The Four Elements
Artus Wolffort
Antwerp 1581 – 1641
W x H
200 x 158cm
The Four Elements are represented here by four nearly life-size figures, shown together and sitting around a brook. From left to right we successively see Fire, Air, Water and Earth. Fire is repre- sented here by Vulcan with a burning torch or a big candle and a forge-hammer. Air is visualized by a young naked man, probably representing the sun god Apollo. He is shown here, sitting on clouds and having in his hands a bird of paradise and a stick from which dead birds hang. Water is represented by Neptune, shown here with his trident and pouring out water and fishes into the brook. Earth finally appears as Ceres, the goddess of fertility, shown here with a cornucopia and a white rabbit, a very fertile animal. There is a sec- ond and equivalent version of this composition in the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart (no. 2223). I have been able to attribute that work to the painter Artus Wolffort on stylistic grounds (see in this respect: Hans Vlieghe, ‘Zwischen Van Veen und Rubens: Artus Wolffort, ein vergessener Antwerpener Maler’, Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch. Westdeutsches Jahrbuch for Kunstgeschichte, XXXIX, 1977, pp. 109, 111). In both versions the rendering of the figures is strikingly similar to that in other paintings by the same master, some of them also signed or monogrammed.