The Union of Earth and Water - Rubens. Oil on Canvas, 222.5x180 cm
The great Flemish Rubens gave the world not only one of his magnificent creations in the “baroque” style he founded under his name “Union of Earth and Water”, but also concealed in his work a completely complicated, allegorical riddle ...
Before us is the puffy, red-haired beauty Hera, the goddess of marriage and fertility, personifying the Earth, with a cornucopia in her hand and the god of the seas Poseidon, personifying Water. Blooming Hera, in the image of a young girl, beautiful in her nakedness and not at all embarrassed, with curls of hair curled in the shape of a crown and woven into them with pearl strands, leaning on a jug pouring out water.
The ancient god Poseidon, portrayed by the artist as an imposing, gray-bearded old man, sits on a stone in an uncomfortable position, with his right hand resting on a trident - a symbol of maritime power, holds the young beauty's hand with his left and looks forward and even with some tension, waiting for an answer from the goddess. The bored look of the young girl eloquently speaks of her indifference to the interlocutor, here she, being the queen of the situation, makes it take so long to wait for her decision. According to ancient mythology, the goddess Hera and the god Poseidon did not make any alliances, although they were brother and sister, but still depicted in the picture together and under the laurel crown in the hands of the winged Nika - the goddess of triumph and victory, under their feet, in the water, peacefully children frolic, Poseidon’s satellite, Triton blows into the sink.
On the canvas of Rubens we are talking about something completely different. Indeed, it is certain that the young beauty Hera is the hometown of the master, Antwerp, and the mythical Poseidon, none other than the one who ruled all the seas in the 17th century, is the monarchical kingdom of Spain, ruled by the Habsburg family. What Antwerp has been waiting for so long - access to the sea, and hence the future prosperity of the city, has happened!
It remains a mystery only to the lurking tiger in the lower left corner of the picture, looking in a predatory grin at the cornucopia and clutching at it with its clawed paws, as if reminding the contemporaries of the artist about the epidemics and diseases experienced by the city. But it is possible that the great Rubens left us some incomprehensible secret, known to him alone.