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Hendrik Goudt
Dutch, c. 1582–1648
After Adam Elsheimer. German, 1578–1610
The Mocking of Ceres, 1610
Engraving on paper


The classical story depicted here from book five of Ovid’ s Metamorphoses illustrates a scene from the myth of the Earth goddess Ceres whose daughter Persephone was abducted by Pluto to become his queen in the underworld. When Ceres learned that Persephone was missing, she searched everywhere for traces of her daughter. As she wandered the earth, she came to a small cottage and asked for a drink of water. An old woman appeared at the doorway, offering the goddess a sweet brew garnished with toasted barley. Ceres drank readily, and when a little boy appeared and saw a strange woman at the cottage door, he mocked her for drinking so greedily. Incensed at this insult, the goddess tossed her drink at the boy, turning him into a lizard.

This engraving, created when Goudt was living in Rome, was dedicated to the Cardinale Scipione Borghese, an avid collector of Northern European artists. It is evident that it became quite popular in its time since many copies were made and it is documented in the collections of major contemporary artists like Rubens and Gerard Dou. Like Van de Velde, Goudt used tenebrism (a strong contrast of light and dark created by centralized sources of light) to establish a mysterious atmosphere. This was the second of only seven prints engraved by Hendrik Goudt. All of Goudt’s prints were copies after paintings by the German artist Adam Elsheimer with whom he lived in Rome. Since the story of The Mocking of Ceres was never specifically defined as a night scene, the choice to turn it into one created a way for Elsheimer, who must have been influenced by Caravaggio, to implement tenebristic effects to make the scene more ominous and mysterious. The encroaching vines that envelop the torch-lit scene make it very intimate if not almost claustrophobic. Nature’s, and thus Ceres;  power seems further emphasized by the diagonal composition in the central portion of the print, defined by a line from the broken branch looming over Ceres to the boy’s tilted head.