Hygieia by Guy Head. Faithful copy after Pieter Paul Rubens of the Greek goddess of health and hygiene. A subject that makes its thematic relevance more and more true in the current pandemic.
Guy Head (1753-1800) was a British painter who gained name recognition for painting portraits and copies of old masters. Head attended the Royal Acadamy Schools in 1778, before travelling abroad around 1781. By the recommendation of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Head left for Europe. Between 1781 and 1786, Head travelled through Flanders, Germany and the Netherlands. Here, he copied old masters. He did this in Amsterdam during his visit to the influential banker and art collector Henry Hope.
From 1787, Head worked and lived in Italy. At the time of the French invasion, he sought refuge aboard admiral Heratio Nelson's ship. In 1799, he travelled with Charles Lock around Sicily. Head returned England around 1799. Here, he was also preparing a major exhibition of his own works when he died unexpectedly on 16 December 1800 in London.
Hygieia was faithful to the image tradition in this offered painting as depicting a young posing woman. She is feeding a snake that is curled around her arm from a bowl. This bowl with a squirming snake around it is still used as a symbol of the pharmacy.
Guy Head copied this work after work by Pieter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Rubens painting is now located in the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum and is titled 'Hygeia. Goddes of Health’. According to the origin information of the DIA, this painting was auctioned in Amsterdam in 1785. It is believed that Guy Head also studied in Amsterdam around that time. The fact that he has faced the painting of Rubens himself can also be seen in the way Head cleverly imitates the wide, smooth brush strokes of Rubens. This is especially evident in the dust reproduction of the drapery. However, Guy Head's hand is also easily recognisable. The tighter contours of the face are typical of Head's neoclassical academic impact.
The painting offered here was auctioned in London in 1801 and 1802. For more information about this, see the last two images. I have seen a photocopy of the original auction catalogue in the RKD and it matches the data of the Getty Provenance Index.
The painting has nice colours. The varnish is clear and even. It was retouched below the left eye. Under the chin on the upper part of the neck is also a retouching. Presumably, this is a restoration of a small tear in the canvas. On the back of the canvas is the text 'The Goddes of Health by Rubens'.
Anonymous Sale, London 1801-4-27. Lot 142. (lugt 6246a).
Christies London, 1802-3-13. Lot 23. (lugt 6367).
Ann Gunn, Guy Head’s Venus And Juno. 1991. The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 133, no 1061, pp. 510-513.
Frank Salmon, Guy Head’s Oedipus in the Acadamy at Parama. 1991. The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 133, no 1061, pp. 514-517.
- c. 1785
- Guy Head (1753-1800) Attrib.Naar Pieter Paul Rubens
- Titre de l'œuvre d'art
- Hygieia godin van de gezondheid met haar slang
- Huile sur toile
- Non signé(e)
- Dans l'ensemble en bon état avec des traces d'ancienneté
- Vente avec cadre
- Taille de l’image
- 108×72 cm
- Dimensions totales
- 122.5×87.5×6 cm