'Apollo and Coronis', painted in 1607-08 by Adam Elsheimer

Apollo and Coronis painting

Artist: Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)
Medium: Oil on copper
Dimensions: 26.8 x 32.2 cm
Accession number: WAG 10329

Presented by H M Government from the estate of the 4th Baron Methuen in 1982

Elsheimer was German, but his most important works were painted in Italy where he spent the last 12 years of his life. These small pictures, with their jewel-like colours and poetic lighting, were admired by many artists, such as Elsheimer's friend, Rubens, and his influence was widespread.

With a shot from his bow the Greek god Apollo killed his unfaithful lover Coronis, who was pregnant with his child. Elsheimer shows the ensuing moment when the remorseful Apollo picked healing herbs in a vain attempt to revive his victim. The sensually-posed body of Coronis seems still to have a glow of life about it, but already in the background her funeral pyre is being prepared, and the leafless branches above evoke her death.