was among the initiators of the dynamic baroque style of the 1600s. The sonorous color scheme shows his knowledge of past Venetian masters such as Titian and Veronese, while the dramatic conflict of light and shadow reveals an acquaintance with the spotlighting which Caravaggio concurrently employed in Rome. But the main influences here are the energized movement and robust figure types derived from the contemporary Antwerp geniuses, Jacob Jordaens and Peter Paul Rubens.


The painting was gifted to the gallery by Peter A.B. Widener's son.

John Singer Sargent

Peter A. B. Widener
(behind the figure is The Satyr and the Peasant
owned by Peter Widener)




By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2005 all rights reserved
Created 3/14/2005