CANDAULES, HIS WIFE AND GYGES
Oil on canvas. 35 x 30 cm.
In his catalogue raisonné of Schalcken, Thierry Beherman suggests the theme of a story from Herodot (1, 8-12) as the subject matter for this picture. According to the story, King Kandaules von Lydien urges his minion to spy on the naked queen in her bed-chamber. When she discovers the intruder, she gives him the choice of either being killed by her maid, or of him killing the king and marrying her. Gyges chose life and kingly power.
In the Netherlands, this theme was popularised by a story from Jacob Cats (1577-1660), and chosen by quite a number of artists as a painting study, including Frans van Mieris the Elder, Eglon van der Neer or Adriaen van der Werff. This also provided Godfried Schalcken with the welcome opportunity of another suitable picture subject for his characteristic light effect compositions. The artist primarily chose themes for pictures which would demonstrate most effectively his virtuosity in painting light effects. As in numerous of his, mostly small, works, a candle is often used as the only light source in the shadowy room, creating a mysterious effect. In the present painting a second candle has been added, behind the red bed curtain in the upper left corner. As a result, alongside Schalcken's usual use of employing light, the painting is added the subtle effect of a light source through material. If Behermann's suggested picture theme is correct, it is assumed here that the person holding the second, hidden candle, is in fact King Kandaules.
Schalcken belonged to the circle of the Leidener fine artists of Gerard Dou, in whose workshop he was trained. He later worked in Dordrecht and Den Haag; for a longer period from 1692 to 1699 he travelled to London where he produced portraits of King Wilhelm III and the English aristocracy, and for a short time, presumably in 1701, journeyed to the court of the Palatine Elector Johann Wilhelm in Düsseldorf. The oeuvre of this artist encompasses around 210 positively attributed paintings including religious and mythological histories, genre pictures and portraits.
Walther Bernt, Munich, 25.4.1975.
J. L. Menke Collection, Antwerp. - Sale, Le Roy Gallery, Brussels, 1.6.1904, lot 72 (several other paintings from the J. L. Menke Collection were sold at the 159. Lempertz auction, Cologne, 3.4.1914) - Coll. Kommerzienrat Hermann Renner, Hamburg. - Auction Brandt, Amsterdam, 20.11.1973, lot 29. - 540. Lempertz auction, Cologne, 14.11.1974, lot 169. - Private collection, Germany.
Cornelis Hofstede de Groot: Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, vol. 5, Esslingen and Paris 1912, p. 400, no. 262. - Thierry Beherman: Godfried Schalcken, Paris 1988, p. 119f, no. 33 with ill.