Cummer Acquires Painting by 17th Century Dutch Master

Article excerpt

The Generosity of Scipio, a painting by the Dutch master Jan Steen (1626-1679), is the latest major acquisition by The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.

Acquired from a New York gallery for $750,000, The Generosity of Scipio is the Cummer's first major purchase since it bought Thomas Moran's Ponce de Leon in Florida for $2 million in the fall of 1996.

"The 17th century was Holland's golden age of great painters," said Kahren Arbitman, the Cummer's director. "While Rembrandt leads the list, artists like Jan Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen created an extraordinary period of art that has few equals. Adding a major painting by one of these artists to the Cummer collection marks a significant moment in the collection history of this institution. Just looking at the painting hanging in the gallery makes me smile."

According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art & Artists, "In Holland, he ranks next to Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals in popularity and 'a Jan Steen household ' has become an epithet for an untidy house."

The subject of the painting is the Roman general Scipio, also known as Scipio the Elder, who defeated the great Carthaginian general Hannibal in the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.) and was granted the honorary title Scipio Africanus.

In the picture, he is shown following the conquest of New Carthage, refusing the offer of a young woman as booty and returning her to her fiance.

This gesture of magnanimity and demonstration of Republican Roman virtue had important meaning to the Dutch when Steen chose it as a subject about 1670, said Maarten van de Guchte, associate director and chief curator of the Cummer. The Dutch were just emerging from a long war of independence against Spain and struggling to maintain an economic empire in the face of hostility from rival European powers. …