Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens
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Myth and Majesty: The Humanistic Tradition
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Peter Paul Rubens
Three Nymphs with a Cornucopia (Ceres and Two Nymphs with a Cornucopia), 1625-28
Oil on panel, 30.9 x 24.4 cm
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, inv. DPG43

Catalog Entry by Peter C. Sutton

Three blond nymphs fill a large cornucopia. The nymph seated on the left is nude to the waist, wears blue drapery, and turns to raise her right hand to the top of the horn. A second seated nymph is also nude with red drapery and extends her left hand down to gather fruit from a basket on the ground. The third nymph is dressed in a grayish blue gown and stands at the back right supporting the horn of plenty. The abundant fruit is accented with color, and a large melon and two apples appear in the immediate foreground. The origins of the cornucopia were explained by Ovid (Metamorphoses, 9.87-88). Achelous recounted at a banquet that he had fought Hercules three times, finally transforming himself into a bull, one of whose horns Hercules broke off; it was filled by naiads with fruits and flowers, thus creating the horn of plenty. Rubens's painting Achelous's Meal of about 1614-15 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; M. Jaffé 1989, no. 286) depicts two nymphs carrying the cornucopia...

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