Jan Boeckhorst

Creation of Heaven and Earth

Creation of Heaven and Earth by Jan Boeckhorst

Artwork Detail

This scene illustrates the first Book of Genisis (1:1), ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ and is the first of a series of six paintings, painted by Flemish artist Jan Philipsz van Boeckhorst, an artist who worked closely with Peter Paul Rubens and Jacob Jordaens . Boeckhorst was inspired by a celebrated set of images on the same subject by the Dutch Mannerist artist, Hendrick Golztius (1558-1617), engraved by Jan Műller in 1589.

Descending from a darkened sky, God reaches over a large sphere being towed through the clouds with a rope by a semi-clad youth. In the background a second muscular nude youth is seen from behind. Bernard Descheemaeker has suggested that the two men may represent Heaven and Earth, and that the globe may symbolise formless chaos. Both men carry stars on chains and at their feet lie two large brass wheels, sometimes identified as spools or bollards, all details replicated from the Műller/Goltzius engraving. The text for the engraving is by Franco Estius, and roughly follows the Biblical description of the creation: God creating the world; ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [Genesis 1:1]

This painting shows many hallmarks of Boeckhorst’s Mannerist style: oval faces, long, tapering fingers and elongated torsos. The brilliant palette and free, confident brushstroke reflect his study in the 1630s of Venetian painting.

Creation of Heaven and Earth
Jan Boeckhorst
Production date
circa 1660-1668
oil on canvas
611 x 768 x 24 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Cécile Kruyfhooft, Belgium, 2023
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
On display

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