01 Work, Interpretations of Olympian deities, Nicolaus Knupfer’s Theseus Proposing to Phaedra, with footnotes #29

Nicolaus Knupfer, (Leipzig 1603-1660 Utrecht)
Theseus Proposing to Phaedra

Oil on panel
18 ½ x 25 1/8 in. (47 x 63.8 cm.)
Private collection

Phaedra is a tragic play by Roman playwright Seneca. The play tells the story of Theseus’ wife Phaedra and her lust for her stepson, Hippolytus. However, Hippolytus despises women and wishes to remain pure, preferring to hunt and live in the woods. After Phaedra declares her love, Hippolytus lashes out and strikes to kill her for her lustful crime. Phaedra and her nurse accuse him of raping her, and Hippolytus flees. Upon Theseus’ return from the Underworld, Phaedra continues her lie, and Theseus prays to Neptune for Hippolytus’ death. After Hippolytus dies, Phaedra reveals her deception and kills herself out of shame. Theseus mourns his lost son and condemns Phaedra for her betrayal. More on Theseus and Phaedra

Nikolaus Knüpfer (1609 – 1655) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. Knüpfer was trained in Leipzig, where according to Houbraken he was apprenticed to Emanuel Nysen. He then moved to Magdeburg where he found work making brushes for artists. He stayed there until 1630, and then moved to Utrecht to work with Abraham Bloemaert. He lived with him for two years and then established his own studio in Utrecht, where in 1637 he became a visiting member of the Guild of St. Luke. He worked on the decorations of the castle Kronborg in Denmark, and painted figures in the landscapes of Jan Both and Jan Baptist Weenix. Knüpfer was a successful teacher, whose students were great painters after him. More on Nikolaus Knüpfer

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