Victor Wolfvoet II
Allegorical Depiction of Hercules before Justice
Oil on copper. 87 x 69.5 cm.
Victor Wolfvoet II, to whom Bert Schepers recently attributed the present work, was a successor of Rubens and probably one of his employees in his studio in Antwerp. Wolfvoet was born in 1612 and died aged just 40, which explains the sparseness of his known oeuvre. Like many of the artists working in Rubens' studio, he frequently painted copies of the master's compositions. However, Schepers was able to establish the large-format work, painted on copper panel, to be an invention of Wolfvoet himself for which no model by Rubens' exists. Although the elegant figures and the vivid colour palette display a closeness to his master's oeuvre, they still exhibit a distinct artistic personality in their own right. A less accomplished version of this composition by another artist was known to have been housed in a private collection in Ljubljana in the year 1979 (cf. a photo in the RKD, The Hague).
The work's iconography has not yet been fully deciphered. Hercules is depicted kneeling with his club before the enthroned allegory of Justice. It is not clear whether the figure of Minerva on the left is intended as an allegory of Virtue, whilst the semi-clad woman with a snake coiled up her arm who gestures towards a cornucopia spilling gold coins into a fire on the right is intended as an allegory of Vice. It could be an unusual depiction of Hercules at the Crossroads.
Dr. Bert Schepers of the Rubenianum has confirmed this to be an authentic work of Victor Wolfvoet II upon examination of digital photographs.
For this artist cf.: Gregory Martin und Bert Schepers: Two Antwerp cabinets decorated by Victor Wolfvoet II, in: The Burlington Magazine 158, 2016, p. 793–802.