Allegory of the Air (The Goddess Iris with a Gathering of Birds)
Oil on canvas
22 x 35 inches (56 x 89 cm)
Private collection, Connecticut
Allegories of the Four Elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water were a favorite subject in 16th- and 17th-century Flanders, where well-educated patrons loved to exhibit their erudition. Each element was commonly personified by a mythological figure, such as Neptune for Water, Vulcan for Fire, or, as here, Iris, goddess of the rainbow, for Air. Here the air is further represented not only by Iris's rainbow, but storm clouds and a variety of birds. This painting was probably one of a series of the Elements, presumably intended for a library or sitting room.
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