Abraham I de Haen (fl. 2nd half of the 17th century)
"Diana the Huntress"
Oil on canvas, signed
154 x 139 cm.
The Flemish seventeenth century painter Abraham I de Haen is known principally for his very fine still-lifes as well as his paintings of animals, especially poultry and game. Here however, in this comparatively rare and highly decorative work, he has demonstrated his ability to combine dazzling still-life groups and animals with figures in an idealised landscape. The subject is Diana, mythological goddess of hunting, carrying her quiver and bow and wearing her distinctive moon crescent. As in other pictorial images she is accompanied by two hounds and more unusually by two cherubs.
According to mythology the goddess Diana was the daughter of Jupiter and Leto and twin sister of Apollo. In antiquity she was identified in many guises but above all was known by the Greeks as the virgin huntress. In her pre-Greek origins she was a protector of animals and was later identified as the moon goddess. Since antiquity artists have often portrayed her, as here, as the huntress with quiver and bow as well as hounds. More unusual were images of Diana with cupid or as here with a pair of cherubs. Their presence however refers to the story of Diana and her love (albeit chaste) for Endymion, the beautiful youth who was put into an eternal sleep by Jupiter. According to myth Luna, with whom Diana was identified, visited him nightly as he lay sleeping in his bower. Thus De Haen has alluded to the story but instead of the adding the figure of Endymion he has focused attention twoard the wonderful still-life groups of flowers and fruits beyond, as well as an admirable depiction of dead game. In particular his treatment of the mallard held by Diana compares closely with other of his oils of dead game.
A number of other contemporary Flemish masters painted the subject of Diana and Endymion such as Gérard Hoet I (1648-1733), whose painting at Doetinchen Castle included an accompanying figure of Cupid, as did Philipp Tideman's (1657-1705) depiction of the same subject (sale Hopetoun House, Scotland 1962). Barend Graat (1628-1709) from Amsterdam, who painted allegorical, religious and animal subjects also painted the subject showing Cupid above the sleeping Endymion (sale London 1907). Added to this Govaert Flinck (1615-60) whose painting of the same subject in the Liechtenstein Collection at Vienna showed Diana with hounds and swans.
Little is known of De Haen's life, except that he was working during the second half of the seventeenth century. He may have been related to the landscape painter and engraver Abraham II de Haen, also known as the Younger (1701-48). Despite the lack of biographical details, records exist of a number of Abraham de Haen's works in various public and private collections. Among them are two paintings of poultry in the Schloss Galeria at Gotha. The Christiania Museum at Olso also owns a painting by him of hens and pigeons while the Liechtenstein Collection at Vienna (which also houses Flinck's painting of Diana and Endymion) houses a farmyard scene by him dated 1658. The inventory of 1659 of the archduke Leopold Wilhelm included two paintings of birds by the artist. Another record dating from before 1660 noted that the elector of the Art Chamber at Dresden had one of his paintings of hens. A slightly later inventory from the Heidelberger Schloss of 1685 recorded a painting by the artist of a lion hunt. In addition, the Schwerin Art Gallery has a painting of a dog and hens by Abraham I de Haen and another of game and poultry attributed to, or possibly but less likely by Antony de Haen (b. 1640). The latter attribution appears far less likely however, not only because Antony de Haen was primarily a topographical artist but also since the painting in the Schwerin compares closely with another by Abraham I de Haen of ducks, hens and turkey in the Art Gallery at Nostitz in Prague.