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Gilles I Coignet: De Waarheid verheven?

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

A painting by Gillis Coignet of I596 (fig. I) which recently appeared on the art market shows an allegory whose explicit meaning is unclear, there being no text in the cartellino in the lower left-hand corner. The representation is based on a type derived from Democritus of Time releasing Truth from oblivion, vainly obstructed by negative forces such as envy and falsehood. The type, which was illustrated previously by Coignet (fig. 4) is based on the vignette of the Venetian publisher Francesco Marcolini ("Veritas filia temporis") (fig. 3). In Coignets painting there can however be no question of Time, for the depicted figure, a winged grey-haired man, in goat-footed legs, which identifies him as Pan, who stands for the revealed universe but in Platos Kratylos 408 BC is interpreted as the language which indicates everything ("TO IIâν") both for good and evil, so that he is pictured from above as a human being and at the bottom as a goat. Although the two figures cannot be identified precisely, Coignet has evidently transformed an existing theme with the aid of mythographical interpretations into an allegory which may be understood in this sense: the naked female figure symbolises a pure principle (truth, righteous judgement, vita contemplativa), Pan, his head glowing golden from the sky above, indicates human understanding, i.e. human endeavour. Small scenes in the background indicate a religious context, which may be connected with the fact that Coignet had just moved house for the second time, probably for religious reasons.


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