Pleasure and Piety
The Art of Joachim Wtewael
James Clifton, Liesbeth M. Helmus & Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.


A brilliant colorist and masterful storyteller, Dutch mannerist Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638) wielded a remarkably skilled brush and the technical ability to show it off in intricate compositions. He took inspiration from a wide range of biblical and mythological sources to create imaginative, often quite erotic scenes. While such pictures were prized in Wtewael's time, more recently they were hidden away—behind other paintings, in leather folders on bookshelves, and in the reserves of great museums. This richly illustrated volume brings together more than fifty of Wtewael’s finest paintings and drawings, from a small jewel-like picture on copper depicting Mars and Venus to large-scale mannerist showpieces such as TheMartyrdom of Saint Sebastian and Perseus and Andromeda.

A pillar of the Utrecht community, Wtewael was engaged in business, religion, and politics as well as art. He adopted the exotic mannerist style, full of artifice and inventive manipulation, and continued to be fascinated by the challenge of creating sophisticated variations well into his maturity, when other Dutch artists had turned to naturalism. This book explores Wtewael’s amazingly refined and detailed paintings and drawings, shedding light on his reputation, his life, and the conflicted times—marked by iconoclasm and strife—in which he thrived.

Exhibition schedule:

  • Centraal Museum Utrecht, February 21–May 25, 2015
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, June 28–October 4, 2015
  • Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, November 1, 2015–January 31, 2016

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. is curator of northern baroque paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Liesbeth M. Helmus is curator of old master paintings, drawings, and sculpture at the Centraal Museum Utrecht. James Clifton is director of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation and curator of Renaissance and baroque painting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Anne W. Lowenthal is an independent scholar and authority on Joachim Wtewael. Stijn Alsteens is curator of drawings and prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.