Late-Renaissance artist Joachim Wtewael was a remarkable storyteller and a great master of the Dutch Golden Age. Pleasure and Piety includes 35 of Wtewael’s finest paintings on canvas, copper, and panel, along with a selection of drawings.

The first-ever monographic exhibition devoted to Wtewael, Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638) sheds light on his artistic excellence. The works on view showcase an expert draftsman and a brilliant colorist who could work in large and small scale with equal ease.

Born and raised in Utrecht, the Netherlands, Wtewael (pronounced OO-te-vall) embraced international Mannerism, a popular painting style characterized by extreme refinement, artifice, and elegant distortion. He remained one of the leading proponents of Mannerism throughout his career, even when most contemporaries shifted to a more naturalistic mode of painting.

Wtewael was adept at painting a wide range of subjects, and “pleasure” and “piety” are recurring motifs. The exhibition includes compelling portraits of his family members and close associates that demonstrate his exceptional ability to capture the likeness and character of a subject. His oeuvre also features a wealth of religious and mythological scenes, such as The Annunciation to the Shepherds and Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan.

Pleasure and Piety reveals Wtewael’s brilliant combination of two modes of painting: working from the imagination and from nature. Many of his works are marked by unnatural colors, dense and sophisticated compositions, and highly mannered figures and poses, although always with touches of carefully observed details.

In-Gallery Extra: Audio Tour
Enhance your exhibition experience with the optional audio tour, available for rental. Hear insights from curators about the artist's approach to storytelling, along with excerpts from the Bible and Ovid's Metamorphoses that Wtewael brought to life in his dramatic, colorful, and witty paintings.



This exhibition is organized by the Centraal Museum Utrecht; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation. An indemnity has been granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Generous funding is provided by: