An Interesting 16thC Flemish School Oil on Oak Panel of The Three Graces c.1560

Origin: Flemish
Period: Mid Sixteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1560
Height: 22.25 inches
Width: 21.25 inches

The early Flemish school oil on oak panel, possibly from the circle of Frans Floris (Antwerp c. 1520-1570), depicting the three graces in three quarter length, gathered around a text, each grace with adorned hairpieces and fine jewellery, the central grace looking out to the viewer, the whole surviving from the middle of the sixteenth century.

The condition of the painting would be described as fair and stable with the oak in no way majorly compromised. The 450-year period of its conception has seen the picture become dirty, with some other issues, as per the photographs, and it has not been restored at any point. There are some horizontal cracks to the panels and some losses to the composition but nothing of overt concern. There are areas to the surface of initial test cleaning, one which has gone a little too far, though we can safely say that the work will take to cleaning though we would rather leave this to the discretion of the buyer. Cleaning the picture would probably allow for a truer assessment of the quality involved. The lower panel is a later addition it seems, though probably eighteenth century, with the right hand figure’s elbow being essentially finished with the addition of this later segment. To the reverse of the picture is a spurious attribution of “attributed to Nicholas Poussin”.

A popular subject of European art, there were three Graces in Greek Mythology: Aglaia, the Grace that symbolized Beauty, Euphrosyne, the Grace of Delight and Thalia, the Grace of Blossom. According to Greek poet Pindar, these enchanting goddesses were created to fill the world with pleasant moments and goodwill. In Roman mythology they were known as the Gratiae.

We have had various fine art experts look over this work with varying opinion. Some felt that the picture appears certainly in part attributable to the studio of Frans Floris (Antwerp c. 1520-1570) with certain passages suggesting that Floris himself may participated in its execution. It was also suggested that the picture could be compared on stylistic and compositional grounds to a series of head studies which Frans Floris painted throughout his career, each an exercise in capturing a particular character or unusual pose. Such heads often re-appear in Floris's major multi figural works such as the present panel. The present picture is also possibly a central portion of a horizontal composition.

Floris lived in Rome from 1541 until 1547, was considered to be one of the best exponents of the Roman style among northern painters. The robust and sculptural figures in the present work reflect Floris' monumental style based on his familiarity with the work of celebrated Italian masters. At this stage a plausible attribution to ‘Circle of’ could be proposed.

The attribution to Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665) to the reverse is out of the question and there seems to be no plausible reason for this; it may possibly have been through his possession. We also sent the picture to Professor Van de Velde -catalogue raisonné, Floris, Van de Velde for his expert opinion who commented “such compositions have in the past often been attributed to Floris, to my mind not convincingly. I would advise you to leave the attribution to something like ‘Flemish c. 1560’. Poussin is obviously way out of the question”.

As always with artworks of considerable age and importance there is the inevitable difference of opinion. The date and origin is certainly not in question, nor the quality of the execution. If the picture was sympathetically cleaned it may become easier to attribute.

Utterly beguiling.