Collection Spotlight: Hendrik Goudt, The Mocking of Ceres, 1610

Artist: Hendrik Goudt (Dutch, ca. 1585 – 1648) after Adam Elsheimer (German, 1578 – 1610)
Title: The Mocking of Ceres (also called Ceres Seeking Her Daughter)
Date: 1610
Medium: Engraving on paper
Credit Line: Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 2009.16

Hendrik Goudt’s The Mocking of Ceres (also called) from 1610 takes place in a dark and dense forest with tree branches tilting downward toward the main subject matter in the center of the composition. Near the top, the dense foliage reinforces the mystery and somber tone of the engraving. On the left side of the composition, in front of an isolated cottage in a forest, a naked young boy looks sideways toward the viewer. An older-looking lady, holding a candle and wearing a hooded gown pushes him back with her hand. Facing these two subjects is a young woman wearing a dress in the style of classical drapery that seems to move in a circular mode, adding action to her moment of drinking from a jar. In between the older and the younger women there is a scene in the distance where a woman milks a cow accompanied by a staring man and an ox. This vignette contrasts with the dramatic tone of the main subject matter and reinforces the pastoral location of the scene.           

Goudt portrays a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (V, II. 438–461) where the Roman goddess of Earth and fertility, Ceres, finds herself in a tireless search for her daughter Proserpine, who had been abducted by Pluto and taken to the Underworld.[1] Ceres finds a cottage in the woods and asks an old lady for some water. When Ceres intensely drinks water, the young boy mocks her for her greediness, and as a punishment Ceres turns him into a lizard.[2]           

Hendrick Goudt (1583–1648) was a draftsman, engraver, etcher, and painter born in The Hague. From 1607 to 1609, he was a student of the German artist Adam Elsheimer in Rome. According to Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Goudt made the engraving after a 1608 painting by Elsheimer that is now lost. But another version of the painting by Elsheimer and his workshop is in the Prado Museum. Goudt translated other paintings by Elsheimer into prints, oftentimes as vehicles for displaying dramatic lighting. Elsheimer was the first painter, and one of the few, to depict the subject of the Mocking of Ceres, therefore making Goudt’s work a prime example of the seventeenth-century treatment of the story. The engraving contains an inscription at the bottom where Goudt dedicates the work to the cardinal and avid collector Scipione Borghese (1577–1633). The prominence and influence of Goudt’s Mocking of Ceres in the early modern European art world is seen not only by this dedication but also by how its subject matter was appreciated by other artists. For instance, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) owned Elsheimer’s Ceres in the House of Hecuba currently in the Prado Museum, and Gerrit Dou (1613–1675) is known to have copied Elsheimer’s original version.[3]        

Adam Elsheimer and workshop, Ceres in the House of Hecuba, ca. 1605, oil on copper plate, Prado Museum, Madrid.

     Goudt’s tour de force in the print is the treatment of light in an exterior nocturnal scene filled with mystery and nuance. Goudt was a pioneer in introducing a new way of “layering lines to create textures and atmospheric depths in darkness, which had never been seen” in the history of printmaking.[4] Thus Goudt became an important figure in the quest of printmakers to realistically depict nighttime and shadows, and his prints with their inky darkness in his treatment of both artificial and natural light are believed to have been an inspiration for nighttime prints made by artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn.[5]            

In the foreground of Goudt’s engraving there are two main sources of lighting: a torch and a candle. Placed on top of two wheels in the lower left corner, the depiction of the torch aligns with the original text of Metamorphoses (V, II. 438–461), where Ovid references that Ceres “lit two torches from the flames of Mount Etna in order that she could search both night and day.”[6] Furthermore, the candle held by the old lady heightens the mysterious tone of Goudt’s engraving. Beyond illustrating the mythological scene depicted on paper, the role of candlelight in the engraving may also reflect how early modern viewers experienced the work in an interior space through candlelight, which further intensifies the scene’s dramatic lighting and overall tone. Both Elsheimer and Goudt may have intentionally set their compositions’ scenes at night in order to create dramatic environments that amplify the drama of the engraving’s subject. Moreover, through meticulous engraving techniques, Goudt displays a virtuoso treatment of light in a nighttime scene.

– Collection Spotlight post “The Dramatic Light of Hendrik Goudt,” is contributed by Vitoria Monteiro de Carvalho Faria, Undergraduate Curatorial Intern 2022-23


[1] Desmond Shawe-Taylor, “Elsheimer’s ‘Mocking of Caravaggio,’ ” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 54, no. 2 (1991): 207.

[2] Shawe-Taylor, “Elsheimer’s ‘Mocking of Caravaggio,’ ” 207.

[3] On Rubens’ ownership, see Robin Simon, “Rubens 2004,” British Art Journal 5, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2004): 94; for Dou, see Ronni Baer, Arthur K. Wheelock, and Annetje Boersma, Gerrit Dou, 16131675: Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt (Washington D.C: National Gallery of Art, 2000), 32.

[4] “Ceres Seeking Her Daughter,” Saint Louis Art Museum, accessed June 1, 2023,

[5] “Ceres and Proserpine, 1610,” Princeton University Art Museum, accessed June 1, 2023,

[6] Ovid, Metamorphoses, 441–443, quoted in Shawe-Taylor, “Elsheimer’s ‘Mocking of Caravaggio,’ ” 208.


Baer, Ronni, Arthur K. Wheelock and Annetje Boersma. Gerrit Dou, 1613-1675 : Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt. Washington D.C: National Gallery of Art, 2000.  

Princeton University Art Museum. “Ceres and Proserpine, 1610.” Accessed June 1, 2023.  

Saint Louis Art Museum. “Ceres Seeking Her Daughter.” Accessed June 1, 2023.  

Shawe-Taylor, Desmond. “Elsheimer’s ‘Mocking of Caravaggio.’ ” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 54, no. 2 (1991): 207–219.  

Simon, Robin. “Rubens 2004.” The British Art Journal 5, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2004): 92-95.

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