An Allegory Representing the Fates and Mercury

Oil on canvas
13 9/16 x 16 1/16 inches, 34.4 x 40.8 cm
Essay: 

Following the tradition of Rubens, Jacob de Wit often made oil sketches for his ceiling paintings as an intermediary stage between his preliminary drawing and the final work. These designs were intended as the artist's 'showcase' and would be submitted to his patron for approval or further comment.

The sketch features two of the Three Fates (Schikgodinnen) typically represented by female figures either spinning and measuring or cutting off the thread of life. The upper figure, clad in yellow drapery, is both holding the shears to snip the thread and a bale of wool. She is accompanied by one of the other Fates, who is also carrying wool.

The inclusion of Mercury and Triton (a river god) could possibly allude to an allegorical representation of the textile trade, an idea that is supported by the prominent position of the sheep. A tentative interpretation of this design, therefore, is that it might have been intended for a cloth merchant's dwelling.

Provenance: 

With D. Katz, Dieren, before 1940;Goudstikker-Miedl, who bought it from Katz on 7 August 1940, (according to the Goudstikker-Miedl files at the R.K.D.);With Goudstikker- Miedl 1940, where bought by A private collector, Danzig, on 28 March 1944, for 1.250 guilders;Private Collection, Germany