Changing Forms: Metamorphosis in Myth, Art, and Nature, 1650–1700

A painting of a person in a medieval dress and scarf sitting at a table, with a mountain and a tree in the background.
Portrait of Dina Margareta de Bye, 1705
Willem van Mieris (Dutch, 1662–1747)
Oil on panel, 12 3/4 × 10 1/2 in. (32.4 × 26.7 cm)
The Leiden Collection, New York

September 28–December 19, 2021

This Focus Gallery exhibition explores the rich concept of metamorphosis—with links to art, myth, science, and the exchange of knowledge—in the late seventeenth-century Netherlands. The paintings, drawings, prints, and illustrated books on view include artists’ renderings of Ovid’s Metamorphoses from around 1600 by Virgil Solis, Abraham Bloemaert, and Hendrick Goudt. This tradition contributed to a dynamic moment later in the 1600s, when painters such as Godefridus Schalcken, Willem van Mieris, and Samuel van Hoogstraten created their own mythological imagery. Meanwhile, the book market for Ovid kept pace and contemporaries explored biological metamorphosis in lavishly illustrated insect studies like those by Johannes Goedaert, Jan Swammerdam, and Maria Sibylla Merian. Works in the exhibition come from Vassar collections and include significant loans from Cornell University, Bard College, Lehigh University, and The Leiden Collection—the preeminent private collection of Dutch art in the United States.

Changing Forms: Metamorphosis in Myth, Art, and Nature, 1650–1700 was made possible by generous support provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. This project has received funding through a grant from the Netherland-America Foundation.

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