Italian paintings

The visit of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, to Theseus, king of Athens

Vittore Carpaccio
Venice, 1465 - Venice, 1526

Around 1495, oil on wood, 102 x 145 cm
Italian Museum – Venetian Gallery


This painting was sold to the Andrés as the work of the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, but the subject of the canvas was only discovered later. It portrays the Mission that Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, sent to Theseus, king of Athens. This mission was to conclude a treaty of alliance. In a rocky and wooded landscape, seven young women with plumes on their heads advance on horseback to the platform where Theseus is sitting. Theseus himself is depicted as an old, bearded man, and is surrounded by three assistants. On the left, a scribe viewed from the side records the discourse given by the young warrior holding the banner. The scene is taken from the writer Boccace who had picked up this mythological subject again in his legend of Theseus.
The straight elements on the left contrast with the wound rhythm of the line on the right of the painting. Carpaccio, proving the inventive imagination that characterised him, transforms a mythological event into a courtly scene where one can recognise details borrowed from the Venice of the 15th century, such as the representation of the four young people.
“It is Boccace, translated by a Venetian” wrote Georges Lafenestre, who takes the credit for having identified the scene.

In this Venetian section of the Italian museum, the panel painted by Vittore Carpaccio stands out thanks to its profane iconography, while the vast majority of the collection comprises religious works. Roman histories and mythology actually appeared at the end of the 15th century. At this point, the great rarity of works by Carpaccio must also be underlined; the presence of his work demonstrates the exceptional nature of the whole collection.

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