OIL PAINTING: The Union of Earth and Water, c.1618
While Rubens was in Rome he must have been impressed not only by its fountains but also by its marble copy of Praxiteles' Resting Satyr, for he later merged the two in a painting of 1618, The Union of Earth and Water. Impressed by the satyr's languid pose and soft, ripe, feminine form, Rubens turned him into a zoftig Rubenesque woman, flipped her over to lean in the opposite direction, and replaced the satyr's flute with the hand of trident-wielding Neptune - shown here in the guise of a Roman river god, with his watery essence flowing out of an overturned jar, as a Triton blows his horn and putti gambol in the water. Perhaps she is meant to be Ceres or Flora? The lion eyeing her fruits and flowers could be a clue.