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Tobias Verhaecht (Flanders 1561-1631).
Herse and her maids spotted by Mercury on their way to the temple of Minerva, in a landscape (Ovid, Metamorphoses, II).

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Classic & Asian 8-10 December 2021

Lot 14 Tobias Verhaecht (Flanders 1561 -631). Herse and her maids spotted by Mercury on their way to the temple of Minerva, in a landscape (Ovid, Metamorphoses, II). Oil on panel, 43.5 x 81 cm.

The figures are the work by another hand, probably Sebastiaen Vranckx.

Another interpretation of the subject by the artist was in the collection of August Janssen, Brussels (photograph in RKD).


200.000 – 250.000 SEK
€ 20.000 – 25.000


The collection of art dealer Tore Gerschman (1913-1992), Stockholm.

In context

The panoramic landscape of Tobias Verhaecht

This beautifully preserved hitherto unknown panoramic landscape is a fine example of the oeuvre of the artist, demonstrating all the characteristics of his art. The composition takes our gaze from a high viewpoint into a distant valley along the winding road on the right, then over the bridge to end in the green and blue pastures of the valley beyond. The maids on the road are Herse and her sister Aglauros, returning from the temple of Minerva. Up in the sky is Mercury who on his flight back to Athens sees Herse and falls in love with her. This story is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, II, 708 – 832 and ends by Mercury changing Aglauros into a stone, as she was so jealous that she prevented him the access to Herse. 

Tobias Verhaecht’s oeuvre is as yet small and not much is known about his life, other than that he was born into a well-established Antwerp family of painters and writers. After his presumed training with his father Cornelis, he travelled to Italy, where he came into the service of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Verhaecht also visited Rome. In 1590 he was back in Antwerp and became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke. In 1591 he married Suzanna van Mockenborch, a distant relative of Peter Paul Rubens, who became his pupil. Indeed Verhaecht was Rubens first master.

From his paintings Verhaecht appears as a landscapist in the tradition of Pieter Brueghel I. In the present painting the Brueghel idiom is evident in the composition with the high viewpoint, but also in the colour scheme, which is brownish colors in the foreground and greens and blues for the distance. Probably Verhaecht also executed these vedute on a larger scale for interiors and perhaps here was influenced by what he had seen in Italy, for instance by the Zuccaro brothers.

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