Amarylles Crowning Mirtillo

Jacob van Loo
Amarylles crowning Mirtillo
ca. 1648, Oil on canvas,161 x 192 cm.
Collection of Rijksmuseum Muiderslot, Muiden,  M1998-014

A forbidden kiss?

This must be one of the most frequently viewed paintings in Muiderslot castle, for what is going on? And was this allowed in centuries gone by? Two women kissing. Sadly, the opposite is true. Homosexuality was forbidden by law in 17th-century Netherlands. It was tolerated to a certain extent, however, but this painting shows a man dressed as a woman. The theater loved cross-dressing, enhancing the excitement or hilarity of a play. This painting shows a scene from the theater, the climax of the Italian play Il pastor fide, the faithful shepherd, in which the shepherd Mirtillo falls in love with the wood nymph Amaryllis. She was a demi-goddess and as such unattainable for the simple Mirtillo. The shepherd dressed up as a wood nymph to be able to approach her. Participating in a kissing contest in this guise, he makes Amarillys fall in love with him at the first kiss. A risqué painting to display on the wall, since how were your guests to know what was going on? That was the role of this type of painting in country estates, palaces and castles, they were meant to stimulate talk and discussion.

How are we to know which one is the man? It’s easy. Look underneath his skirt… at the shoes!!


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Amarylles crowns Mirtillo