16th Century
Oil on canvas
Unframed: 29 × 21 in. (73.66 × 53.34 cm)
Framed: 34 7/8 × 26 3/4 × 2 1/2 in. (88.58 × 67.95 × 6.35 cm)

Lambert Sustris was a highly talented first-generation Mannerist artist. Born in Amsterdam, he was active in Rome with Dutch émigré classicist Maarten van Heemskerk before joining the studio of Titian in the 1530s, where he was an important collaborator— not just an anonymous assistant. He also worked independently for major patrons such as Marco di Mantova Benavides of Padua and the Fugger family of Bavaria (where he traveled with Titian). Sustris was active throughout Europe and practiced in a wide variety of styles including derivations of Tintoretto’s—as here.

This scene depicts a musical contest between the god Apollo and the mortal King Midas of Greece, whose audacity was rewarded with a pair of donkey’s ears. Sustris’s unique painting features Athena as the judge of the event, a detail for which no exact pictorial or literary precedent has yet been identified, and indeed, none may exist. Sustris was sufficiently competent and literate to invent a subject himself, as freely as his sparkling brushstrokes glide over the rough canvas underneath.

Gift of Everett Fahy
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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